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Ernest Hemingway. The Author and his Narrative Technique. Why Study Hemingway?. Hemingway marks a new era in American writing , the modern era , and is often considered the American writer

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Ernest hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

The Author and his Narrative Technique

Why study hemingway
WhyStudy Hemingway?

  • Hemingway marks a new era in American writing, the modernera, and is oftenconsideredthe American writer

  • Hemingway makesextensiveuse of his ownexperiences in his fiction, so to fully understand (and enjoy) his work, a littleknowledge of his life and narrative technique is needed

  • In classwewillstudy a number of stories from the collection of short storiesIn Our Time (1925)

Oak park hemingway s birthplace
Oak Park, Hemingway’sbirthplace

Oak park illinois
Oak Park, Illinois

  • Born 21 July 1899 in Oak Park, a Chicago suburb

  • Oak Park protecteditschildrenagainstcorruptive forces untiltheywere 18 – so nouncensoredmovies, boxing matches, gambling, smoking, drinking etc. And no information aboutbirthcontrol, venereal diseases etc.

  • Oak Park curfew: 8 P.M. in autumn and winter, 9 P.M. in spring and summer. Laterthanthatyou had to beescorted by an adult

  • Villagevalues: going to church, charity, musical evenings, public lectures etc.

  • Unlike most otherauthors, Hemingway neverwroteabout his hometown

Windemere cottage michigan
WindemereCottage, Michigan

Windemere michigan
Windemere, Michigan

  • The year Hemingway wasborn his familybought a cottageonWalloon Lake in Michigan

  • Hemingway, his parents, foursisters and a brotherspentevery summer thereuntil Hemingway was 19

  • Here Hemingway learnt to appreciate nature and wastaughthow to fish and hunt by his father

  • Hemingway spent the summers camping out, hiking and beingwithfriends from Horton Bay

  • He gotaquintedwith the last of the Ojibway Indians wholived in the woodsclose to Horton Bay

  • Many of Hemingway’sstoriesare set in thisarea and some of his charactersresemble ’real’ people


  • His father, Clarence Edmonds Hemingway (Dr. Ed), was a doctor and out of a respected and well-knownfamily

  • He lovedoutdoorlife and sharedthis passion with Ernest

  • He was a devotedfather and husbanduntilillness made himwithdraw from society

  • Clarence met Grace Hall, at firstshewasunsureaboutwhether to choosemarriageor a career

  • "When Ed was courting the rather reluctant Grace, he promised that she would never have to do housework and kept his word. He always prepared the children's breakfast and served Grace in bed. He bought the groceries, did most of the cooking, took care of the laundry and managed the servants despite his medical responsibilities." (Jeffrey Meyers, biographer)


  • Grace and Clarence had sixchildren, Ernest was the second. When Ernest wasborn Clarence blew a horn on the porch to announce the birth of his first son

  • He suffered from depression and diabetes and wasworriedabout the family’sfinancial future and shot himself in 1928. Ernest blamed his mother for his death

The hemingway family 1916
The Hemingway Family, 1916


  • Grace Hall-Hemingway (1872-1951) was a great opera singer, sheauditioned for The Metro-politan Opera in New York and wasoffered a contract but decided to marry Clarence instead

  • Grace wasveryreligious (Protestant)

  • Shewas a feminist and a member of a clubdemandingsuffrage for women – her mother Adelaide was the director of the club

  • Grace wantedequality and kept her maidenname in marriage, hence the last name Hall-Hemingway

  • She gave up her career as an opera singer, but continuedworking as a musicteacher and helped support the familywith her income

  • Sheused her inheritance to build the family a new home in 1906, still in Oak Park


  • Hemingway thought his motherfailed to be feminine which led to his father’slack of masculinity – his fatherwastreated for hysteriaalthough it wasconsidered a women’sdisease

  • He hated his mother and blamed her for his father’sdeath: ”I hate her guts…sheforcedmyfather to suicide…Iwill not see her and sheknowsshecannevercomehere”

  • He refused to attend her funeral in 1951 because”shewouldbe as dangerousdead as most womenalive, I knowI’dnever go to her funeralwithoutbeingafraidshewasboobytrapped”


  • When Hemingway graduated from highschoolhewastooyoung to enlist in the Army

  • Insteadhegot a job as cub reporter at the newspaper the Kansas City Star throughsome relatives

  • At the Star he learned to write about small events for small-town people using simple, declarative sentences

  • He quickly adopted the Star writing style: short first paragraphs, vigorous language, no superfluous words, few adjectives and no worn-out phrases.

  • He continued working as a journalist and war correspondent all his life

Narrative technique
Narrative Technique

  • This style of objective, unemotional and minimalistic writing influenced Hemingway greatly and is found all through In Our Time

  • This technique is often referred to as the iceberg technique or tip of the iceberg as Hemingway shows only 10% - the remaining 90% he has deliberately omitted, just like you only see one tenth of an iceberg.

