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Hemingway

Hemingway: The Writer’s Art of Self-Defense

Jackson J. Benson
Copyright Date: 1969
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 216
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttvbs4
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  • Book Info
    Hemingway
    Book Description:

    In a close critical analysis of five of Ernest Hemingway’s novels and a number of his most important short stories, Professor Benson provides a fascinating new view of his work. The novels discussed are The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Across the River and into the Trees, and the Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway’s art of self-defense, which Professor Benson refers to in his subtitle, was, as he demonstrates in his perceptive criticism, the writer’s use of style and technique to attack the sentimentalities which were Hemingway’s own weakness. Emotion was central to the task which Hemingway defined for himself, Professor Benson explains, and a critical appraisal of his work must, therefore, focus particularly on the ways in which he dealt with and expressed emotion.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6148-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. iii-vi)
  2. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. NOTE ON THE HEMINGWAY TEXTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. THE TERMS OF THE STRUGGLE
    (pp. 3-27)

    Ernest Hemingway was a fighter. He fought to discipline himself, he fought to bring meaning to language, and he fought to purge himself and his readers of the illusions, the sentiments, and the slogans of a genteel America. Whereas another writer of the same generation, John Dos Passes, sought systematically and rationally to expose the tawdry reality behind the glitter of the cliché, Hemingway characteristically put himself on the firing line. His reaction to the world he found beyond the tasseled Victorian blinds of Oak Park, Illinois, was an emotional reaction; his books are emotional books. When Hemingway wrote, he...

  6. ROLES AND THE MASCULINE WRITER
    (pp. 28-46)

    Like Fielding, who launched his novel-writing career in protest against the blatant falsity and emotionalism of the first sentimental novels, Hemingway launched his own career in protest against the emotional excesses and rampant self-pity of his own time, first in a parody of emotionalism inThe Torrents of Springand then in a satire of self-pity inThe Sun Also Rises. Unlike Fielding’s, however, Hemingway’s attack was not directed at specific works (aside from the parody ofDark LaughterinTorrents of Spring) as much as it was at emotionalism in general and the entire “romance” attitude toward life which...

  7. DARK LAUGHTER
    (pp. 47-69)

    In many respects,Across the River and into the Treesis more akin to Hemingway’s early work than his later. LikeThe Sun Also Rises, it has many facets that have been taken far too solemnly. Again, a far greater identification has been assumed between the author and his central character than is actually the case.Across the Riveris a return to the novel of “pity and irony.” The problem with both novels has been that many readers have too often embraced the pity and neglected the irony.

    That Hemingway ever thought of himself as a humorist, of all...

  8. GAME: A STRUCTURE FOR EMOTIONAL CONTROL
    (pp. 70-98)

    Behind Hemingway’s very skillful uses of image and metaphor lie the personal fears and joys expressed by the author in response to a continual self-dramatization of the will beset by temptations to weakness and self-indulgence. Although Hemingway very explicitly rejects the standards of his home and birthplace, he is never able to cast aside that energy toward proper conduct which characterized the atmosphere in which he grew up. It is hardly any wonder that the most common mode of thought for the Hemingway protagonist is some form of argument, some form of self-trial.

    The drama of the self, whether illuminated...

  9. LEARNING TO PLAY THE GAME WELL
    (pp. 99-112)

    There are three movements that dominateA Farewell to Arms. The first is the movement away from the commitment to war which I have just discussed. The other two are combined in the love story of Catherine and Henry. In Henry’s movement toward a full commitment to Catherine, there is the accompanying growth of what has been called the “sense of doom.” This constant foreshadowing of misfortune or death that accompanies Henry’s growth in his ability to love can be looked at in two ways.

    First, this growing sense of doom can be considered another manifestation of Hemingway’s anti-sentimentality.A...

  10. CONTROL AND LOSS OF CONTROL THROUGH IRONY
    (pp. 113-128)

    In “chapter iii,” fromIn Our Time, a soldier recalls ambushing German soldiers as they climb over a garden wall:

    The first German I saw climbed up over the garden wall. We waited till he got one leg over and then potted him. He had so much equipment on and looked awfully surprised and fell down into the garden. Then three more came over further down the wall. We shot them. They all came just like that. (1st 49, p. 203)

    The central irony of this paragraph is contained in its lack of overt emotion, a simple, almost childlike acceptance...

  11. SUFFERING AND LOSS WITHOUT TEARS
    (pp. 129-149)

    The “winner take nothing” philosophy is basic to Hemingway’s conception of the world; the only victories in such a world are victories of the spirit, and if a man gains anything tangible, the only sure thing is that he will eventually lose it. But in such a world where the integrity of the individual is so important, victories of the spirit are enough. They re-establish one’s humanity and confirm one’s manhood. If a Catherine is lost in childbirth, or the significance of a bridge is lost in the confusion of war, or a great fish is lost in a sea...

  12. THE ROAD FROM SELF
    (pp. 150-168)

    To move to what measure of success he was able to gain in the later novels, Hemingway was required to change direction drastically, to take the risk of moving from the easier youthful postures of revolt and disillusionment, and to fight sentimentality with action rather than reaction, with a greater vision of man than the thin imagination of Victorian respectability could provide for. In this vision there is no easy affirmation of the “good things” in life or “positive values”; there are only the small but firm victories of the spirit that announce, rather than just the survival of the...

  13. THE MASK OF HUMBLE PERFECTION
    (pp. 169-185)

    In an age that demands complexity in its literature as a mark of excellence,The Old Man and the Seafirst appeared to be a consciously contrived anachronism. In the years that have followed publication, however, the novel has been subjected to possibly as much scrutiny as any work of modern fiction has ever received, and the result, cumulatively considered, has produced a superstructure of such technical complexity as to suggest thatThe Old Man and the Seacould rival, word for word, the intricacies of James Joyce’sUlysses.

    In an opposite direction to this reception, many have tried to...

  14. “LET BE BE FINALE OF SEEM”
    (pp. 186-192)

    Both Ernest Hemingway and his writing have had the curious quality of seeming to be one thing and turning out, time after time, to be something else entirely. At first he appeared to be a cocky young journalist who wrote stories about tough people on the fringes of society, and yet in the collected stories, the stories concerned with relatively normal people in domestic situations far outnumber those concerned with gangsters, boxers, and prostitutes. He was then branded the recorder of the lost generation and seen as the prime example of the American expatriate in Europe, but neither he nor...

  15. INDEX
    (pp. 193-202)