Disclaimer: This dissertation has been written by a student and is not an example of our professional work, which you can see examples of here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this dissertation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UKDiss.com.

Impact of WW1 on Ernest Hemingway's Poetry

Info: 9651 words (39 pages) Dissertation
Published: 22nd Nov 2023

Reference this

Tagged: English Literature

Chapter 1: Introduction

When World War1 broke out in 1914, it ended almost 100 years of relative peace in Europe. America at that time adopted a policy of neutrality and isolation regarding war. This approach was fully supported by the people of America at that time but later, in 1917 the German submarines entered the US marine territories against which the US government finally had to break the ice. So, as a reaction to German invasion America finally launched a counter attack and consequently the whole nation plunged into the great World War1. Unaware of the consequences America unwillingly had to participate in the greatest holocaust of the world known as the World War1.

America would never have become a part of World War1 and have stuck to its neutral policy but the German submarines defied the US marine laws and entered the US territories on January 9th, 1917. Woodrow Wilson the US president at that time finally asked congress to declare war on Germany and it was April 2nd, 1917. As a result of this legitimate order America joined the war along with the other Allies.

On the other hand the continent of Europe was under the attack of war where World War1 rose like a wall of blood red mountains. Despite having massive military and great weapons war killed ten million Europeans, most of them were young soldiers, nurses and subjects and all became the victims of ultimate death brought by heavy war weapons, flying jets and bullets swimming in the air. It was death’s command everywhere and when death comes to its empire it kills all what it finds.

Similar was the situation in America where men, women and children all were on the mercy of a single bullet. Four million American soldiers were killed in war and almost equal number of civilians got killed and injured men, women and children left homeless due to the great wreckage all around with the spread of epidemic disease that resulted in the cause of further deaths of many civilians.

It was a chaotic situation after the war ended in 1919. People were completely disillusioned and stunned by the aftermaths of the World War1. They were hopeless and unaware of their futures. The basic matrix of life was completely dissolved by the cruel war and human civilization became a victim of demolition. People lost their faith in basic norms and values of life as war took away with it their hopes, happiness and loved ones too. They seemed completely lost with having no basic aim behind being alive. Young men and women of America started living like herds of sheep and were spending life just for the sake of killing time.

Eventually the war ended but it left behind its impact on the mind of masses and its terror got stored into the minds of the post-war generations. People became mentally sick and even after the war was over they felt its aftershocks later on in their lives. World War1 was the greatest trauma of the lives of a great number of Americans who survived the brutal attack of the war. The post-war American race became a victim of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental disorders which were the result of the shocks given by the World War1. PTSD is a severe kind of state of mind after a great shock or accident that leads a human being to become a patient of insomnia and several other mental retardations. Almost each community and every class in America’s post-war society became a victim of PTSD which became a cause of disbelief and disgracing of the traditional life style on part of American generation.

Watching all the above mentioned events and incidents in the midst of the battle fields and among the victims of the World War1 was present Ernest Hemingway, an American Red Cross ambulance driver who witnessed and used all these war events and post-war condition of the society as a backdrop of his literary works. Hemingway represented the American society and a post-war perturbed American generation which is known as the Lost Generation of America. Hemingway being a spokesman of the lost generation, masterly managed to give a unique account of events and incidents that took place in the war and changed the lives of millions of Americans. Hemingway’s main concern was the American society and its members who were suffering from a post-war disturbed psychological state of mind. Aiken (1926) writes in his essay as edited by Meyers (1982) as follows:

The half dozen characters, all of whom belong to the curious and sad little world of disillusioned and aimless expatriates who make what home they can in the cafes of Paris, are seen perfectly and unsentimentally by Mr. Hemingway and are put before us with a maximum of economy 1. (90)

As we know wars have always been a cause of destruction, devastation and demolition on a great scale since the descent of mankind on earth. There is no doubt that wars shatter the matrix of human civilization and bring forth despair, death and disease for mankind. Surpassing all the previous wars, the great World-Wars dismantled the hopes, dreams and races on a large scale and nations falling victims of disillusionment, aimlessness and mental stress and physical disorders. One of the greatest diseases that damage the brain after a war is ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’, a severe state of human mind after a shock or a trauma. Durand and Barlow (2000) comment on PTSD as follows:

In recent years we have heard a great deal about the severe and long-lasting emotional disorders that can occur after a variety of traumatic events. Perhaps the most impressive traumatic event is war, but emotional disorders also occur after physical assault (particularly rape), car accidents, natural catastrophes, or the sudden death of a loved one. The emotional disorder that follows a trauma is known as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) 2. (131)

Then I. Sarason and Sarason (2006) in their book on Abnormal Psychology comment:

PTSD involves an extreme experience, such as war, a natural catastrophe (for instance an earthquake), a physical assault, or a serious car crash. The traumas range from those that are directly experienced (e.g., being threatened with death) to those that are witnessed (e.g., family member being threatened with death). The onset of the clinical condition in posttraumatic disorders varies from soon after the trauma to long after it has occurred. Most studies have found higher rates among women than men. The prevalence of PTSD in the general population is about 0.5% in men and 1.2% in women (Andreasen and Black, 2001). Because life today is considered to be high in trauma for the population in general, it is estimated that Americans currently have a 5 to 10% chance of developing PTSD at sometime during their lifetimes. The combination of vulnerability factors and exposures earlier in life to traumatic experiences increases the likelihood of PTSD. For instance, having been abused as a child or have had other previous traumatic experiences increases the risk for PTSD, especially for individuals who generally have emotional difficulties, such as anxiety and depression 3. (256)

Now keeping in mind the American society which is the sole area of our research, we found the reason behind PTSD in American society and the characters introduced to us by Ernest Hemingway in his works. And that reason was the First World War and its aftermath. The lives of millions of people were badly influenced by World War I in America and in Europe as well. The great holocaust changed the whole concept of life by destroying the basic norms and traditional beliefs in all parts of the world.

