A Comparison Between Ernest Hemingway's Life and Three of His Short Stories

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In a conversation between Ernest Hemingway Ava Gardner, Gardner asks Hemingway if he had ever had an analyst and Hemingway answers that he has indeed had an analyst, but the analyst was his typewriter. This means that Hemingway has consciously been using his own life I the books, this leads to the question of which parts of his life would influence his writing the most. To answer this question one might be inclined to answer his stay in WW1 simple because war affects people, even more so when they are at such a tender age of 18-19 years. This essay will argue that the war ad a profound effect on Hemingway and it shows in his stories either through more or less direct reference to his own time in the war or through indirect means. In order to prove this, this essay will analyze three short stories and attempt to draw such parallels. In order to do so this essay will be using what people who work with biological study of literature call “the biographic study of the work” . This means that by researching background information about Hemingway I will be able to interpret and compare his work in a different light. The short stories that will be analyzed are taken from In our Time and Winner takes nothing: A Way You’ll Never Be, Big two-Hearted River and Soldier’s Home. In addition to these short stories I will be studying biographical information about Hemingway. This biographical information will mostly be taken from the Internet at sub pages to www.lostgeneration.com, www.findarticles.com, and http://muse.jdh.edu.


The protagonist in Soldier’s Home is Harold Krebs, a soldier coming home from war. Trying to deal with the psychological impacts the war has had on him as well as the lack of understanding of this from his parents’ side. There is no direct mention of which war it is however “he enlisted in the marines in 1917” . If he enlisted in 1917 the war must have been WW1 and incidentally the year of 1917 is the year when the real Hemingway was denied serviced in the regular army and joined the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. After he gets home Krebs has been changed by the war. He sees Oklahoma in a different way “nothing had changed in the town except that the young girls had grown up” . Wile he does not feel like the town has changed, he himself has been fundamentally changed by the war “He wanted to live along without consequences. He wanted to live along without consequences. Besides he did not really need a girl. The army had taught him that.” . A big problem for Krebs is that his parents do not understand the psychological impact the war had on him “His mother would have given him breakfast in bed if he had wanted it. She often came in and asked him to tell her about the war, but her attention always wandered. His father was non-committal.” After being in a war which had caused deep psychological damages to Krebs even his family is not willing to let him talk about what had happened there, at least not in a way that would contribute to healing his wounds. Not only do his parents not allow him the talking about his experiences that he needed they needlessly hurries him on to get a job.

The protagonist of Big Two-Hearted River is Nick Adams. Nick is going on fishing and camping trip in order to recover the adolescence he lost during the war. As Nick makes his way through the woods he notices many things about the surrounding areas and he also makes observations and conclusions that mark him as being no normal adolescent “There was a wind high up in the branches. He shut his eyes again and went back to sleep” . Nick has been in a situation where it is necessary to be able to fall asleep quickly so as not to waste precious time for sleep, as well as being able to sleep light enough to notice the shift in wind. When Nick reaches the place he marks out for his camp he starts preparing the place “He took the ax out of the pack and chopped out two projecting roots. That leveled a piece of ground large enough to sleep on” . While it can seem that he are only doing procedures to camp, the language and actions are those of a professional soldier getting down to the business of making camp. However at one point Nick makes a strange statement” He had not been unhappy all day” . He had not been unhappy all day, that he would remark upon not being unhappy means that unhappiness would be the common denominator for his daily life instead of happiness. To be in such a mental state one would have to assume that Nick would have gone through some terrible near-trauma experiences. In connection with saying that he is not unhappy he also say another strange thing, that nothing could touch him . Nothing could touch him, in other words he has constantly been in a situation where such things would need to be taken into account before making camp. Except for war, there are few situations where that is a constant premise. One thing that is very strange is that there is absolutely no mention of women in this short story, even the fish caught are male…or wait, there is mention of one woman. A man named Hopkins had gotten a telegram from a woman and disappeared, giving his handgun to Nick. Rather than being an image of a soldier getting to go home from war to see his lady friend this gives the image of the girl as death herself. The reason this image can be drawn is that telegrams used to be delivered to the relatives of solders who died in the war. Hemingway artistically changes the image a bit to give it greater impact.

The protagonist in a Way You’ll Never Be is Nick Adams. He is walking through a recently attacked village. When he finally comes to army camp the first soldier he meets is very nervous and suspects him of being a spy even though he has valid papers. Nick however, fortunately knows the battalion commander and is thus being escorted to the commander. When they commander first sees Nick he does not realize that it is him and asks what he is doing in an American military uniform and Nick explains that he has been ordered to walk around in an American uniform in order to boost the morale of the troops, since if they see one American soldier it will strengthen their belief that American reinforcements are on their way. The original mission that Nick had was to wear the uniform and distribute cigarettes, chocolates and postcards to the solders however the supplies had been lost. The mission to distribute chocolate and cigarette is probably a reference to what the real Hemmingway was doing in the war: driving an ambulance for the Red Cross and distributing among other things just cigarettes and chocolate. In the story thee are references that he has had some kind of wound and has been thought nutty . The wound is not just a fabrication; Ernest Hemmingway was hit while delivering supplies. With o over 200 pieces of shrapnel he still was able to help a soldier to safety in order to get treatment, and supposedly he himself refused treatment until the other soldier had been treated. There is a reference to this in the story since the commander tells him tat when he is around the solders group together, which invites shrapnel attacks.


This essay has argued that through studying the works of Hemingway one can see that they are influenced by his involvement in WW1. Either through directly referring to similar events that he himself had been involved with or through making points about the difficulties that solders go through both on the battlefield at the time the war is going on as well as psychologically, that is the battlefield within themselves when they return home.
Soldier’s Home deals with a solder just homecoming that cannot muster the energy to do much of anything and when he wants to tell about the horrors of the war he is forced to make other people’s experiences his own to get anybody to listen. He is further plagued by his parents’ complete lack of understanding of the psychological problems their son is facing.
In Big Two-Hearted River is about nick Adams who has come home from war and is trying to recover his adolescence. While he is wandering the woods and fishing while attempting this the reader is always reminded that he is no normal 21-year old since there are so many signs pointing at him being a solder e.g. making a camp in a professional manner.
In a Way You’ll Never Be is about Nick Adams going to a military camp to bolster the troop morale by making them believe that American troops soon will be coming. He was originally meant to...

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Inactive member [2007-03-06]   A Comparison Between Ernest Hemingway's Life and Three of His Short Stories
Mimers Brunn [Online]. https://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=7687 [2024-07-22]

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