Qualities of Hemingway’s story

Qualities of Hemingway’s story


Discuss the qualities of Hemingway’s story that fit in to the book’s discussion (handouts are posted in Eagle Online) of American literature between 1914 and 1945. Do the same with James’s story for literature between 1865 and 1914. Write two paragraphs, each about 300 words long. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence that captures your overall idea and each paragraph must quote from both the textbook discussions and the stories. You also must have citations with the author’s name and a page number or a paragraph number throughout the posting to get credit.

Discuss what makes a modern story modern, according to the book introduction and why Hemingway’s story is modern, using the ideas from the book. Also, discuss how James’s story fits into his period.


Henry James & Ernest Hemingway in the Modernist Period

In “Hills Like White Elephants,” Hemingway challenges “the false order” with which authors from previous eras indulged “human desires for coherence“ by dropping the reader into a situation without introducing the characters or detailing the context of their conversation (Baym 1184). According to the editors of The Norton Anthology of American Literature, “a typical modernist work may seem to begin arbitrarily, to advance without explanation, and to end without resolution…” (Baym 1185). That perfectly describes the way that Ernest Hemingway throws the reader into the middle of a brief interaction between an American man and a girl, two common characters, waiting for a train in a small, hot bar in Spain, drinking beers and discussing whether or not she should abort their fetus. The reader has to glean the context and meaning of the situation almost entirely from the dialogue, from the sparse descriptions of body language, and from the author’s use of symbolism. Again from the editors of Norton’s Anthology, “a key formal characteristic typical of high modernist works…is its construction out of fragments – … fragments of experience or perception” (Baym 1184). The reader is not privy to the characters’ inner thoughts; nor does he have an omniscient narrator to feed us the story line. With dialogue, the author manages to convey the girl’s desire to win the man’s love and to do what he wants. ‘…if I do it you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?’ (Hemingway). At the same time, Hemingway makes it clear that the girl is unhappy about giving up the child. She somehow knows that even though the man says, ‘I think it’s the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you don’t really want to,’ he means the opposite (Hemingway). The reader infers from the girl’s reaction to the man’s dishonesty that no matter what she decides, their relationship will not return to what it was. This “fragmentation of experience” is how real people are forced to perceive the world, reading clues and body language, constantly looking for confirmation and acceptance, just like the two characters in Hemingway’s story (Baym 1184).

In his short story, “Daisy Miller,” Henry James also pursues the ““truthful treatment of material,’” as William Howells describes writing in the Realism period (Baym 6). However, despite the realism of the piece, James does allow the reader to follow the story all the way to its conclusion, unlike Hemingway. The characters, Daisy Miller and Mr. Winterbourne, fit the description in Norton’s Anthology of a work characteristic of the Realism period, “socially specified (typically upper-class) characters described by an all-knowing narrator” (Baym 7). Unlike Hemingway, James treats the reader to the luxury of “the flow of the character’s inner thought,” but only for one character. The reader suffers along with Winterbourne as he strains to make sense of Daisy’s behavior and to try to infer her wishes and intentions. “This limitation accorded with the modernist sense that ‘truth’ does not exist objectively but is the product of the mind’s interaction with reality” (Baym 1186). In addition to Winterbournes inner thoughts and the dialogue the reader gets to hear, James conveys the rest of the context with detailed descriptions of Winterbourne’s observations. For example, when Winterbourne meets Daisy’s mother for the first time, James describes,

Her mother was a small, spare, light person, with a wandering eye, a very exiguous nose, and alarge forehead, decorated with a certain amount of thin, much frizzled hair. Like her daughter, Mrs. Miller was dressed with extreme elegance; she had enormous diamonds in her ears (Baym 403).

James manages to convey so much to the reader just from the detailed description of the mother and daughter’s discussion about an old shawl. Through all that detail, James endears the mother to the reader, so much so that he smiles at the end of the story when Winterbourne accepts that Mrs. Miller is not “such a monstrous goose” (Baym 428). In these many ways, James’ “Daisy Miller” and Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” illustrate the evolution within the modernist period.