Priestley (1962) comments on World War I as follows:

In the very middle of this age the First World War rises like a wall of blood-red mountains. Its frenzied butchery, indefensible even on a military basis, killed at least ten million Europeans, mostly young and free from obvious physical defects. After being dressed in uniform, fed and drilled, cheered and cried over before they were packed into their cattle-trunks, these ten million were then filled with hot lead, ripped apart by shell splinters, blown to bits, bayoneted in the belly, choked with poison gas, suffocated in mud, trampled to death or drowned, buried in collapsing dugouts, dropped out of burning aero planes, or allowed to die of diseases, after rotting to long in trenches that they shared with syphilitic rats and typhus-infested lice. Death, having come into his empire, demands the best, and got it 4. (321)

Almost all the works of Ernest Hemingway are a result of his first-hand experience of war and his staunch observation of life around him. Most of his works prove to be autobiographical in nature and Cooperman (1964) comments on autobiographical nature of Hemingway’s works as follows:

Three elements in Hemingway’s life shaped many of his attitudes, and indeed shaped much of his works: the fact that in World War I, he suffered a painful and terrible mortar wound, which made him conscious of the dread possibilities of the loss of manhood; the fact that his father committed suicide; and the fact of his growing old… and the fears created by old age itself. Similar to Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms, Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises, and Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway was afflicted with the fear of letting go and the fear of thinking. The nightmare of chaos, of passivity, loss of will, loss of initiative, loss of masculine role was a terrible nightmare, and one to be avoided at all costs 5. (85-92)

It has already been observed that all the Hemingway fiction comes from his war experiences and the aftermath of the war. Many critics have commented on this experience-based technique of Ernest Hemingway. According to Putnam (2006), Tobias Wolff at the Hemingway centennial celebration said, “Hemingway’s great war work deals with aftermath. It deals with what happens to the soul in war and how people deal with that afterward.”

Putnam (2006) further comments:

No American writer is more associated with writing about war in the early 20th century than Ernest Hemingway. He experienced it firsthand, wrote dispatches from innumerable frontlines, and used war as a backdrop for many of his most memorable works 6.

Ernest Hemingway is best known as the representative of the “Lost Generation” of America. He as an artist and writer of literature selected characters from the post-war American society as he was himself a member of that society and he observed it staunchly. Most of his works are based on his personal experience of the society and that is why he is often himself present in his novels as a leading character. Asselineau (1980) comments on Hemingway’s fiction as follows:

It was indeed a “lost generation” in more senses than one. Yet, Hemingway among others survived the Great War for over forty years and, after appearing as the cynical and disillusioned Byron of twentieth century, ultimately turned into a new “teacher of athletes” and a “professeur d’ energie” a la Barres. A rather surprising change and a very spectacular recovery, which we can follow step by step in his works, since his novels make up an interminable Bildungsroman whose hero is always himself 7.
While going through the works of Ernest Hemingway one realizes that Hemingway has very skillfully managed to present before us a group of expatriates who had left their homeland America after getting disillusioned by the war and were living as useless people in different parts of Europe under a special code of life. Asselineau (1980) comments as follows:

All the veterans of foreign wars who appeared in Hemingway’s fiction are united by a common belief in an unwritten code. They are morally and physically very tough. They can take it. They keep a stiff upper lip. They grin and bear it. They refuse to discuss their own emotion and despise loquacious swaggerers like Robert Cohn. They hate gushing. They believe in self control and self imposed discipline. They have reached true wisdom in the etymological meaning of the word “wisdom”. They are those who know- who know that they are mortal and that sooner or later life ends in death. They know that man- whatever he does- will sooner or later be crushed by the hostile forces which surround him and is bound to be defeated- defeated, but not vanquished, for, like Pascal, they believe in the dignity of man, “a mere reed, and the weakest that can be found on earth, but even when the universe crushes him, man is still nobler than what kills him, for he knows that he is dying, while the advantage that the universe has over him, the universe is unaware of it.” 8 (1844)

High (1986) has also commented on the lost generation as follows:

Man young people the post-World War 1 period had “lost” their American ideals. At the same time America “lost” many fine young writers- like e.e. cummings and Hemingway- because they had moved to Paris. Fitz Gerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), describes this new generation. They had “grown up to find all gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.” Two concerns now filled their lives: “the fear of poverty and the worship of success.” 9 (143)

Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises proves to be the best of his works and it was also his first proper novel on lost generation of America. The novel stands as a monument over which the whole drama of the lost generation of America has been carved. It was Gertrude Stein the American authoress and Hemingway’s mentor who for the very first time told E. Hemingway: “You are all a lost generation.” Hemingway was struck by the comment and used it as an epigraph and also the theme of his first novel, Fiesta (called The Sun Also Rises in US. Ousby (1979) in his essay The Lost Generation comments as follows:

Today the ‘lost Generation’ has come to seem an over-worked catchphrase. Used indiscriminately in its own era, the title has been claimed by successive generations of writers and applied retrospectively to earlier schools, such as the American naturalists. Yet the term remains useful in discussing the novelists of 1920’s, if only because epitomizes the way they liked to see themselves. 10 (205)

Ousby (1979) further explains the characteristics of the writers of lost generation in following words:

