By: Laura Wiser Ernest Hemingway The Man and His Work On July 2, 1961, a writer whom many critics call the greatest writer of this century, a man who had a zest for adventure, a winner of the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, a man who held esteem everywhere on that July day, that man put a shotgun to his head and killed himself. That man was Ernest Hemingway. Though he chose to end his life, his heart and soul lives on through his many books and short stories. Hemingways work is his voice on how he viewed society, specifically American society and the values it held. No other author of this century has had such a general and lasting influence on the generation which grew up between the world wars as Ernest Hemingway (Lania 5). The youth that came of age during this time came to adopt the habits, way of life, and essentially the values of Hemingways characters.
The author , however, was just depicting his characters as he saw the typical American in the 1920s. In his mind this meant a people filled with melancholy denial. Hemingway became the chief reporter of what became known as the Lost Generation. This phrase is attributed to Gertrude Stein, a friend of Hemingways, who meant youth, angry with life itself after the war; drowning themselves in alcohol; sleeping away the days and sharing their beds with a new partner each night. Thus, Hemingway depicts America as a society with a profuse amount of twisted values. A constant theme runs through all of Hemingways work.
That man can be defeated but not destroyed. Once such novel that depicts this, as well as American values, is A Farewell to Arms. During the course of the story, the two main characters lieutenant Frederick Henry and nurse Catherine Barkley, become the victims of a cruel and hostile age. Their love story, which starts in a field hospital where the lieutenant is being treated for severe leg injuries, ends with Catherines death. She dies in childbirth but it is actually the war that condemns them both to destruction.
After the Italian defeat at Caporetto, the lieutenant becomes a deserter. He flees with his now impregnated lover to Switzerland, but they cannot escape the despair and horror of the war. Their attempts to wipe it out by consuming bottle after bottle of alcohol has only ill effects. This novel is a drawn out definition of Steins generation.
It is the story of a man torn apart by the reality of war and love. In the beginning of the war Frederick is disappointed at the lack of action. When his first test on the field of battle occurs, however, he sees the truth of war as a friend dies in his arms. At first the reader may think that the lieutenant was insensitive, but his true feelings show in these two lines: I wiped my hand on my shirt and another floating light came very slowly down and I looked at my leg and was very afraid. Oh, God, I said, get me out of here. (Hemingway 55) From this point on the war begins to break him down.
The lieutenants increasing consumption of alcohol lets on that he is trying to avoid thinking about what has happened to him. The wine flows so freely that the porter at the hospital carries out the lieutenants trash by the sack load. The drinking causes him to have jaundice as well as happy thoughtsthe price he pays for the liquor. Hemingway shows American drinking habits in this book which coincide with Steins idea. Frederick, like many men and women in the 1920s, sought to avoid his problems by turning to alcohol to make him feel better about himself and his situation.
Along with a drinking problem the bedridden man decides to take his nurse as his lover. Lieutenant Frederick convinces himself he is in love with her and thinks nothing of it when he finds the nurse is with child. To avert his attention from the war he takes responsibility for Catherine and in the end becomes a deserter only to have his lover