Ernest Hemingway and A Farewell To Arms
"We did not do the things we wanted to do; we never did such things" (Hemingway 13). This single sentence voiced early in Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms by the American protagonist, Lieutenant Frederic Henry, sums up the rather pessimistic and drab tone and mood presented in Hemingway's works, particularly this novel, which also reflects the pessimistic and judgmental mind housed within the author. Regardless of the unhappy circumstances and heart-breaking situations which prevail throughout the novel, A Farewell To Arms certainly deserves a place in a listing of works of high literary merit.
Born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois at the closing of the 19th century, Hemingway soon abandoned the Land of Lincoln and exposed himself to the pain, suffering and defeat of humanity as a reporter for several American newspapers. Characterized as a "robust, belligerent American hero" (Donaldson 13), his experience in the arenas of deep-sea fishing, bullfighting, boxing and hunting, coupled with his professional life as a war correspondent and ambulance driver in the battlefields of the First and Second World Wars, the Greco-Turkish War in 1920 and the Spanish Civil War between 1937 and 1938 well qualify Hemingway as a recorder of the human condition during times of conflict and of pain, which is clearly evident in A Farewell To Arms.
Hemingway's life would further prove to be one of extremes. Rising to the prestige of attaining the status of Pulitzer and Nobel laureate in 1953 and 1954 respectively, plus the added honour of receiving the 1954 Award of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he fell unfortunately and dramatically into prolonged periods of literary stagnation, punctuated with three successive failed marriages, resulting in a lifelong, debilitating addiction to alcohol. However, this fall coupled with a mistrust and hatred for the conventional, imbedded unwittingly by his stifling relationship with his selfish and domineering parents, provided the necessary material for a series of works featuring violence, sincerity, disillusionment, love, war, death, and most importantly, courage.
Hemingway's celebrated exposure to newspaper journalism created a prose-like style present in his novels which is distinctly Hemingway: compressed, selective, precise, powerful and unflowered. Much lies behind this journalistic prose; for example, in The Old Man And The Sea, Santiago's heroism is mainly derived not from the factual account of his actions, but through the subtle and suggestive symbolism used throughout the novel comparing the Old Man's struggle to that of Christ; further, "the simplicity of action serves to underscore the hero's nobility" (Reynolds).
Beneath this often criticized, controversial and equally lauded and hated writing style lies a set of subtle yet evident ideals which make up the Hemingway...