Their unique and common experience was a disillusion bred by the First World War. They returned from that conflict to a society whose values seemed hollow and artificial by comparison with the harsh realities of the battle-field. Their alienation from America often took the form of exile and expatriation: Hemingway and Dos Passos spent most of their early adult lives in Europe, while Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe were frequent visitors. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say that Paris became the extra-parliamentary centre of American culture in 1920s. It was the shrine to which most ambitious young writers of the era made their pilgrimage. 11 (206)
Ousby (1979) in the same essay tells us the factors which affected the writings of the writers of lost generation in the following words:

Disillusioned with society in general and America in particular, the novelists of the Lost Generation cultivated a romantic self-absorption- a deliberate retreat into private emotion. They became precocious experts in tragedy, suffering and anguish. The early novels of Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald are peopled by sad, bitter young men who have lost all illusions at an early age; Amory Blaine of This Side of Paradise and Jake Barnes of Fiesta are the prime examples. They are haunted by war memories and by images of violence, cynical about idealism in any form, and given to only the most cryptic and laconic expressions of feeling. 12 (206)

Ousby (1979) also comments on the characters introduced to us by the writers of lost generation as follows:

The characters of Lost Generation novels live in restless pursuit of excitement and pleasure. Their Europe is not the gallery of cultural objects found in Hawthorne’s and James’s fiction: it is a Europe of elegant restaurants, picturesque bars and intriguing local customs. They delight in kicking over the conventional traces (and in the resultant cries of middle- class horror), indulging in heavy drinking and casual sex. 13 (207)

It was only Ernest Hemingway, who among the most famous writers of lost generation of America has been able to won the title of the avant-garde writer of the lost generation. His novel The Sun Also Rises was recommended all over the world as a true story featuring real people from the lost generation. This novel also made Hemingway a world-known celebrity. Nagel (1996) in his essay Brett and the Other Women in The Sun Also Rises comments:

This book made him, almost instantly, an international celebrity identified with an entire generation, torn by war and grieving throughout the Roaring Twenties for their lost romantic idealism. Although he was somewhat ill-suited for the role, because he was a hard-working young writer with a wife and a son to support, he came to be regarded as the spokesman for American expatriates, those disillusioned and disaffected artists, writers, and intellectuals who spent the decade on the Left Bank in Paris. 14 (87)

In his novel The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway uses Jake as a puppet, a narrator and also his famous code hero. Jake narrates the whole story which Hemingway’s eye saw sincerely. Nagel (1996) again in his essay Brett and the Other Women in The Sun Also Rises comments on the character of Jake Barnes as follows:

He is certainly one of the most isolated and vulnerable figures in American literature, and he narrates out of his disillusionment and pain, his grief evident throughout. As he says about himself, all he wants is to figure out how he can live in the world. It would seem that telling what happened is part of the process of learning how to live in the special circumstances of his world. 15 (90)

Nagel (1996) in his essay Brett and the Other Women in The Sun Also Rises comments on Jake being a representative of lost generation in following words:
Hemingway humanized this dichotomy in the character of Jake Barnes by creating a man who bears the wounds of the war in a profoundly personal way yet combines his disillusionment with traditional American values of hard work and just compensation. It is surely an oversimplification to see Jake as an uncompromised representative of lost generation radicalism, for he exhibits much of the midwestern values he sometimes satirizes… Above all, it is his judgment that provides the normative sensibility for assessing the people and events of the novel. But to grasp the meaning of what he relates, it is essential to understand the psychological context in which he tells it. 16 (91)
Lady Ashley Brett is another important character from the lost generation. She is pure nymphomaniac sort of a woman and is a true representative of the women of the early 20th century. According to Nagel (1996), “Brett is by no means the first representation of a sexually liberated, free-thinking woman in American literature but rather an embodiment of what became known as the “New Woman” in nineteenth-century fiction.”

Nagel (1996) further says:

Brett is not only a women but an extraordinary woman for the age, a point not clear unless she is considered in historical context. Form this perspective, the women in The Sun Also Rises might be regarded as more interesting then the men. The role of women in society had been changing with each decade for a century, always with a good deal of social conflict and ideological struggle. 17 (92)

Keeping in mind the agony of Jake due to his relation with Brett, we may easily nominate him as the most suffering person in the novel. His love with Brett makes him feel the pain of his wound which he got during the war, because he could not physically fulfill what he felt. According to Nagel (1996):

From the beginning, the world is out of sexual order, the social evening is a parody of erotic potential, and the deeper irony is that this pathology is at the very heart of Jake and Brett’s relationship. Their conversation in the taxi reveals the central problem of the novel: that they one another, that they feel that there is nothing they can do about it, that it is painful and destructive for them to be together. Whatever else happens is driven by this fact, and it is impossible for them to change it. The central dilemma for Jake is whether he can change the situation by finding some satisfaction in life. The problem for Brett is that she needs companionship of a man, and no one but Jake can offer her much beyond fleeting sexual pleasure. 18 (94)

Jake truly deserves pity because he is the one who lost the most he had during war and even afterwards. His love with Brett gives him nothing except pain and he is also unable to sleep at night due to the agony brought by his love for Brett. Nagel (1996) comments:

The “loss” in the “lost generation” is sustained primarily by him, and it makes for powerful fiction. The novel works, ultimately, because Jake, in anomalous circumstances, nevertheless presents a normative sensibility in the story he tells. He emerges as a man of intelligence, humor and good sense who lost more than he deserved in World War 1 but learned how to make a life for himself. 19 (105)

According to Martin (1987):

