Ernest Hemingway’s Atmosphere - Scene, Location & Facts

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Scenes in Hemingway

      To create dramatic life three elements are necessary. These are the author’s sense of the scene, location, and sense of fact. A fusion of these three senses brings life to dramatic representation. Hemingway is an artist who possesses the sense of scene to quite a remarkable degree rendering a perfect unification to his sense of place and fact. Without this sense, places would remain mere geography and the facts enumerated would be mere inert and uncoordinated facts unless the author’s imagination runs through like a current and vitalizes the total picture which then moves and quickens. All three ingredients are essential but only the skin operating the sense of skill can unify the other two, bring all the diversities together and create the required effect. And in this regard, Hemingway’s sense of scene is beyond comparison.

Location in Hemingway

      Hemingway always displays a close observation of the scene, location, and fact. He was however more taken with location, the sense of a place because as he put it. Unless you have geography, background, you have nothing”. He was intensely conscious of the importance of geographical location in a work of art. Therefore, he pays careful attention to all the minor details of the geographical background in all his novels. But it must also be noted that as a good novelist he does not allow the background to obtrude on the action. His accounts are therefore extremely vivid and realistic like for example when he describes how it feels to wander along the streets of Paris in search of breakfast in a corner cafe. Similarly, the echo of footfalls in the surrounding in Venice as one takes an early morning walk in Venice, walking over the cobblestones, heading for the marketplace besides the Adriatic Sea or when one watches the bulls in Pamplona running through the streets towards the bull ring, are all economically and geographically recorded. Hemingway loved the continental cities and his descriptions of the same in his novels are realistically beautiful. He makes it a point to observe everything acutely and then present every minute detail as closely as his artist's eye had observed them. The same technique and style of presentation are followed in his descriptions of rivers and lakes, streams and marshes and groves, hills, forests, etc. Hemingway also loved the exotic names of places and rivers and lakes etc. thus we have names such as Wyoming, Tanganika, Tagliaments, Irati, Key West, Golden Horn, etc. which all speak of his love of place. Hemingway was fascinated By different places and loved to shift the scene from one place to another and then while he was in one place, he loved to be firmly ensconced in the place where he was for the time being. It may be any place that Hemingway had been to, right from Northern Michigan where he spent his childhood to Spain and Cuba where he spent his later days and wherever he was it was solid and permanent for the time being and in this manner of description, strikes our minds and the location leaves an indelible mark on us.

Fact in Hemingway

      Hemingway’s sense of fact is also very strong adding in large part to his realism and naturalism. Hemingway strews his novels with a continuous stream of facts. Any kind of speculation is restricted. As Hemingway as an author limited his speculation so do his characters making facts the stuff and substance of his work. Hemingway utilizes facts-visible, audible, and tangible facts without any kind of ornamentation or embellishments. He believed in boldly stating the facts because any other manner of presentation would diminish the striking power of these facts. In his earlier work, there seems to be an overflow of facts without much effect. For instance in The Sun Also Rises, his first novel, the reader is hard-pressed to understand the purpose of his two-page long description of Jack Barnes walking through the streets of Paris. The reader and the critic may question what other purpose apart from establishing the place, does this complete account of his walk with Bill Gorton serve. The written account feels two pages but seems very long and apart from the exercise doesn’t add much to the action or the development of the plot. A whole lot of facts again fellow as the two go into a restaurant for dinner. There they eat ‘a roast chicken, new green beans, mashed potatoes, a salad, and some apple pie and cheese’. This profusion of facts and the pleasure in their after-dinner ramble would for the reader acquainted with the place i.e. Paris would serve only as a reminder, something to recognize the Parisian way of life. It would be as though he would say oh, here is that bridge and that street here, and be happy in his recognition. If a person went through Paris, the reader would seem as though if he followed the streets, bridges, cafes, and squares in their appropriate order than like in the novel he would come to the cafe where Lady Brett Ashley set in the cafe her legs crossed and stockingless, her eyes wrinkled at the corner, laughing.


      Hemingway’s art of fiction was coordinated art with the place and fact as presented perfectly unified by his scene of sense and thus achieving a realistic effect. Hemingway’s adherence to these principles in his writing shows that he believed in telling the truth. A writer’s job was to speak truly and Hemingway followed this dictum to the last. He usually said, ‘I only know what I have seen. Therefore it can be concluded that Hemingway as a novelist relied on his first-hand experience and stressed the importance of information, observation, or evidence. He was however not completely dependent on facts and his experiences. He also actively used his inventive and imaginative powers. But even in his use of an invention, he was always conscious of what he had actually seen and what he truly knew. He therefore never let his imagination run riot but always let it work based on truth. He aimed to present to the readers what he usually referred to as ‘the way it was’. This was his primary objective, to seize the truth and present it. And as has been stated earlier, in this objective he was propelled by his sense of the scene, fact, and location, and it was because of his mastery of these three principles that he was such a great artist.

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