The United States of America was going through very uplifting times just before the 1920's. Before the outbreak of World War I Americans were experiencing feelings of great Patriotism. New inventions were coming about at a rapid rate, bringing new luxuries to the common American. At the same time jobs were plentiful and money seemed abundant. With so many new changes, Americans were blessed with more financial freedom and the ability to expend more of their time in leisure activities. Growing right along with America was a teenager named Ernest Hemingway. He had a chance to grow up in free spirited America. Ernest Hemingway was soon to make his mark in America as did World War I. Hemingway was a very talented writer who grew up in what was commonly referred to as "an enlightening period"(Encarta 97). Ernest Hemingway was a very skilled man in many games but his genius lied in his ability to create a dialogue that meant so much more than the word's actual connotation.
Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1899 to Clarence and Grace Hemingway. He was the second of six children to the couple. Growing up, his parents took him and his siblings to Walloon Lake in Michigan for many summer vacations(Grolier). He had an average high school career and upon graduating, he had a choice to go to college or pursue his interest in journalism. He chose the latter and landed a job as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star. When news of a possible war broke out in America, Hemingway was anxious to fulfill his role according to his "Hemingway Code". His code demanded he be noble and defend liberty of the common man. So excitedly he went to enlist in the armed forces but due to an eye injury from a bo incident he failed the eye exam and was denied entrance into the military. Unable to fight for his country under it's national army, he volunteered as a Red Cross ambulance driver in Italy. His experiences during the plight were the themes for one of his
most successful novels, A Farewell To Arms (1929)(Grolier). Hemingway was severely wounded by shrapnel while serving as a water boy by the Piave River in 1918. He returned to the United States six months after the injury. Very restless and ready to return to his journalism career, Hemingway got a part time job as a feature writer for the Toronto Star. In late 1920 he became a contributing editor for a trade journal in Chicago, where he met Hadley Richardson and soon married her. A few months later Hemingway and his new wife sailed to France, were they lived in the Latin Quarter of the city. Ernest Hemingway traveled all over Europe and Anatolia serving as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. In 1923 Hemingway and his wife returned to Toronto where Hadley gave birth to their son John. Hemingway did not want to be in Toronto, his dream life lie in Europe. Within a couple of months Ernest Hemingway returned to Paris where he would begin his career as a serious writer. Hemingway gained encouragement from Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound to begin writing creatively (Puckett). Before he started writing fiction, he had a couple books of prose and poetry, published in Paris, but this did not gain him any recognition in America. He did not achieve this until his collection of short stories, In Our Time (1925) was published in New York. This collection included the first of the Nick Adam stories and combined laconic prose style with an arresting blend of realism and romanticism that were to become the hallmarks of his prose (Grolier). In 1926 he strengthened his reputation with The Torrents of Spring, a satire of Sherwood Anderson, and The Sun Also Rises, a story based on his adventures in Paris and Pamplona. The latter was an immediate success, which led Gertrude stein to title him "The ledger of the lost generation". The "lost generation" was Steins reference to a group of writers who came of age during World War 1, and has been taken to mean that these authors were alienated both from traditional prewar values and from their own roots in the United States (Grolier).
His next two collections of stories were Men Without Women (1927), stories related to Nick Adam's life, and Winner Take Nothing (1933). These two publications and In Our Time appeared with several other works in 1938. In 1927 Hemingway divorced Hadley Richardson and within a few months time remarried Pauline Pfeiffer. One year later he left Paris and headed to Key West, Florida. During his twelve year stay in Key West, he traveled extravagantly and enjoyed many hunting and fishing trips. Hemingway was a dude-rancher in Wyoming, fished the Gulf Stream off the coast of Cuba, and hunted several types of game in Europe and Africa. Amidst from his travels he managed to complete the novel, A Farewell to Arms, only interrupted by the birth of his second son Patrick and the suicide of his father. The book was published with wide acceptance and acclaim in 1929. Hemingway's next work was a nonfiction survey of Spanish bullfighting. It was titled Death In The Afternoon, and it was not thought of very highly in 1932. His third and final son, Gregory was born in 1931.
Hemingway had now gained worldwide fame. In 1933 and 1934 he enjoyed safaris to Kenya and Tanganyika whose purpose was big game hunting. When he returned to the United States he brought with him not only trophies but experiences upon which he based a novel and two short stories. The novel was title Green Hills of Africa (1935) and the two short stories were "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" (both 1936). Hemingway's move to left hand politics was hinted at in his next novel To Have and Have Not (1937). It was a very powerful novel but was not accepted by the literary world. His experience as a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was the basis for the most ambitious novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). It was a story sympathizing the Spanish people for
the tragedies that had fallen upon them during the war. Prior to the publication of this novel he had divorced Pfeiffer and bought an estate outside Havana, which he named, "La Finca Vigia", which means lookout farm. This was to be his home for the next twenty years, some of which he was married to his third wife Martha Gellhorn. In 1941, just before Pearl Harbor was bombed, he and his wife flew to China to report the Sino-Japanese War. Six months after the United States entered World War 11, Hemingway was granted permission by the United States government to arm his personal boat, Pilar, and launched an unsuccessful attack on German submarines. He did this for two years to no avail.
Hemingway moved to London to work as a war correspondent for Colliers just before the invasion of Normandy in 1944. While in London, he met a women journalist by the name Mary Welsh, who eventually would become his fourth wife. Through the second half of 1944, Hemingway followed the Fourth Infantry Division leading his own personal band of worshipers called "Papa's Irregulars" to the liberation of Paris and the Battle of the Bulge. In 1945 Hemingway returned to "Lookout Farm" in Cuba where he wrote Across the River and Into the Trees (1950).