Jake Barnes and his friends- all of them- are a group because they share the same beliefs and experiences. Except for Robert Cohn, whose differences are less heinous than Jake sometimes thinks them to be, the displaced Americans and Britons are moving through a festival period in their lives, punctuating their aimless existence abroad with an organized visit to Spain for the bullfights. 20 (07)

The characters introduced to us by Hemingway live under a peculiar but yet an extraordinary code of life. They behave like a community of people sharing similar set of thoughts and beliefs. Martin (1987) in her New Essays on The Sun Also Rises says:

A key theme is the notion of community: These are people who understand each other, the rules they live by, and the reasons for their choices. Only someone outside that community will have difficulty with the social code. Count Mippipopolous may be a stranger to the group, but he understands the code and fits into the society. Robert Cohn, although he spends much time with the members of the group and thinks himself a special friend of both Jake and Brett, never manages to assimilate the rules. Jake, however, is clearly in charge- of the plans, the guest list, the activities, and the emotional nuance. He is the apparent hero of the novel, and his approval or disapproval sets the pattern for the other character’s reaction to things. 20 (08)

All the characters in the novel The Sun Also Rises seem dissatisfied and unhappy and most of the time they feel themselves useless. Martin (1987) comments on this condition of the characters in following words:

There are many reasons for these characters’ unhappiness. To dwell on “irony and pity” is just a pastime; the real issues are the lack of alignment between profession and occupation, between lovers, between vacation and work, between ideals of Spain and France, between nature and the commercial. As full of disjunctures as a picture puzzle, The Sun Also Rises still presents a story whole, its fragments necessarily scattered throughout the narrative, and readers accept the fragmentation as one the marks of Hemingway’s truth. They seize on the purity of Pedro Romero, the wit of the bemused Mike Campbell, the taciturn acceptances of Jake Barnes, the flip bravado of Brett Ashley as the symbols of the characters who survive the onslaught of real life. 21 (16)

Chapter 2: Life and Works of Ernest Hemingway

2.1 Birth and Parentage

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on July 21st, 1899. His father was a doctor. He spent much of his time in his early days roaming about in the woods, rifle on his shoulders, or rowing out across the water of a large lake in quest of big fish. Although his family owned a cottage on a lake, he usually slept outside in a tent, the dim light of a kerosene lantern flickering long hours into the night over his temporary cot as he laid reading.

2.1.1 His Schooling

In June 1917, Hemingway graduated from Oak Park High School toward the bottom of his class. Meanwhile, war had broken out in Europe and, preferring fighting to college, he tried to get enlisted in the army but was rejected because of poor eyesight. Frustrated, he went away to live with an uncle in Kansas City where he found a job as a reporter in a newspaper. He liked his writing job, but he still had a compelling urge to get into the war, and the opportunity came soon afterwards. On learning that Italy was recruiting ambulance drivers to serve on the Italian front; he gave up his job and became an ambulance driver in Italy.

2.1.2 Injuries of War

Hemingway had been driving behind the lines for only a few days when he found that his work was too safe, in fact, dull. He wanted to serve on the frontlines in the thick of things. So he volunteered for canteen service and was soon riding a bicycle, handing out mail, tobacco, and chocolates to soldiers in the trenches. On his tenth day in Italy as he was handing a chocolate bar to a soldier, a large mortar shell fell near by. Hemingway was almost buried. His body was filled below the waist with over 250 pieces of shrapnel, but after regaining consciousness, he rescued a badly wounded Italian soldier and was turning to help others when he was hit again, with a machine-gun bullet, below the left knee.

2.1.3 Falls in Love with a Nurse

He spent several weeks in a Red Cross hospital and there he fell in love with an English Nurse Agnes. While in Europe, he received several medals for bravery, and then was sent home, limping on a cane. The Hemingway who went back to America was different person from the young man who had left. War, death, suffering, new people, a new language and love had all been crowded into a short period of time.

2.1.4 Disappointment in Love

While his feet and legs healed, he read a lot and impatiently watched the mail until, one day after receiving a letter, he suddenly became ill. He retired into seclusion and for days hardly left his room. Finally, on being repeatedly asked by his family, he revealed that the letter has came form Agnes informing him that she was not coming to America and that she had married an Italian army major.

2.1.5 Failure and Fame

Sad and disappointed, Hemingway went to Paris for study and to make a living by writing. There, he met and became friendly with some of the world’s greatest literary figures of that day- James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and others. But despite their advice and help, he could not sell his literary attempts. Manuscript after manuscript kept coming back from editors, usually without a single word of encouragement, and with only a printed rejection slip. One day, he was sitting at a side walk café on the Left Bank in Paris and complaining to a friend about his ill luck. The friend observed that perhaps the reason why Hemingway’s writings did not sell was that he had not suffered enough and that he did not know misery. Hemingway bitterly replied, “So I have not known misery! So that’s what you think!” Then at first seemingly lost in memory, he narrated the story of his lost love, Agnes, the English nurse. He told his friend about the suffering he had endured in World War 1. Later, he put the story on paper in the form of a novel, A Farewell to Arms. The book proved to be immensely popular and Hemingway found himself famous. We could probably say that an unhappy love affair and his unhappy experiences in war were the motivating factor which made him being a great author.

2.1.6 Reporting in Spain

He went on writing and was now a successful and established writer. He traveled extensively, hunting in Africa and the Far East, fishing in numerous oceans and seas. He felt greatly attracted by bull-fighting in Spain and spent several years in that country. He covered the Spanish Civil War for American newspapers and could not resist getting into the fight in Madrid. By then, he was known as “Papa”, a bearded huge figure of a man who joked and swore with the best of the soldiers.

