Re: RARA-AVIS: Hemingway

From: Kerry J. Schooley (
Date: 09 May 2005

At 11:34 AM 07/05/2005 -0700, you wrote:
>He paints, we interpret. There is something there we can still learn.

Well put, though I don't think we've been debating Hemingway's stylistic contributions to literature.

On a thematic note, I'd suggest that Hemingway wrote about the human dependence upon returning to and persisting with human ideals (love, duty, faith, hope) even as the world crumbles around us. Conrad was more about confronting the aspects of human nature that inevitably defeat those ideals
(while making them essential.) I think there's a context that's important here too. Conrad wrote from a segment of western culture that was roughly at the peak of, and perhaps the beginnings of disillusionment with, empire. Hemingway wrote from within an empire still in ascendence. Not to say he didn't approach the subject with misgivings, which is why I thought it trite and condescending to reduce the Hemingway theme to "grace under pressure."

 From the noir perspective, I think, these two themes knowingly consider two sides of the same human characteristic and are mutually dependent. If it were not for our dedication to the notion that we are in a position to understand and "improve" the world as we find it, there would be no noirish tales describing the myriad ways in which we come up short, and therefore no need for romantic yarns that will inspire readers with the hope that we'll get it right the next time around, or that we'll acquire sufficient skill or power to overcome evil the next go round, and hence no noirish stories about what we are willing to do in our pursuit of power, and on and on. This, in my view, is the dilemma of the human condition, which I take from reading people like Hamingway and Conrad, and from the observation that neither my family dog, nor any other of the creatures on earth (so far as I know) are motivated by the belief that it is their responsibility to improve the world, yet seem to get on as well as not, at least until they confront humanity.

>On the macho bit I suggest you re-read White Elephants. Is there any
>possible doubt where his sympathy lies, the macho man or "the girl."
>Hemingway writes to the human condition and his vision is dark. Thus in
>a sense he can be considered a noir writer. Is there a darker tale than
>Indian Camp?

Okay (haven't read it,) but in other cases one might say that Hemingway finds the persistence of human ideals to be inspirational (Farewell to Arms, perhaps.) I note your "in a sense" qualifier, and take it to mean
"not in the sense of genre definition," as we've thus far, I think, defined noir as those stories that consider dark themes within the specific context of crime. In that sense, Hemingway's only noir story would be The Killers. Does this indicate that it's time to reconsider this qualifier? (O no! Not the great definitions debate again.)

Anyway, I agree that the similarity of themes illustrates yet again why crime writing is such a worthwhile literary pursuit. Crime is where individuals confront the application of many communal ideals.

Best, Kerry

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