In 1952 Hemingway published his greatest novel, The Old Man and the Sea and received the Pulitzer prize for its achievement. He also won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954, but it seemed of little importance to Hemingway after he referred to it as, "that Swedish thing". The novel was widely acclaimed , and Hemingway even sold its movie rights. He made a lot of money after the books and movies published and decided to take a hunting trip to Africa. Hemingway was involved in two plane crashes in 1953 suffering only minor injuries. In 1956 after the film release of The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway went to Spain and began to drink heavily (Puckett). After decreasing his alcohol intake, for reasons unknown, he became healthier and moved to Ketchum, Idaho, and wrote "The
Dangerous Summer" an exhausting article on bullfighting in Spain. It was written at the request of TimeMagazine but was meant to be much shorter than it turned out. In 1960 he grew very sick again, and this time it affected his mentality. Under the advice and care of friends, he was taken under an alias to the Mayo Clinic, where he underwent a new method of treatment called electroshock therapy. Hemingway failed to recover fulled and killed himself with a shotgun in his home.
Hemingway's style is regarded as straight forward, honest and simple. He was a master of dialogue and was able to depict so many meanings with very few words. His characters in his books followed a strict system of values which became known as the Hemingway Code. Some of the guidelines of the code are: winner take nothing; grace under pressure; stoicism; life is an arena; importance of ritual; man is not made for defeat; man can be destroyed but not defeated; I went out to far; and four characteristic which include; will, pride, endurance and courage (Puckett). Hemingway was the most influential and most copied stylist of the twentieth century. His commonly used repetition of words subtly forced a point to the reader. "He was a master of transmitting emotion without frosting the cake" (Cliffs).
Ernest Hemingway's next novel The Old Man and the Sea was by far the greatest work of his life. In 1952 he published the novel in Life Magazine. It was a story about an old fisherman and his battle with a giant marlin. Santiago, the old man in the novel, is doubted by all around him except for a young boy named Manolin. The boy had faith in the old fisherman and knew that he was very good in his trade. After eighty four days without catching a fish the old man sets out on a journey that will change him forever. He sets his sails to go out a little farther than he normally would, in order to reach deeper waters. He sits in the boat and enjoys the world around him with great admiration. The marlin bites his
line and a battle proceeds that lasts for three days. During the beginning of the fight the old man does not know for sure what he has on the line, but he is sure it is something big. Through out the battle Santiago questions his conflict with the fish. He thinks he is not worthy to beat a fish as great as he. Suffering from exhaustion and various wounds, afflicted by the fishing line and the hull of the boat, he hauls the big marlin to the side of the boat. On his journey back to shore, his fish is attacked by "Los Galanos", or scavenger sharks. He fights the sharks off for as long as he can, but it is of no use. After he has broken all of his weapons, the sharks have their way with the great marlin. Santiago feels very guilty for what happened to the marlin. He does not believe the fish deserved such a fate. The marlin fought brave and hard, and this did not go unnoticed by Santiago. Many times during the course of the battle he gave praise to the fish. Even within the fish's death Santiago admires him, "Then the fish came alive, with his death in him". After he has lost the marlin to the sharks, he returns to shore with only the skeletal remains of the fish. People on shore are amazed at the magnificent size of the fish. Some tourist on the island referred to it as a shark. With nothing to show for his incredible battle Santiago stumbles to his bed saying only one thing on his way. In passing Manolin he states, "I went out to far". He blames himself for the death of the marlin and feels that the fish was wronged. At the close of the novel Santiago is lying face down with his arms out to his side in the form of a crucifix.
In the beginning of the novel the old man has a young follower named Manolin who wishes to be like Santiago. The old man questions people's faith in him and says,"I know you did not leave me because you doubted", and Manolin replies that his father,"hasn't much faith". The simple sentences are short but so implicative of the speaker's feelings. That is exactly why he is praised by so many as being a master of dialogue. He says so much with so few words and it is simple enough for the most
basic of readers. Another great example of simple conversation is between Manolin and the old man again when they speak of the Yankees;Santiago says,"The Yankees cannot lose",Manolin replies,"But I fear the Indians of Cleveland". The old man responds,"Have faith in the Yankees my son". This conversation is more simple than any conversation in the Bible. So much could not be stated in any fewer words. Manolin walked away from that conversation with not only faith in the Yankees but in Santiago as well. Ernest Hemingway appeals to a very wide audience for this reason alone, he is very simple to read and very enjoyable at the same time.
The Old Man and the Sea was sparked by a story Hemingway was told about a similar incident. A man battled a large marlin for three days and nights. The story was originally published in Life magazine and within a couple of days was an immediate success. The eagerly anticipated book was instantly deemed a masterpiece and critic Edward Weeks, in the Atlantic, cited the story's"clean thrusting power"(Cliffs36). Robert Davis in a New York Times review noted: Hemingway, he said, had the "strength and craft and courage to go far out, and perhaps even far down, for the truly big ones"(Cliffs36). He was not finished, as many critics had believed. Despite the small size of the novel it is full of many challenging interpretations including the largely questioned Christian symbolism.
I believe The Old Man and the Sea is a brilliant book, one that I could read twice a year along with Animal Farm. It is a fun novel to read and with every reading a new interpretation can be made. Without all the distracting adjectives commonly overused by many writers, the novel makes for relaxed reading.