2.1.7 World War II

When World War II began, Hemingway, then living in Cuba, armed his own boat as a submarine chaser and patrolled the Atlantic Coast off the United States. But in 1942, he was in the thick of battle again as a magazine correspondent. He flew from England on bombing missions and became an expert on German rockets. Near the end of the war, he was among the first wave of troops to storm the Normandy beach in 1944. After the war, he retired to Cuba to fish and write. One book proved a failure, and his critics remarked that Papa’s carrier was over.

2.1.8 The Nobel Prize

Then, in 1952, after years of work, he brought out The Old Man and the Sea, a tale of the struggle of a single, old fisherman against the powers of fate and the ocean. It was the story he had been trying to write all his life, and it brought him the Pulitzer Prize for 1953. In the following year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Suffering from injuries in plane crashes while hunting wild game in Africa, Hemingway could not go to Sweden to receive the Nobel Prize but in a letter to the Academy he declared that the writer’s life was a lonely one, and that if he shed his loneliness, his work would deteriorate. Still living in Cuba, Hemingway continued writing short stories, novels, and magazine articles. But he also began to take life easier, spending more time on his fishing boat with his wife, whom he called Miss Mary. “No one can work everyday in these hot months without going stale,” he wrote during this period. “To break up the pattern of work, we fish the Gulf Stream in the spring and summer months and in the fall.’

2.1.9 A Life of Adventure

Hemingway’s sixty-two years were packed with excitement. Living through adventure after adventure, he told stories of his life and love on jungles, the two World Wars in which he played a part in Europe, and a giant 1000-pound fish he battled off the Coast of Cuba. But his writing was more than just adventure stories; he helped to set the style for the modern novel. His lean, muscular prose and dramatic plots have, perhaps, been copied more than any other modern author’s and his work has been translated into all the world’s major languages.

2.1.10 Ill Health and Suicide

But Hemingway was growing old. His hair and beard had turned white. His old wounds were bothering him. He had to keep standing while writing, and he was frequently unwell. Then Castro took over in Cuba, and Hemingway and Miss Mary returned to America, living in Idaho. He spent a few months in hospitals, began losing weight, and saw his creative ability declining. Early one morning on July 1961, he slipped on the stairs in his home and, not wishing to prolong his suffering, killed himself with a gun. Perhaps he had concluded, like the old fisherman in his novel, that he had no luck anymore.

2.2 His Works

Influenced by Ezra Pound and particularly by Gertrude Stein whose style strongly affected him, Hemingway published Three Stories and Ten Poems in 1923 and In Our Time (a collection of short stories) in 1925. These early stories exhibited the attitude of mind and technique for which Hemingway later became famous. As the leading spokesman for the “lost generation”, he expressed the feelings of war-wounded people disillusioned by the loss of faith and hope, and so thoroughly defeated by the collapse of former values that they could turn only to a stoic acceptance of primal emotions. The stories are mainly concerned with “tough” people, both intelligent men and women who have dropped into an exhausted cynicism or such primitives as frontiers-men, Indians, and professional athletes whose essential courage and honesty are implicitly contrasted with the brutality of civilized society. Emotion is neglected while bare happenings are recorded, and emphasis is obtained by sarcasm and spare dialogue.

2.2.1 The Torrents of Spring (1926)

It is hardly ever read nowadays. At the time, however, it attracted considerable attention. It is a satirical book in which Hemingway mocks at Sherwood Anderson, Henry James, H.L. Mencken, Gertrude Stein and D.H. Lawrence. The book earned him some enemies. Anderson was hurt and puzzled to find his supposed pupil turning on him: he probably had not realized that Hemingway had never been an uncritical hero-worshipper. Gertrude Stein attacked him in her autobiography declaring that Hemingway was jealous because she and Anderson had taught him all the new about writing, about bullfighting and boxing. To this charge Hemingway subsequently replied in his novel The Green Hills of Africa in which he declared that it was a pity to see Gertrude Stein's talent having been devoted to malice, nonsense, and self praise.

2.2.2 Hemingway's First Great Novel

Hemingway adopted the style and attitude of his short stories into his first great novel, The Sun Also Rises 1926. This book tells about the moral collapse of a group of expatriated Americans and Englishmen broken by the war, who turned toward escape through all possible violent diversions.

2.2.3 Papa's Second Great Novel

Success in fictional craftsmanship and in portraying the mind of an era was again achieved in A Farewell to Arms 1927, the tragic love story of an English nurse and an American ambulance driver during the war.

2.2.4 Some Short Stories by Hemingway

After publishing further distinguished collections of short stories, Men without Women and Winner Take Nothing, he wrote two books Death In The Afternoon 1932, a book on bullfighting, and Green Hills of Africa 1935, an account of his hunting experiences in Africa. With digressions only literary matters these books show a further cultivation of the primitive and brutal levels, contrasted with the hollow culture that had cheated Hemingway's generation.

2.2.3 Hemingway on Social Issues

In To Have and Have Not 1937, Hemingway for the first time showed his interest in a possible solution of social problems through collective action. He continued this attitude in newspaper articles from Spain about the Civil War there. Then he wrote The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories 1938, in which appeared two of his finest stories: The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

2.2.4 The Longest Novel

For Whom the Bell Tolls 1944 is the longest novel by Hemingway and is based on an incident in the Spanish Civil War, has universality in its theme that the loss of liberty is loss of everything.

2.2.5 Award Wining Novel

The Old Man and The Sea written in 1952 was the last and perhaps the finest novel ever written by Ernest Hemingway. It's an allegorical novel in which man fights against nature for his luck and survival. The theme of the novel is no doubt the aim of Hemingway's own life that a man can be destroyed but cannot be defeated.

