A Classic Literary Hero


hemingway


Ernest Hemingway has been my favorite author since high school. I don’t believe his work is appreciated in our education system today in quite the same way. There is a huge emphasis in modern American schools on literature less deep and more closely akin to self-help books and political ideology. However, there is much to be said about the classics. Hemingway himself told us that “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. Unfortunately, even that classic is banned in many schools today. It is easy to look back a hundred years with twenty-first century eyes and condemn brilliant human thought. Those who do not read the classics miss a great deal of the human experience.

To Have and Have Not

To Have and Have Not was Ernest Hemingway’s third novel, and was published in 1937. While the critics of the era considered the book a dismal failure, it happens to be one of my favorites. To me, it is a powerful commentary on the devastating effect of the Great Depression on the people of Key West, Florida. Rich tourists, who much like today flocked to the Keys every winter, remained oblivious to the plight of the poverty-stricken populace of the island. More financially successful than the book was the Warner Brothers Hollywood film production starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The novel, however, is a must read for Hemingway fans.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Hemingway’s fourth novel is my favorite book of all time. It is set during the Spanish Civil War, and focuses on a Hemingway Hero named Robert Jordan, an American teacher who volunteers to fight for the Loyalist cause in Spain. This book has had a profound impact upon me. The author’s famous attitude of grace under pressure has affected many of my actions during turbulent times in my life. The Hemingway hero follows a distinct code, one which embodies Papa’s ideal existence. He recognizes that life is stressful, chaotic, and painful, yet he lives daily with honor, courage, and endurance. Like Hemingway, I believe that death is inevitable, so I disregard it. It is how we live our lives that matters. Robert Jordan exemplifies adherence to the code of a hero in For Whom the Bell Tolls, and inspires us to live honorably. While Ernest himself had some personal issues to deal with, looking past his life and extracting the wisdom of his main characters helps to make life worth living.

Across the River and Into the Trees

Along with To Have and Have Not, the critics of the ‘50s bashed Hemingway for his sixth novel, Across the River and Into the Trees. It remains one of my favorites, and in the latter part of the twentieth century, the critics did respond to the book more favorably. The novel published in 1950 by Charles Scribner’s Sons had been previously presented in a serialized version by Cosmopolitan. This book traces the psychological dilemma faced by yet another Hemingway hero. Following four heart attacks, he must come to grips with his own impending death. Like all Papa’s lead characters, he does so with dignity, and grace under pressure. Did Hemingway lose his touch in 1950? Certainly not, and he proved it a couple of years later with the release of the Nobel Prize winner, The Old Man and the Sea.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro

As far as short stories go, Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro remains one of my favorites. The tale centers around a main character named Harry, who receives a cut on his leg while on a hunting safari in East Africa with his wife, Helen. It seems our protagonist neglects to disinfect the minor wound, which leads to gangrene. As Harry lies ill while awaiting a plane from Nairobi, Kenya to transport him to a hospital, he begins a series of flashbacks on his life. Anything more and I will spoil the story. I can say, however, that every time I read Snows, I come away with different feelings about my own life. It is well worth the read. It was made into a movie production in 1952 starring Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, and Ava Gardner.

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Comments

  1. He ranks very high on my list. Always has and always will!

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    1. Karen: He represents "The Lost Generation" and reading him is a study of the attitudes of the era.

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  2. I don't have anything to add to your fine Hemingway piece. I will say that a book being banned only increases its sales. So, every author should hope that their book will be banned.

    And to that end, I am leading up to my point (in this comment). Did you read that Harper Lee has a new book coming out either later this year or next year? I believe it was written roughly the same time as To Kill A Mockingbird, but just never submitted for publication until now. I don't know much about it other than what I just told you. However, in one blog that I read that made the announcement, the guy said that the news of Harper Lee's new book caused a parrish in LA to ban To Kill A Mockingbird (again). Of course, every copy was bought up in that parrish and surrounding ones within days. As I said... a book ban is excellent for sales.

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    1. Robin: I would love to see Lee publish her second novel. I believe it is supposed to be a sequel. With all the crap we are subjected to today, it shocks the conscience to hear the banning of a book from an author who has had such a great influence on our society. Censorship is ignorance.

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  3. Shocking to realise that Huckleberry Finn is banned in so many schools today. Once we start censoring the past, we cannot learn from it.

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    1. Jenny: So true. Even if we don't like someone's written word, we learn a great deal about human life by considering other points of view.

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  4. As a Hemingway aficionado, I love this post. My favorites are the early short stories and the novellas such as Snows and Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. However, I think I enjoy reading about EMH's life even more than his works. Such an interesting creative that I NEVER tire of reading about.

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    1. Denise: I love Francis Macomber too. A classic!

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  5. How did I miss this post? I have no idea. I adore Hemingway. I learned so much from reading his books about writing--not to mention, life. All are page turners.

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    1. Linda: That is exactly what his literature teaches us. I love his work, have written two books about him, and even did a Masters Thesis on his writing. He remains my favorite. I can read his works a hundred times and learn a thousand new things about life.

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