In 1890s all the world was waiting for something new, something what can change people’s lives. Such period, so-called turn of the century, was always time, when people were expecting new discoveries, new perspectives and even new ways of life. And it did happen. 20th century was full of events and discoveries, which turned the whole world upside down. There were outstanding inventions and explorations, great losses and unforgettable wounds.
America had its own complicated way through the 20th century. First two decades of the new century were flourishing period for the U.S. The country did not suffer from the First World War, in fact it turned out to be the other way around. Supporting Europe by selling goods and supplies, America managed to become extremely rich country with the best economy in the world. However, it did not last long. The crisis came as fast as the yesterday success did. The Crash of the Wall Street in 1929 caused the beginning of the Great Depression. Many people lost their jobs and homes. The Government did not have a solution and the country had to survive through this economic crisis. This hard period lasted up to The Second World War.
American literature stepped into 20th century with naturalism and realism. The last one transformed into new movement – modernism. American modernists expressed in their works all aspects of the reality. They described cruelty of the First World War, pictured the process of industrialization and the horror of The Great Depression. All these events found the response in the works of modernists, who were representatives of so called Lost Generation. One of the well-known Lost Generation authors was Ernest Hemingway. Starting his career as a journalist, he began to create his works in a special way. It was his own style, which is still recognizable in most of his works. This unique style of Hemingway’s writing will be discussed and analyzed in this essay.
1. Lost Generation
Lost Generation was a group of American authors, who lived and wrote at the beginning of 20th century. Among them there were such well-known authors as Ezra Pound , F. Scott Fitzgerald, T. S. Elliot, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. The term “lost generation” was first mentioned in Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, but he was not the author of the phrase. Words “You all are lost generation” were said by his friend and mentor Gertrude Stein. The definition of the phrase was mentioned in Hemingway’s autobiographical work A Moveable Feast:
” That is what you are. That’s what you all are, – Miss Stein said. – All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation. You have no respect for anything. You drink yourselves to death…” (61)
This definition perfectly described the generation, which lived through both world wars. Most of the works written between the wars were full of their impressions and their suffering after the war. Trying to find their places in the life after such catastrophe, many of authors found solace in alcohol. Ernest Hemingway was not an exception.
2. Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was an American modernist author. He was born in 1899. Hemingway began his literature way from being a journalist. He took part in World War I, Spanish Civil War and World War II. He is a perfect example of Lost Generation. He went through wars, lost close people, tried to survive himself. It made him a person with a rich life experience. Many of his works were inspired by some real events, that had happened to him. For his whole life he tried to fight with his post-war traumas, both physical and mental. For last years of his life he was suffering from alcoholism and paranoia. In 1961 Ernest Hemingway killed himself.
Hemingway made an enormous contribution to world literature by his novels and short stories. In 1954 he was awarded with the Nobel Prize in literature “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style”. All his works has a unique style of writing, well-known and recognizable. The style always is compared to an iceberg. This comparison Hemingway mentioned in his novel Death in the Afternoon.
3. Iceberg Theory
The Iceberg Theory is a style of writing, founded and named by Ernest Hemingway. The idea of the theory is in omission of any details, which are not truly necessary for a reader to understand the story. In A Moveable Feast Hemingway describes how he came to this idea:
“It was a very simple story called “Out of Season” and I had omitted the real end of it which was that the old man hanged himself. This was omitted on my new theory that you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood” A Moveable Feast
The origin of the style relates to Hemingway’s journalism past. Being a reporter, he used to write short articles, which however gave the wide picture of a problem. The same method Hemingway applied on his works. A deep and complex sense is hiding under the surface of short simple sentences. In the next part some examples are provided and analyzed.
1. Hills Like White Elephants
The story takes place in Spain, in the valley of Ebro. On the station an American man and a girl are waiting for the express from Barcelona to Madrid. In this story there is only a short dialogue between them.
The story begins with a short description of surrounding – the hills, the station and the bar, where the man and the girl are waiting for the train. The girl offers to drink beer and a woman-bartender brings them two beers. Before leaving she is looking at the couple for a while. It is a small detail, which relates to probable difference in the main characters’ age. Through all the story Hemingway calls one of the main characters “the girl”. The choice of word is explained by the wish to point that they are not equal. Besides the man is described as “the American”, so probably the girl is younger and she may be Spanish.
Drinking beer, the girl is looking at the hills. She compares them to white elephants, but the man answers quite cold and irritated, not wishing to discuss the nature. The girl tries to change the topic and ask about the picture on the wall, where some cocktail is painted. The man orders the cocktail, which tastes like liquorice. And the girl says: “Everything tastes of liquorice. Especially all the things you’ve waited so long for, like absinthe”. These words again irritated the man. With this phrase she tries to point the real topic they need to discuss, but both try to avoid it. After some pause the man suddenly says that the operation is really simple and the girl has nothing to worry about. The girl does not worry, because she does not care about herself.
Hemingway gives the reader some simple lines – the American man, the girl, the operation for the girl, her sad mood and irritated and at the same time worrying man’s attitude. All these things move us to the sense behind – the girl is going to get an abortion.
The author does not name the real topic of the story and even does not express it directly through dialogue. The reader understands through subtext and main characters’ emotions. It proves that even through
2. Old Man at the Bridge
The narrator meets an old man at the bridge in a Spanish city. During their dialogue the reader learns that man is going from San Carlos. The man told to leave the city because of the artillery. In his native town he was taking care of animals. There were three animals – two goats, a cat and four pairs of pigeons.
Animals play the main role in the story. They are the main allegory. Here the author used personification to show the life of the main character. Such method is always popular in different kinds of literature. It begins with national folklore and fables. Such fable masters as Aesop or Ivan Krylov used in their works used different types of animals to show human’s life in hidden satiric way. The same way is used by Hemingway in the story. Given three types of animals, he compares them with the man’s life.
First, he speaks about the cat. The man is worrying about his animals, but he is sure that the cat will be all right. He explains that the cat does not need to be cared and that it can survive without any help. Second, he is thinking about doves. He left their cages open, so they would fly away. The man is still worrying about “the others”, but he does not say anything aloud about goats. Because he is a goat.
All these animals face the war as people do. Some people can go away like doves, some people can survive by themselves like cats. However, most of the civilian people are like goats. They are trapped in the country and fights, which seem endless.
The story finishes with the words:
“It was Easter Sunday and the Fascists were advancing toward the Ebro. It was a gray overcast day with a low ceiling so their planes were not up. That and the fact that cats know how to look after themselves was all the good luck that old man would ever have.”
Luck is all, what left for the man and his goats. He cannot fight back, he is too old, he cannot move any father to safe place, he is exhausted. Ha can rely only on the weather, which for some time can protect him from fascists’ attack. The man would never have luck of a cat, which can easily escape and survive.
At the same time, not taking in account, the allegory behind the animals, Hemingway points on another important problem. People are not the only creatures, which suffered and died in wars. Thousands, millions of animals were killed during wars. They suffered and lost their lives on people’s fights. It is an important message in the story.