Chapter 3: The Lost Generation

The Sun Also Rises was aimed by Hemingway at his own generation. He says so in its two epigraphs, one is from Ecclesiastes: One generation passes away and another generation comes; but the earth abides forever. The other is Gertrude Stein's re-echoed judgment: ‘You are all a lost generation.' In the novel The Sun Also Rises are exhibited all the European pleasures which Hemingway and Fitzgerald were presenting. Going to bars, spending night in drinking alcohol and having fervent sexual activities was the greatest part of the lives of the generation called the ‘lost generation' by Gertrude Stein.

Hemingway brings before us a group of unhappy US expatriates living in different parts of Europe. As no one in the novel The Sun Also Rises seems happy except Pedro Romero, the handsome young bullfighter and Lady Brett Ashley who adds him to her sex circle. Jake Barnes the narrator of the The Sun Also Rises is a real suffering man and the code hero of the story is emasculated by a war wound. We can say that all the characters taken as the representatives of the lost generation are desperate people. They all hide their desperation behind drinking and talking and being rude to those who do not know the code (the code of life).

Throughout the novel The Sun Also Rises we see a number of young people making the rounds of the bars in Paris and resorts in Spain, talking, drinking, fishing, attending bullfights and making love. According to Gorman (1926):

Through this group and through a shift of scene from the Left Bank in Paris to Pamplona in Spain during fiesta- time, Hemingway manages to achieve a vitriolic albeit manifestly impartial portrait of what might be called the over-nerved and over-sophisticated colony of expatriates in Europe. 1

The lost generation also refers to the time period from the end of the World War1 to the beginning of the Great Depression. Moreover, the term is often used for the generation of young people coming of age in the United States during and shortly after the World War1.

It has been already mentioned that it was Gertrude Stein who for the very first time who named the generation that came of age during the World War 1 as the “lost generation”. This phrase spread quickly throughout the whole world as a trade mark of the generation of the early 20th century in America. The world adopted it as an accurate description of the age as most of them spent their adulthood in working, fighting and dying in war. They did not really get time for enjoying and making spree, as war attacked them suddenly and badly. The horrible conflict took them so suddenly they did not even realize that it has taken away their each and everything. The Great War set new standards for death and immortality in war. The war shattered all the beliefs in traditional values of love, faith and manhood.

It happened directly after the war that all the illusion got vanished from the minds of the Americans. They came to realize that death is the worst in all mysteries and the greatest of all the secrets of the world, when it reveals itself. And death is the truest and the most bitter of all the truths of the life. Young men, enthusiastic soldiers and juvenile teenagers like Ernest Hemingway deliberately offered themselves for the country because of the illusion of bravery they had over their minds.

They thought they were strong and were the men of war. But all their illusions washed away when most of them, in fact a large number of them killed by the first bullet which pierced their chests. It was the time when the sense of pain, anguish and prevailing death struck the fragile sheet of illusion and shattered it into innumerable fragments. It was the point where they realized that they were immortal and death is for everyone. This was the stage where weapons took lead over manhood and the power of the muscles on which the American men felt proud but nothing proved worth in war. The powerful men, enthusiastic soldiers and juvenile teenagers were all on the mercy of a single bullet. Most of them got killed and others got physically and psychologically hurt.

With the loss of man power and different body organs they were no-men and that's why they have been represented by the character of an impotent Jake. Even after the war the war veterans were scared and psychologically suffering as the war memories haunted their minds constantly. And due to the sense of physically weak and being handicaps they lost their remaining interests in life which lead them to become a lost generation. Hemingway (1979) comments in Men at War as follows:

When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you. It can happen to other people; but not to you. Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you. After being severely wounded two weeks before my nineteenth birthday I had a bad time until I figured it out that nothing could happen to me that had not happened to all men before me. 2

Drinking, dancing, having sex and sleepless nights became the most important sectors of the lives of men and women of the post-war American society. They refused to follow; in fact they rebelled against the traditional concepts of social code of American life. They adapted a new code, a self-made code, n new way of living where there was no space for spiritual and religious values, no charm for married life, no respect for tradition and customs and no regard for any old pattern of life. They became morally and mentally sick. Most of the time they remained drunk and used to have fervent sex.

Hemingway by writing his novel The Sun Also Rises brings before the readers the new changes that took place in the post-war new American generation which Gertrude Stein named the lost generation. First of all Hemingway with the help of his puppets Jake and Brett describes the impact of war on sex. Jake has been shown impotent by Hemingway for two reasons. First of all his impotency is the symmbol of the impotency of the men who took part in the war. The world “man” means more than a male figure to Hemingway. A man is a symbol of power, dignity and sexual energy. To Hemingway a man means soldiers, a fighter and a worshipper of true norms and values of life. Hemingway's man is not made for defeat. But Jake is a true loser, he lost is manhood, he lost his illusions, in fact he lost everything in war and even afterwards he loses his beloved Brett.