Narrative technique1
Narrative Technique

  • Mastering this technique takes a lot of editing and Hemingway spent a lot of time revising and taking out everything that wasn’t absolutely essential to the story

  • All words about feelings are left out, but still you feel the pain and tension when you read them, this is due to Hemingway’s view that “if a writer could accurately describe the facts that cause emotion, it was unnecessary for him to describe emotion”

  • Recurring themes in Hemingway’s work are: masculinity, femininity, pain (mental and physical), growing up, war, life, death, fishing, bullfigthing, light, darkness, childbirth, relationships, numbness, suppressed emotion – all things he knew about from his own life

Editing and revision
Editing and Revision


  • Hemingway makes heavy use of nature symbolism, rain represents death, pain and despair in A Farewell to Arms for instance

  • Rain is also an important theme in Cat in the Rain where it has several symbolic meanings

  • In Indian Camp it is misty, indicating that we don’t see or know everything that goes on

  • In general thereare a lot of double meanings in Hemingway’swork, and often more wordsareused in the same story for the same thing

  • In Cat in the Rain the American woman is bothcalled a woman and a girl, and the cat is alsocalled a kitten – so watch out for choice of words!

The army
The Army

  • Hemingway hadn’t forgotten about the Army, but failed to enroll due to bad eyesight

  • Instead he volunteered as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross in Italy in 1918

  • After barely a month he was severely wounded by an Austrian trench mortar and spent 5 months recovering in an Italian military hospital

  • His nurse was an American woman named Agnes von Kurowsky with whom Hemingway fell in love

  • He thought they were engaged to be married, but Agnes broke off whatever their relationship might have been saying she was much too old for him (she was 8 years his senior)

  • She was one of the few women who turned Hemingway down

Agnes von kurowsky his first love
Agnes von Kurowsky, his first love

The army and writing
The Army and Writing

  • The setting and opening of the novel A Farewell to Arms draws heavily on his experience with Agnes although the ending is greatly changed

  • Just like many of Hemingway’s stories are set in Michigan, many are set in war situations in Italy or Spain (the Spanish Civil War)

  • Hemingway returned to America as a decorated war hero


  • Hemingway’sfirstwifewasHadleyRichardson (married 1921-1927), they had a son John

  • Hadleywas not interested in feminism, but more of a ”true woman” than a ”new woman”

  • Shewas fragile, gentle and dependent – a bornfollower. In short everythingHemingway’smotherwasn’t

  • Zelda Fitzgerald oncesaid: ”I notice in yourfamilyyou do everything Ernest wants”

  • Hemingway had ”a powerfuldesire to pay his ownway – or to convince himself and othersthathe had done so”, still he let Hadleypay for their time in Paris

  • Hemingway wasunfaithful to Hadley as hewas to all his wives

Hadley ernest and their son john bumby
Hadley, Ernest and their son John (Bumby)


  • Hemingway’ssecondwifewas Pauline Pfeiffer (married 1927-1940). They had twosons, Patrick and Gregory

  • LikeHadley, Pauline was a submissivewomanwho made Hemingway feel more masculine and strongbecauseshewasweak

  • Pauline wasdevoted to himduringtheirentiremarriage and ”made her husband her life’swork”

  • By choosingthesewomen Hemingway tried to avoid the mistakehesaw in his ownparents’ marriage

  • From 1936 Hemingway had an affairwith Martha Gellhorn, Pauline knewabout it


  • His thirdwifewas Martha Gellhorn (married 1940-1944)

  • Shewas a journalist and warcorrespondentlike Hemingway and a ”trulyambitiouswoman”

  • Martha wasfull of courage and Hemingway admired her deeply, laterhealsoresented her independence, ambition and determination becausethesequalitiesremindedhim of his mother

  • He felt unable to writewhenshewasn’tthere and wanted her to give up her job

  • Martha on the otherhand felt confined, bored and ill-usedwhenshewas at home

Martha gellhorn and ernest hemingway
Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway


  • Whensheworked in Italy and Africahekept sending her cablessaying: ”Areyou a warcorrespondentor a wife in my bed?”

  • He starteddrinkingheavily and decided to punish her

  • He offered to work for the magazineshe had worked for foryears – and as eachnewspaperwasonlyallowedonewarcorrespondentshecouldn’twork at the front anymore

  • Hemingway went to London by plane (leaving Martha to go by a shipcarryingexplosives and nolifeboats)

  • He had a caraccident and started dating Mary, when Martha finallyarrivedshesaidthat”sheconsideredherselffree and separate from him”


  • His fourth and last wifewas Mary Welsh (married 1946-)

  • Whereas Martha didn’t stand up to anyill-treatment and refused the submissivefemalerole, Mary was the old-fashionedwomanwhoendured all Hemingway’swhims

  • Duringtheirmarriage his paranoia and depressions increased and hebecame more and more abusive to Mary

  • Also his viewonwomenbecameincreasinglypatronizing (hegenerallycalledwomen ”daughter”)

  • Sheconsidereddivorce, but stayedwithhim to his death in1961

Great work
Great Work

  • Hemingway wroteIn Our Time and The Sun also Rises,amongothers, whenhelived in Paris in the 1920s with his wifeHadley and writerslike James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • He went on safari in Africa in 1933 which gave rise to Green Hills of Africa and The Snows of Kilimanjaro

  • The Spanish Civil War, during which he worked as a war correspondent, also inspired him to write the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. In Spain he was also introduced to bullfighting

  • In 1952 The Old Man and the Sea was published, critics and readers alike loved it and in 1953 he won the Pulitzer Prize

  • In 1954 hewasawarded the Nobel Prize for Literature


  • In his last years Hemingway drank heavily and had serious depressions for which he was treated with shock therapy

  • In 1961 he attempted suicide twice and was re-admitted to hospital

  • On 2 July Hemingway committed suicide by shooting his brains out and thereby ended his life like his father

Hemingway s tomb in ketchum idaho
Hemingway’sTomb in Ketchum,Idaho