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20100302-11 Hemingway (Group 3)

Page history last edited by Sean Rollins 10 years, 9 months ago


     Our discussion of Hemingway was preceded by a discussion of WWI. WWI had a huge impact on Modernist Literature; the war's resulting destruction forced people to alter their views of the world and to see it in its new form. Due to WWI's heavy casualties, those who died are sometimes referred to as a "lost generation." Thanks in part to Hemingway's involvement in the war and his distinctive writing, his works are a classic example of that lost generation of WWI.

     Hemingway's modernist style is reflective of the telegram, short and concise. In a way, he also illustrates Pound's imagism through prose by not wasting words or using flowery language. Another major aspect of Hemingway's writing is the "iceberg principle," which is a notion that the reader should only be given 10% of the information upfront. He believed that an author should be deliberately ambiguous and allow a reader to discover the other 90% that lies beneath the surface. For example, in "Big Two-Hearted River" the fact that Nick is returning home from WWI is never openly stated. And it is not until "Now I Lay Me," which is published years later, does the reader get a direct glimpse into Nick's life during the war. Having been a veteran himself, several of Hemingway's works revolve around the mental repercussions that affect soldiers after having gone to battle. During Hemingway's time, this state was known as "Shell-Shock," and it is not until trains become prevalent the 1980s that the term "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder" get used. "Big Two-Hearted River" and "Now I Lay Me" are prime examples of this inhibitory and anxious condition. Through Nick's restless nights and controlled thinking, Hemingway not only illustrates his style as a writer but allows the reader a glimpse into the mind of a distressed solider.    


Word Count: 298




"This was omitted on my new theory that you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood" (taken from A Movable Feast)

- Hemingway explains in this passage the Iceberg Principle, a tactic he used extensively.


"Across the open mouth of the tent Nick fixed cheesecloth to keep out mosquitoes. He crawled inside under the mosquito bar with various things from the pack to put at the head of the bed under the slant of the canvas. Inside the tent the light came through the brown canvas. It smelled pleasantly of canvas. Already there was something mysterious and homelike. Nick was happy as he crawled inside the tent. He had not been unhappy all day. This was different though. Now things were done. There had been this to do. Now it was done. It had been a heard trip. He was very tired. That was done. He had made his camp. He was settled. Nothing could touch him. It was a good place to camp. He was there, in a good place. He was in his home where he had made it. Now he was hungry."(Big Two-Hearted River: Part I, Hemingway, 167).

- This passage is especially indicative of Hemingway's writing style as it displays his use of short sentences, conversational use of language, and imagism. Hemingway's distinctive writing style, as well as often being thought as the voice for the lost generation of those Americans who died in WWI helped to establish his importance to American literature.


"He watched them holding themselves with their noses into the current, many trout in deep, fast moving water, slightly distorted as he watched far down though the glassy convex surface of the pool . . . . Then he saw them at the bottom of the pool, big trout looking to hold themselves on the gravel bottom in a varying mist of gravel and sand, raised in spurts by the current. (Big Two-Hearted River: Part I)"

- Even though this passage expresses Nick's love for fish and fishing, it more importantly illustrates how Nick is trying to emulate these trout in his life. Like the fish, Nick is trying to hold himself steady and not submit to the post-traumatic stress that he suffers from. The movement of the trout also reflects how motion appears to be problematic for Nick due to its connection to memories. 


“The train went on up the track out of sight, around one of the hills of burnt timber.  Nick sat down on the bundle of canvas and bedding the baggage man had pitched out of the door of the baggage car.  There was no town, nothing but the rails and the burned-over country.  The thirteen saloons that had lined the one street of Seney had not left a trace.  The foundations of the Mansion House hotel stuck up above the ground.  The stone was chipped and split by the fire.  It was all that was left of the town of Seney.  Even the surface had been burned off the ground.”  (Big Two-Hearted River: Part I)

-          In this passage, the burned town is described as if it were a war-torn town rather than just a semi-burned town.  Using phrases such as "There was no town" and "It was all that was left of the town of Seney" makes it seem as if it was like France in World War II being stripped by the fighting and left for the people to clean up.


Key Terms


The Iceberg Principle - Hemingway's theory that intentionally leaving something out of a text can in fact add to the value of the text as a whole, that the absence of certain elements can actually help the reader's overall understanding.  He famously demonstrated this principle when a friend challenged him to write a story in six words or less.  His reply was, "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." 


Isolationist - A political move in foreign in foreign policy in which a country is a non-interventionist. For example, The United States affirmed that they were a isolationist country at the beginning of Word War I.


Shell Shock - A psychiatric condition resulting from the stress of warfare


Post-traumatic Stress Disorder - A psychiatric condition, resulting from any traumatic event (in this case warfare). Usually a person suffering from PTSD suffers from depression or anxiety.


Comments (4)

Dustin said

at 8:50 pm on Mar 3, 2010

Hey everyone, I attempted to write a summary and I feel like I've failed miserably. Maybe I just took horrible notes for the day but I couldn't find anything concrete to put in the summary about the literature we discussed and I didn't want the summary to become a complete history lesson, so I decided to throw in a bit and leave the rest for someone who had more to say about the literature we discussed. I have definitions for shell shock and trench warfare if anyone thinks they're important. I'll check back in an hour or so but I guess if no one responds I'll just add the definitions anyway.

Hannah Rabon said

at 10:19 pm on Mar 3, 2010

Hey Dustin! I added some to your summary, I hope I did an OK job, if not please feel free to change it. I also added a quote from Big Two-Hearted River. And I think that shell-shock and trench warfare would be good additions to the key terms.

katherine rich said

at 11:45 pm on Mar 3, 2010

Hey guys, sorry it took FOREVER for me to do this! Crazy amounts of work. Anyways, I cut down the summary to 298 words and added three other key terms. Let me know if there is anything else you guys think we should include!

Brian Croxall said

at 11:55 pm on Mar 4, 2010

I was pleased to see that all of you made significant contributions to the notes. Good job working together. You do well in your summary not to fall too far down the rabbit hole of history. Instead, you note the connection of WWI to modernism and move quickly on to Hemingway's style. It's important to note, however, that Hemingway doesn't think a person needs to hide 90% of the story. Rather, he thinks you can submerge some telling details. I fixed one error in the paragraph about the relation of trains and PTSD. Perhaps I wasn't clear.

I'll overlook the four passages because one is just the excerpt from A Moveable Feast. Your first real passage discusses Hemingway's style broadly, but you could have done well to talk about the iceberg principle as we did in class. And with your final passage it's important to note that the town of Seney is not actually a war-torn town but has instead been burned down in such a way that it is as if it had been through the war. I think you could push yourselves just a bit more in these explanations; after all, they're practice for the test.

Your key terms are fine.

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