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As a woman, I find Hemingway too misogynistic, as do I Salinger.
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I'm not so sure he was a misogynist but he was certainly primarily interested in "manly" things - war, hunting, the relationship between father and son, etc. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with that, after all he was a man, but his writing has never really interested me very much. (Admitted, maybe that's my shortcoming.) Sorry, I chose other books to read and look forward to the discussions.

Sharon
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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......

Thoughts???

1FW
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I remember reading Hemingway years ago in college and not caring for him very much, but I thought -- hey that was a long time ago, maybe I've matured, so I picked up the short stories and read through most of them (including all of the In Our Time stories). I didn't pick up on the misogeny aspect so much as a complete disinterest in women or womanly things and the complete absence of female figures in most of the stories. In particular, that first story about the indian woman giving birth was really all about the men delivering the baby and the father's reaction to the woman's labor. Just my opinion.
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motplus1,

Did you like him better this time around? I can definitely see a possible disinterest in women. Especially in the In Our Time stories. I see that book as somewhat of a coming of age book for a young male (very closely based on Hemingway). The characters own development throughout the book does seem to take precedent over all other things (like women for instance).

In particular, that first story about the indian woman giving birth was really all about the men delivering the baby and the father's reaction to the woman's labor.

I agree somewhat; it wasn't really about the woman giving birth at all. It seemed to focus on the male reaction to the woman and birth in general. Especially in Nick and his father's conversation after the birth about the husband killing himself (I don't have my copy on me so I can't check, but I do recall a very male perspective on relationships from Nick's father (whether Hemingway would agree with the position I don't know)). I think there are also some race issues going through this story.

You write "the father's reaction." In post 190 I came up with some quick discussion questions to get into the book. The last one was: Who is the father? Some critics seem to suggest that the Indian on the top bunk is not the father, and that the true father is Uncle George. I don't know about this....it does make the story a little more interesting (on a male/female relationship level and on a race level). Anyone have thoughts on any of this??

1FW
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1FW: "Some critics seem to suggest that the Indian on the top bunk is not the father, and that the true father is Uncle George."


1FW,

Ah! The cigars he passes out perhaps? Interesting. I overlooked that detail, assuming it was just some kind of payment to the Indians.

Steve G.
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motplus1: "...the complete absence of female figures in most of the stories."

Granted...most of the female characters in Hem's short fiction are either ciphers for a male character to play off of, or ball-breaking b***hs ("Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"). If memory serves, the woman in "Hills Like White Elephants", is an exception in that she appears as the sympathetic character, not the man. In terms of novels, the character Pilar in "A Farewell To Arms" is a pretty strong female character. I have, however, read critiques of "...Arms" that take Hemingway to task for having actually written a male character and merely called her a woman.

Thanks,

Steve G.
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Hi Steve,

the character Pilar in "A Farewell To Arms" is a pretty strong female character

Wasn't she a character in For Whom The Bell Tolls, not A Farewell To Arms?...Dave.
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Disclaimer: Some of this is original thought, some comes from criticism that I've read in the past. Most of it is some combination of the two.

Steve,

Great post, really enjoyed it.

Less of a novel in the traditional sense due to its' lack of a cohesive central narrative thread

Agreed; there is not a real strong narrative thread, and I too see Nick's character adding that element to a certain extent. I see the book as a sort of coming of age story for a young man in the post WWI world. We see Nick move from a child in Michigan through adolescence, war and finally post war. Of course not all of the stories are about Nick and that is where the trouble with looking for a single narrative thread comes in. I still see it as a cohesive whole though. I think there are thematic elements that tie the stories together: youth, war, male/female relationships, and a search for peace. All the stories have one or more of these elements in them. The war and relationship stories are further linked in that both war and relationships are chaotic in nature and ultimately destructive in this book. I think that is really what it is all about: dealing with these destructive forces. This culminates in the final story as Nick returns from the war and searches for peace and order through nature and repeated ritual (very obsessive compulsive).

The interchapters have troubled me some. Here is what I think so far. Two basic divisions (war and bullfighting) Both are full of violence and chaos at times. The bullfighter (a hero for Hemingway) can find peace through order and honor (i.e. fighting the good fight). This needs more thought……Definitely agree that the compliment the stories, just don't know exactly how….

I have always read Hemingway more for pleasure than academic study, so I am quite ignorant of the scholarly "take" on Hemingway's work…the impact of what Nick is experiencing and feeling is implied, not implicitly stated.

I think you are actually pretty close to what the critics say. Hemingway is very much into showing and not telling. Show a little bit and let the reader get a lot of meaning out of it. If I remember correctly they talk about the Iceberg theory (or something like that with Hemingway). An Iceberg only has 1/10 of it above water. That's what you see, but there is so much more to it. I think that is the way it goes…someone help me if I got it wrong. Any way the simplicity of the diction and syntax is extremely effective. He pares it down to the essential, nothing is wasted. But in the same way it is extremely beautiful (at least to me).

it's always "Nick said", never: "Nick said in a quavering voice"

I couldn't say it any better. Somehow Hemingway makes those last four words unnecessary.