Next, Jake stands as a symbol of destructiveness of sex by war. Hemingway taunts and teaches his lost generation who has become a victim of illegal sexual relations and is destroying the other sectors of its social life by being involved in frequent sex. Both men and women violated sex. The reason behind such frequent sex lies in the mass killing of male members of the American society during World War 1. A huge number of American women became widows as their husbands got killed or in other words sacrificed their lives for their country during war. Brett is a true example of such women as she also lost her husband in war. Brett consequently turned nymphomaniac due to starving sexual emotions and similar was the case with most of the post-war American women who due to the feelings of being insecure and man-less turned bitches like Brett does in the novel The Sun Also Rises. The sexual thirst also lead the male characters like Cohn to violate his code of ethics and he attacks Jake, Mike and Romero as well. It has also been seen that Brett's desire for sex prevents her from entering into a proper relation with Jake, although she loves him. Hence we can conclude that it is sex that undermines Cohn's respect and Brett-Jake relation. Gorman (1926) comments:

The structure of the book is easily outlined. It is concerned with the effect of Lady Ashley on four men: Jake Barnes, who tells the story; Robert Cohn, a young Jew; Michael Campbell, engaged to Lady Ashley, and Romero, a young bullfighter. 3

Lady Brett is the factor that is resulting in the negative consequences of sex and is also resulting in the destruction of relations and the code of life. Brett is representing the liberated women of post-war American society who did not hesitate to have sexual relations with multiple men. Brett by having multiplex sexual relations with different men bred envy and jealousy among them which always results in disaster. By portraying the character of Brett in such fashion Hemingway shows his hatred for the nymphomaniac women of his age and he is also teaching a lesson to the male members of the society by taunting the cruel and vicious women. According to Nagel (1996), “Brett is by no means the first representation of a sexually liberated, free-thinking woman in American literature but rather an embodiment of what became known as the “New Woman” in nineteenth-century fiction.” 4

The war in a true sense revealed upon the American men that what it meant to be masculine. The pre-war idea of being brave and fighting as a soldier was totally crushed by the brutal war. Survival depended just upon one's luck rather than bravery. The traditional concepts of what I meant to be a man were completely undermined by the realities of war. Jake in the novel represents the new man of post-war America. In fact he is a man apparently, but inwardly war has rendered him impotent which in other words means unmanly. He carries the burden of being impotent and feels he is less of a man than he was before war. Through this masculine insecurity of Jake, Hemingway puts before us the insecurity felt by the war veterans who felt insecure in their manhood. Hemingway doest not state this fact directly but shows it in Cohn's pursuit of Brett. This behavior of Cohn is regarded unmanly by Hemingway as Brett is not a real woman but a nymphomaniac. Similarly Hemingway presents Brett a woman, who is manlier as compared to other male characters. She is a very liberal minded and a physically strong woman. She has a boyish haircut and she is sexually independent and does sex with any male of her choice. However, on the other hand the male characters are running after her as her pets.

Another characteristic behavior of the lost generation of Hemingway shown in The Sun Also Rises is that they were anti-Semitists. Anti-Semitism is a behavior or belief hostile towards Jews. In the novel we see most of the time Robert Cohn is seen with extreme hatred by the other characters. Jake is apparently is his friend but hates him inwardly and even while narrating the story and introducing Cohn he seems unhappy and unimpressed although he knows that Cohn was a superb boxer. There are two reasons behind hating Jews on part of Americans and British people at that time. First they were Jews by religion and in Christian religious teachings it is taught to the Christian to hate the Jews. Through a Christian's point of view Jews are inferior and should be abominated. Secondly, Jews were being hated due to their German background. Everyone knows that it was Germany who launched war by attacking several parts of the world specially America and England. So that's why Cohn was the center of hatred of Americans and Britons. W.H. Auden states a similar kind of theme in his poem “Say This City has Ten Million Souls”. The sense of the poem is the estrangement of the immigrants which were Jews of German origin which they faced in a new country (America). The poet laments at the inhuman treatment which the immigrants met at the hands of the local people. The refugees did not enjoy any sense of respect and honor even in a country like America. The poet refers to the case of Jews who migrated to America during the war but they were not treated well by the local population. They were refused to have new passports to go back to their country. They were not given any place of shelter to live. Auden satirizes by saying that Americans have a spared place for their pets but not for us (Jews).

Hemingway though he never explicitly states that Jake and his fellow men and women were a lost generation and were living an aimless life and that their aimlessness was a result of war. He implies these ideas through his portrayal of the characters' emotional and psychological lives. They were no longer able to believe and rely upon the traditional American beliefs which gave meaning to life. Those men and women who experienced the war became psychologically and morally lost and like the characters of The Sun Also Rises they wandered here and there in search of happiness and rest. Their activities were drinking, traveling, and debauchery which show their aimlessness and disillusionment. They wanted to escape from their meaningless lives. But they were nevertheless helpless and unable to escape their misery as war had rendered them handicaps and impotent.

In short the post-war American society served as a blinker for Ernest Hemingway through which he focused on the suffering lost generation of America. Hemingway, as he was a part of the society and a member of the lost generation, had a lot of pity for his fellow men who suffered at hands of war. He by writing an account of brutalities and impacts of war on his people exhibited the effect of war on the society and the new norms and values set after the World War 1. Hemingway realized from his own war wounds the pain felt by his fellow men. He learnt from his own restlessness and aimlessness that his generation was suffering a great deal. He shows his sincerity with his generation and his love for his traditional values of life by taunting and criticizing the follies and faults of his society. He is no less than a saint for his people because he taught them the negative consequences of war and the illusion they had on their minds. He taught them the lesson that all human beings are immortal and war is not the solution of everything. To conclude we may say that his preaching is based on hatred for war and love for humanity and values and norms of life.

Chapter 4: Post Traumatic Stress

In this chapter we will have an insight into the main cause of the disillusionment of the post-war American society. This chapter will mainly deal with the impact and effect of World War 1 on the psychology of the American people and also the psychology of Ernest Hemingway. It has already been observed that Ernest Hemingway's main concern was the post-war American society and the psychological state of the suffering minds of the people. Hemingway presents before us a generation of people who were completely lost and disillusioned by the aftermath of the World War 1 and hence this generation got named the lost generation. The marked features of this generation were aimlessness, restlessness, wandering place to place in search of pleasure and going to bars for drinking and sex.

