Ernest Hemmingway is a masculine writer of immense emotion. He writes off of his life experiences and his feelings towards different subjects. Ernest Hemingway’s themes are virile on the surface, but when analyzed, one will find them to be romantic and sentimental.
As one will find through the reading of Hemingway’s works he is a very masculine writer. Says one critic: “Hemingway fans have long made reference to the “Hemingway Hero’s”, or the “macho men” which seem to dominate most of the author’s semi-autobiographical works”(essortment1). Brian Dennis writes: “Hemingway’s themes show part of his life. He was a man who delights in fishing, in hunting, in horseplay, and was a man filled with what used to be called animal spirits”(dennis02). Michael Reynolds states: “From 1921 to 1938 it has been the same story, love and pity and pride and loneliness concealed in a brief reportage of cruel facts”(reynolds369). Another expert explained that: “The glorification of the dangerous life of hunting and fishing is keeping Hemingway from deserving people, from writing about the life of his times”(jackson72). As for Hemingway himself he calls himself a man’s man. Michael Reynolds stated that: “The method is to effete for Mr. Hemingway, who cannot develop themes for his work without first sailing for Cape Town of chartering a fishing smack or hiring a guide to the caribou country. Hemingway stated: “Writers should work alone. They should see each other only when their work is done, and not too often then. Otherwise they become like writers in New York. All angleworms in a bottle, trying to derive knowledge and nourishment from their own contact and from the bottle”(reynolds371). “In the face of so much advise, Hemingway continued to write only about what he knows, only as he sees it, only when he wants to, that is a quality that Hemingway posses that few other writers have”(waldhorn03). “The source of his material and spring to his imagination was his own life. Issues of intellect, history, myth, and society were beside the point. It is what his eyes say and heart felt that he cured into fiction”(fenton91). Says Charles Fenton about Hemingway.
To examine the extent of the masculinity of Hemingway’s themes, one must first get to know what some critics say about the themes of some of his stories. Speaking of “The Sun Also Rises” editors of a website dedicated to this book explained: “No amount of analysis can convey the quality of “The Sun Also Rises”. It is truly a gripping story, told in a lean hard athletic narrative. Mr. Hemingway shows uncanny skill at implementing his own masculine beliefs and values into a theme of immense emotion”(essortment2). Seeing through the masculinity in the story Justin Day writes: “Mr. Hemingway has such a hold on his values that he makes an absorbing, beautifully and tenderly absurd, heartbreaking narrative of it, when on the surface, it seems as if it is going to be one of his infamous “Man Stories”(day3). Speaking of “A Farewell to Arms” which is a highly reviewed Hemingway story, Arthur Waldhorn writes that: “The chief result is of enamel luster imparted to the story as a whole, not precisely and iridescence, but a white light, rather, that pales and flashes, but never warms. Which is Hemingway’s way of thinking, it is apparent that he has soft spots in his work and in his thoughts, but he refuses to let them show”(Waldhorn2). Reviewing the same story Jeff Marx states that “a Victorian telling the story of Henry and Catherine would have waxed sentimental; he would have sought the tears of his reader. And he would surely himself shed tears as he wrote”(jackson73). Many believe that Hemingway wrote about fictional characters that had the life that Ernest Hemingway himself tried to lead. Brian Dennis speaking of the story “To Have and Have Not” states: “Henry was a big bruiser of a man, hard as they come, happily married by reason of a strong physical attachment, and was the father of two girls”(dennis14).
As stated before many critics believe that Hemingway’s themes are sentimental and somewhat romantic. For example Michael Reynolds writes: “Hemingway has tremendous personality. It is not the usual kind of personality in literature, not D. H. Lawrence’s or Chekhov’s, or Max Beerbohm’s; it isn’t inflammatory or pervasive or repellant; indeed it is a personality in retreat, almost in hiding; an implied personality just as Hemingway’s sense of values is an implied sense of values(reynolds373). Hemingway seems to be a romantic man with a masculine way of thinking. One feels that he learns about people by listening to them, not by talking to them. In the end he probably learns more that way(jackson73). “But he remains in a subtle sense, a stranger among his themes and characters”(fenton76). Alfred Aronowitz does not think that it is very difficult to find that Hemingway’s themes are romantic. He states “Everybody, more or less, knows that at the bottom Hemingway is a romantic and a sentimentalist, it is not a new discovery yet it remains an interesting one to discuss” (aronowitz41). “It has given him the physical sensations of direct action, rude contact, swift pace. It has given him something to be downright, and if necessary, harsh about without exposing himself as inhumane; it has given him somebody else’s code to interpret so that he need not formulate (which is a much harder job) a code of his own; it has given him, perhaps, the right to despise. Which in turn, provides us with a false understanding of Mr. Hemingway” (aronowitz41). Alfred Aronowitz continued on to say.
Hemingway’s themes explain his lifestyle, or the lifestyle that he made apparent to the public eye. “No writer can go on and on writing about the same things when they are merely things that he observed, overheard, or impaled with his intelligence quite like Hemingway”(jackson74). Says Jeff Marx. It is said that the themes that Ernest Hemingway had in his stories were things that just popped in his mind through a day of being alone or a day of hunting (fenton82). One can then come to the conclusion that Hemingway was a dreamer and not too much in tune with the reality that was his life, as such the themes in his stories proved this (fenton83). Alfred Aronowitz believed that Ernest Hemingway’s way of thinking provided themes for Hemingway’s stories. “Hemingway seemed to always have a contrasting theme in his stories. When Hemingway was at a down time in life, he would write about a hero, also when Hemingway was seemingly on cloud nine, he would write about murder”(Aronowitz43).
After over 50 years of analysis, there are still thousands of opinions and hypothesis on why Hemingway wrote about what he did. But there are a few things that are agreed upon. Ernest Hemmingway was came off as a man’s man (reynolds371). It is a fact that most of his stories consisted of predominantly masculine themes. Whether it is a world war hero or an everyday macho man, Hemmingway seems to have always been a writer that reached out to a male audience (fenton89). Through research one will also find Hemingway’s themes to be somewhat romantic and sentimental (aronowitz41). All of these facts concerning Hemingway go for not if one does not get the writer to know for oneself. He is truly a brilliant and thoughtful writer (fenton88).
Aronowitz, Alfred G. Ernest Hemingway, The Life and Death of a Man. Washington, DC: Lancer Books Publishing, 1961.
Day, Justin. An analysis of Ernest Hemingway. 02 Aug. 2001.
Dennis, Brian. “The True Gen, An Intimate Portrait of Hemingway by Those who Knew Him.” Grove Press 21 July. 2001
Fenton, Charles A. The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway, the Early Years.Durham, NC: Plantin Paperbacks, 1987. (originally published, 1954).
Marx, Jeff. New Critical Approaches to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Benson J. Jackson. NC: Duke University Press, 1990. 71-77.
Reynolds, Michael. “Ernest Hemingway.” Modern Critical Views. Harold Bloom. Chelsea House, 1985. 368-401.
Understanding The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. 01 Aug. 2001
Waldhorn, Arthur. A reader’s Guide to Ernest Hemingway. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1972.