If Ernest Hemingway sole legacy were his theory of omission and nothing more or nothing else, he still arguably would be the singe most influential writer of his generation and all the great writers who followed. It is a rarity to find any writer worth his salt who has not been influenced the theory that the writer could and may be should take the liberty of omitting some things in his narrative as long as he was confident of them and the reader would feel them as strongly as though the reader had narrated them.
Though Hemingway often countered the existence of and the significance of The Lost generation( a term he even had ridiculed as “splendid bombast” on the part of Gertrude Stein, to whom goes the credit of coining the term), yet he has been inseparably linked with it and considered by many as the leader of the movement. The Lost Generation, so vividly brought to the fore of the reader’s knowledge in “The Sun also Rises” describes the generation which faced the World War I and discovered that the right deeds did not always beget good results.
No longer able to rely on their traditional beliefs that gave a completeness and meaning to life, a whole generation became morally, and psychologically lost. Their whole life is a meaning less wandering almost like an aimless journey they stagger through, hiding their un-understood anguish in alcohol and false boisterous ness of Jazz( as depicted by Scott Fitzerald). Zelda and Scott Fitzerald seem to be the characters on which the caricatures of Cohn and his domineering girlfriend are depicted in TheSAR, throught the eyes of Jake.
The themes, which are dealt with in the unique Hemingway style in “The Sun also Rises” are The aimless ness of the lost Generation, Male Insecurity, The Destructive ness of sex. Though the underlying sympathy towards his times is evident the themes that are dealt with in A Farewell to Arms are The Grim reality of War, The seemingly cause and effect relationship between Love and Pain, and Illusions and Fantasies. To make the comparison and the contrast clearer it is better to look at the two works one at a time.
In A farewell to Arms, as the title is indicative the novel deals with the process by which the Protagonist Frederic Henry removes himself from it and leaves it behind. The novel contains unparalleled descriptions of the brutality and meaningless ness of war without the romanticism associated with the regular genre of War novels. The scenes dealing with the retreat of the Italian Army, where along with the loss of columns of soldiers, there is a general loss of moral judgment and nerves.
The moral ambiguity of Henry shooting the engineer for refusing to help free the car is a symbol of the inexplicable escalation of violence (more in the mind, where it originates) and the disorder of the war. The game of Love that Henry and Catherine begin as a distraction from their respective pains and troubles, Henry to detach himself from the troubling reality of a meaningless war and Catherine to put the loss of her Fiance behind her are symbolic of the emotional bankruptcy that is the results of turbulent times. Soon their Love turns from a distraction to the very core of their being.
Henry’s understanding of the strength of his love for Catherine helps him over reach the empty ideals of honor in a war that never belonged to him. This enables him to flee the war and seek her out and they plan an idyllic life that is meant to be a salve for both their troubled life. However, the tragedy of the novel rests in the fact that in a world plagued by problems that are mostly unexplained and incomprehensible, even true love can only be temporary. The most convincing expression of tragedy comes when Henry says “If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.
The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places” In the Sun also Rises, the entire overwhelming aimless ness of a whole generation who never seem to take their lives, emotions, love or goals, as anything important is the all-pervading theme. Though Hemingway never explicitly mentions the aimless ness, it is for all to sense in the way each of the character tries to fill hi/her days with drinking, dancing and debauchery as though they were the very essence on which their existence hinged.
The novel also deals in symbols and through technique, the confusion over the entire idea of Masculinity. The ambiguity brought about by the World War where against the common perceptions of men, soldiers were required to huddle in trenches and pray more for luck than anything else was totally against the masculinity the world had understood till then. In making clear through subtle conversations that Jake is rendered impotent by the war, Hemingway also goes ahead and picturizes the other characters be it the womanizing Cohen, Drunkard Mike or Bill in ways that do not convey the masculinity associated with them.
“I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it. ” Says Cohen in a sudden moment of clarity, which pretty much seems to sum up his entire generation. The motifs in The Farewell to arms are Masculinity, Games and divertissement in relations and loyalty versus abandonment. Where as in The Sun also Rises, he deals primarily with lack of communication (no primary character, unless either drunk or in an extremely painful situation ever conducts a communicating conversation, preferring to brood and languish in the non-comprehension.
), Excessive drinking and False Friendships. Rain is a powerful symbol for pain and loneliness and helplessness in The Farewell to arms where as in The Sun also Rises it is the Bullfighting that is a poignant symbol of masculinity, the romanticism inextricably attached to cruelty. It is pertinent to note that the Personal life of Ernest Hemingway seeps through most of his novels, his beliefs, his confusions in life, his pain and suffering and his compromises or the lack of them.
One can see and speculate on the Hunter, the fond Fisherman, soldier and reporter and the writers who populate his novels as depictions of the various stages of Hemingway’s life. There is rarely another write in American Literature who can justifiably lay claim to have seen, touched and felt about most circumstances that he is writing about (or in Hemingway’s case indicating but omitting). Hemingway lived the life of several of his protagonists and many who read his biography rarely come up with a question as to why he had to commit suicide.
A person who lived life mostly on his won terms and felt so deeply for human suffering in times of turbulence, and clung on to a value system he wanted to survive in spite of the vagaries of the war, could not have possibly let fate decide his end. From Three stories & ten poems to The Old man and the sea through the path breaking For whom the bell tolls or the two other works discussed in these pages, Hemingway has enriched this period of American literature with his writings. Books referred to but not quoted Ernest Hemingway A reconsideration by Philip Young Penn state Press 1966