Now the reason behind such activities of human beings lies in the psychological study of mind and human behavior in daily life. The first thing to keep in mind is the effects of war on human mind. The war serves as a trauma for human mind causing anxiety, fear, restlessness and lack of sleep (insomnia) to those who somehow become a part of war. The war incidents and after-war memories of those incidents cause a lot of stress over human mind making it impossible for the person victimized by the war.
The similar thing happened to the America's lost generation, because they participated in the World War 1 as soldiers, drivers and nurses.

The horrific conflict made them suffer a lot during and after the war. Most of them got killed by the brutal war while others got sever injuries. But those who survived the war were no less than psycho patients. Most of the remaining members of the post-war American society felt victims to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a mental disease caused by the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. PTSD is a sever kind of state of mind in which the patient suffers due to a trauma or a shock which he had in his previous life. Trauma or shock can be delivered by an accident, fight with someone, war, rape, etc. The patient suffering with PTSD shows the symptoms of insomnia (lack of sleep), excessive intake of sleeping pills, drinking alcohol, lack of confidence, etc.

Now coming back to the post-war American society and keeping an eye over the characters introduced to us by Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises we see a lot of war victims, after being crushed by the war felt victims to PTSD. First of all we see the most suffering character in all characters that is Jake Barnes. He served his country in World War 1 and got injury in his genitals which emasculated him. Jake despite being an active and a responsible person of the society shows the symptoms of PTSD in him. He could not sleep at night and is most of the time haunted by the war memories. We see him in a very agonizing state of mind due to two main reasons.

First of all he lost all he had in war as war rendered him impotent. The consequences of this impotency badly effected his love relation with Brett because he was unable to consummate his love. Although love is self-destructive force but Jake's agony is the worst because he feels sexual urge for Brett but could not fulfill it due to having no erection. All these factors make Jake a real suffering PTSD patient. Then we have Robert Cohn as a victim of PTSD. He despite having a reputation as an athlete and a boxer was suffering from lack of confidence. He is totally out casted by the society just because he is a Jew. We see him feeling himself inferior to other characters. Due to this he starts running after such women who show a little courtesy towards him. Cohn though is not much affected by war but still shows some traits of characters which put him in list of PTSD victims.

Then is the character of the war-nurse Lady Ashley Brett. She is also a victim of war-trauma because she lost her husband in war. The effects of PTSD are also very harsh on her and she turns nymphomaniac. Having the feelings of loneliness and man-less she creates the character of 20th century liberated woman. She represents the ‘new women' of 20th century who were sexually independent. Brett had multiplex sex relations and she could have sex with any man of her choice.

Now watching these characters from Hemingway's point of view we find that all of these characters are type characters and are depiction of psychological state of mind of the PTSD suffering lost generation. Each character, whether Jake, Cohn or Brett, represents a particular group of people who suffered the trauma of war. And it is Hemingway's staunch observation and his involvement in his society and the analysis of the psychological behavior of his members of society that he presents them truly before us.

Hemingway's works are an exhibition of his confessions and his exposure to his society. It often happens that we find him within the story walking along his characters. As a soldier in World War 1 he himself got injured and recollected the war-memories afterwards. It will not be false to say that Hemingway himself was a victim of PTSD and war memories and fears haunted him as well. His own illusions got shattered due to the brutal effects of war and war injuries and that is why he created an impotent Jake as a hero of his novel. Jake is actually Hemingway himself, whose philosophy and mentality is entirely based upon ‘Nada' that means nothing. For Hemingway man is born into a real world that is natural and has a physical shape but this world is totally indifferent towards mankind. He believes that all the forces in the universe are trying to crush man but the man is always undefeated. Hemingway believes that this is a world without purpose, order, meaning or value and there is no God like thing at all. Darkness to Hemingway is equal to death and this is the reason why Hemingway and his heroes are sleepless at night due to the fear of death. Light is a symbol of hope for Hemingway and his heroes and that's why they are always in search of a luminous place.

Mankind according to Hemingway's point of view is victim of irrational accidents like wars, death, loss and destruction of universe. To Hemingway man is born with many illusions and his belief upon God is his greatest illusion because this is a Godless universe. For Hemingway, all traditional, religious and philosophical explanations of the universe are false illusions which turn to disillusion when man is victimized by an irrational disaster or a calamity and then man finds peace and rest in activities which give him immediate pleasure (good food, drink, sex, etc). To Hemingway this universe is a place where only the fittest and the toughest can survive as the disastrous powers of universe are all the time trying to crush civilization and mankind.

Hemingway's aim of life and his philosophy's main theme is that a man can be destroyed but can not be defeated. Similar is his point of view about the human civilization which is fighting against the powers of universe. He says that universe is always destroying the generations after generations of mankind but a man should always remain optimistic in his approach towards life. If one generation goes, then another generation comes and the earth abides forever.

This is the lesson for the readers from Hemingway that despite all the calamities and the despair, one should be optimistic in his approach towards life and one should always be hopeful.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Related Services

View all

Related Content

All Tags

Content relating to: "English Literature"

English Literature refers to the study of literature, written in the English language. The authors were not necessarily from England, but their works were written in English. Many forms of text could be considered literature, including novels, non-fiction, plays and poetry. English literature is one of the most popular fields of study in universities around the world.

Related Articles

DMCA / Removal Request

If you are the original writer of this dissertation and no longer wish to have your work published on the UKDiss.com website then please: