Monday, 13 February 2017

Ernest Hemingway - American Writer of a Great Parable

Image Copyright Janet Cameron


Prolific novelist and story writer, Ernest Hemingway, was not religious but he was a great moral thinker, using biblical concepts to inform his writing.

Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961) was an American writer of novels and short stories, although he is more highly regarded for his short stories. He was the son of a doctor from Illinois and began his writing career as a Kansas City reporter. In 1918 during the First World War, Hemingway volunteered to serve on an ambulance unit on the Italian front, where he was wounded.
Later, he became a reporter for the Toronto Star. In time he was mixing with such icons as Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford and Gertrude Stein. He became a war correspondent during the Second World War, and in his later years, spent his life in Cuba, which, together with his liking for deep-sea fishing, provided him with the background for his fine, philosophical novella, The Old Man and the Sea.
Hemingway - Much Married
Hemingway was married four times. His first wife was Hadley Richardson whom he married in 1921 and divorced in 1927. Hemingway and his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer were divorced in 1940, and then he was married for the third time to Martha Gellhorn. They divorced in December 1945 and the following March, Hemingway married his fourth and last wife, Mary Welsh.
A Novella and a Parable
In simple prose, The Old Man and the Sea explores what is most meaningful and painful about the human spiritual journey. Its central character, the fisherman Santiago, develops a relationship with another creature, an enormous marlin, which he holds in great respect for its courage, endurance and beauty – while trying to hunt it down and destroy it. Eventually, Santiago's central purpose shifts and the great fish's destruction is more about Santiago's pride than his hunger.
Hemingway said, "I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough, they would mean many things."
Certainly, they are good and true. The fish represents religion, while the struggle between man and marlin is symbolic of the struggle for faith and meaning as the two central protagonists become strangely attracted. Although Santiago, metaphorically speaking, reels in his prize, by then it is no more than a carcass since the sea, representing life, has sent sharks to consume the beautiful fish. Santiago's greed has been punished, although his courage and spirit remain triumphant.
It is hard to believe after reading the novel that its author was not a religious man since his writing is steeped in biblical allusions. Interesting as the allegorical levels of his novella are, it is the simplicity of Hemingway's prose that makes the characters, man and fish, especially real. He received a Pullitzer Prize in 1952 and two years later, the Nobel Prize.
Some of Hemingway's Major Works
In Our Time (1925) ~ The Torrents of Spring (1926) ~ The Sun Also Rises (called Fiesta in Britain, 1926) ~ Men without Women (1927) ~ A Farewell to Arms (1929) ~ Death in the Afternoon (1932) ~ Winner Take Nothing (1933) ~ Green Hills of Africa (1935) ~ To Have and Have Not (1937) ~ The Fifth Column (1938) ~ For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) ~ The Old Man and the Sea (1952.) There were two novel published posthumously: Islands in the Stream (1970) and The Garden of Eden (1986.) The Dangerous Summer tells of Hemingway's trip to Spain in 1959 and A Moveable Feast was a memoir of his time in Paris after World War One.
He committed suicide by shooting himself in July, 1961, after a long illness.
·      The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English, Editor: Ian Ousby, (1988) The Cambridge University Press.
·      Hemingway, Ernest, The Old Man and the Sea, (1952) Scribner.

·      The Oxford Companion to English Literature, Editor: Margaret Drabble, (1987) Book Club Associates, Guild Publishing.

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