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As a woman, I find Hemingway too misogynistic

Ahh...She throws down the gauntlet!! :)

I can't think of a more exciting entry point into a Hemingway discussion than the misogynist question. I think there is plenty of evidence in Hemingway's writing and his life to suggest misogyny. I also think Sharon's position has merit too (perhaps not a misogynyst but simply a writer of typically male fiction). Thats what I love about this question, there are lots of opinions and evidence to support these opinions but nobody really knows the answer. Here is my take (Actually it is two different takes--this is long so if you get bored at least skip to the bottom paragraph where my wacky theory is introduced):

There are two Hemingway's. There is the one who became an almost mythical figure of manhood (Warrior, Lover, Drinker, Hunter, Fisherman, Intellectual, Sportsman etc....). And it is true, he was very good at most of these things (we have to take his word on the Lover part and he never did much fighting in the war but he did show up for it). Then there is the second Hemingway who writes fiction and creates characters that often seem to mirror the mythic Hemigway. But these characters (which are largely autobiographical) often have a sensitive underside that is not always obvious. Through these characters, Hemingway often seems to let his reader see a glimpse of who he is underneath his public persona. Example--Hemingway's characters are often scared of the dark. Hemingway himself supposedly always had to have a light on at night. In In Our Time Hemingway allows us to see a character (himself as a child) trying, somewhat unsuccessfully to cope with what only can be described as a disfunctional family. Later he shows us that child as an adult so affected by war that he can barely cope with the society around him. These are hardly images of the strong sturdy manly Hemingway.

Ok, I have gotten away from women. Books like In our Time, Sun Also Rises, Farewell to Arms, all deal with women and love and sexual desire. Each of the main characters in these novels can be seen as exhibiting mysoginstic behavior of one sort or the other. But they also show the men dealing with very real emotional issues related to male/female romantic relationships (In Our Time...the effect early experience has on shaping ones reactions to love and sexual desire; Sun...physical inability to act on sexual desire and the resulting difficulties; Farwell...the inability of even the most pure and perfect love to be sustained in a harsh and chaotic world). These kind of emotions can be seen as mysogynystic but can also be seen as natural reactions to one's environment and experience. What is so fascinating is that Hemingway the mythical man allows us this window into his inner world. So, I don't know. I think Hemingway's treatment of women is complex.

My second is a little different. I seriously wonder about Hemingway's sexuality. I question whether this incrediably strong manly man was really all that manly. In the back of my mind I have always wondered whether he was a closet homosexual (or maybe just confused sexually). He clearly was not a practicing homosexual and probably never admitted to even himself that it was a possibility, but there are some things that make me wonder. First and foremost is his posthumous book Garden of Eden. The book is filled with androgyny and the switching of male and female sexual roles. Hemingway wrote and worked on this book for a long time, but never published it (perhaps he never felt it was finished, perhaps he didn't want it published). This is all specualtion of course but his hard exterior shell and his softer inside which he seemed to really really want people to see through the outlet of fiction seems strange to me. Almost like the exterior was a front he felt he needed. Homosexuality may be too strong of a suggestion, but he seemed to really really be confused or troubled by the whole idea of sex and relationships. He certainly had committment problems (4 wives). Who knows, I could be way way way off......


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