Ok, I wasn't planning on telling this but what the hell. This is a very cheesy story. I took the GRE Literature exam a number of years ago. I had read A Farewell to Arms a few months earlier. The test has a lot of passages to identify. I got to one that I recognized immediately as the opening paragraph to A Farewell to Arms. Instead of moving on (this is a timed test) I read the damn thing twice just because I found the writing so amazing (what can I say, I was young and idealistic)

1FW
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Ah! The cigars he passes out perhaps? Interesting

Yeah I thought about the cigars too. Seems too heavy handed for Hemingway. I don't know about this theory. I never considered it until I read some critics argued for it. It certainly makes the suicide much more understandable. Not only did the white man impregnate his wife but he came to the delivery...the indian is subverted to a very low level (reminiscent of white slave owners impregnating their female slaves while their husbands were helpless to stop it). In that sense it is a very compelling addition to the story. My problem is that while the story is better with that explanation, there does not seem to be a whole lot of evidence beyond the suicide and the cigars (which again I do not like).

The end where Nick talks to his Father could be telling I guess:

Why did he kill himself, Daddy?
I don't know, Nick. He couldn't stand things, I guess.
......
Where did Uncle George go?
He'll turn up all right


What "things" could he not stand exactly? Obviously having his wife give birth to a white man's child could be something he could not stand...much more likely than your everyday relationship problems. The second part about George turning up eventually seems steeped with that show not tell we were talking about. Or at least it seems that way now that this new theory is in my head.

Definitely a relationship that cannot work. Hemingway shows man and woman and the destruction that occurs when they mix. Suicide and giving birth to a white mans child certainly seem destructive. The idea that it is George's cihld adds a new level of hoplessness on an already pretty hopless story...

1FW
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wow, must be late, my spelling really deteriorated in that last one.
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"Wasn't she a character in For Whom The Bell Tolls, not A Farewell To Arms?...Dave."

Dave,

Oops! Yes, indeed. As many times as I've read Hem this was embarassing!

Thanks,

Steve
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I get those two titles mixed up all the time. Don't know why as they are very very different books, but I do.

1FW
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In Our Time / more random observations:

In a previous post, I mentioned Hemingway's restraint in attaching emotive qualifiers to his dialogue (at least insofar as "Indian Camp" is concerned).

In reading "Three Day Blow" I was struck by the appearance of an "authorial" voice. (I need to bring the book with me to work, or write these posts at home so I can quote accurately!) As Nick and Bill begin to get drunk, there is a decided authorial commentary upon it that is absent, say, from "Indian Camp". Hemingway, as author, comments upon each boy's desire to appear "practical" and, with what I a take to be a dry, ironic wit, he says something along the line of "they were talking on a fine (philosophical? can't remember) plane now". Makes me curious to compare Hem's "authorial voice" in later works to see if this was part of his evolution as a writer and whether he retained such commentary or abandoned it.

"A Very Short Story" - Having read (and re-read) a fair number of Hemingway biographies, this story jumps out as an early catharsis of his pain over Agnes von Kurowsky (the nurse who tended to him in Italy that he fell in love with); "A Farewell To Arms" being a later, differently distilled version of the same experience. (As an aside, I recall reading some years ago a theory, posited I believe by the southern poet and literary critic, John Crowe Ransom, that one should consider an artist's work separate from the artist's life. I see some validity in this, but OTOH, how can we NOT be reminded of the real life experiences which inform so much of Hemingway's work,
the influence of Dorothy Wordsworth influence on her brother's poetry, the influence of lapsed Catholicism on James Joyce, etc., etc.)

oops, gotta get back to work, so much for this "hit and run" commentary...thoughts anyone?

Thanks,

Steve G.
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Steve...opening the door to literary theory...

Ransom was one of a number of largely Southern literary critics who founded the literary theory "New Criticism." I think Cleanth Brooks the Faulkner scholar was another one. You summed it up perfectly. I think the idea is interesting to a point. I like the idea of looking at a work or poem by itself outside of its context. But I only like this as an exercise of sorts. I agree with you Steve, to really get the most out of it you need that context. Hemingway especially since so much of what he wrote was autobiographical.

I have thoughts on the authorial voice as well but want to get home and check my copy as well. I have thought about bringing it to work but I think that would be considered going overboard. I already spend all day on the Fool...kicking back with my feet on the desk and reading Hemingway may be too much.

1FW
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"Ransom was one of a number of largely Southern literary critics who founded the literary theory "New Criticism." "

Ah, yes. Brings back memories of my brief stint as an English Literature grad student. (In those long ago days, I was annoyed by their theory, and also an avid admirer of the English Romantic poets; transposing the title of Byron's poetic attack on critics of his day, "English Bards and Scotch Reviewers", I wrote a couplet diatribe entitled "Scotched Bards and Southern Reviewers" in which I attacked the poetic worth of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and the proponents of 'New Criticism'. Ah, the brash arrogance of youth!)

"I have thoughts on the authorial voice as well but want to get home and check my copy as well. I have thought about bringing it to work but I think that would be considered going overboard. I already spend all day on the Fool...kicking back with my feet on the desk and reading Hemingway may be too much."

I look forward to more of your lucid observations. And yes, unless you're an editor at Scribners, kicking your feet up while reading Hem is probably not a good idea.

Till then, thanks, take care...

Steve G.


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There's quite a bit of information re In Our Time at this Sparknotes site. Be sure to take a look at the various sections, either directly via the sidebar links or serially with the arrows at the bottom of each page...Dave.

http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/inourtime/cover.html
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