Hemingway’s Writing Style in his Short Stories

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Hemingway’s Style in his Short-Stories

      The stories and sketches in this volume of short-stories gave evidence to the fact that Hemingway was the new great artist on the horizon. A new master had arrived. As he had been advised during the days when he started out as a reporter, he had now come to the stage where he wrote in a terse and economical style which function on subtle hints then lengthy descriptions and elaborate dialogue. Hemingway always refrained from describing emotion, believing rather in reproducing the event which produced the emotion in the character and left reader to draw his conclusion. The reader is left to feel the various emotions, wonder, desperation or depression. Hemingway’s style also involves starkness. With nothing but a handful of materials Hemingway conjures up a big scenario. For example in the story Big Two-Hearted River, Nick does nothing but fish and mak& camp. But in performing these rituals is revealed his state of mind. Also scenes that appear in his later work also appear in germ form in these short stories. For example, in the short story Up in Michigan, first appear Hemingway’s technique of portraying sexual ecstasy through verbal rhythms.

Fascination with Death

      Hemingway seems to be preoccupied with death and violence as these are a constant and recurring theme in his works. Here, in between the short stories are set brief stories of death and violence relating to murderous bull-fights, and war-fare. The following scene is a clear indication of what later follows in A Farewell To Arms.

      “Two Austrian dead lay in the rubble in the shade of the house. Up the street were other dead. Things were getting forward in town. It was going well. Stretcher bearer would be along anytime now. Nick turned his head carefully and looked at Rinaldi. Senta Rinaldi, Senta. You and me never made a separate peace.” Rinaldi lay still in the sun breathing with difficulty. Because these sketches and the stories are all concerned with almost the same subject—death in all its horrifying phases, there hardly is any discontinuity between them. Hemingway seems to be sending out the unmistakable message that man must learn to accept and lead life in a world hostile to the human condition in all his narrations on war, child birth, sex or hunting and fishing. These vignettes also serve as a technical device, they serve to link the stories. They also set the stories in a context and perspective that give the book, a kind of unity that cannot be found in a collection of short stories. This adds a new dimension to the book imparting the aura of a new form of fiction to the collection.

Honor in a World Sans Values

      Hemingway by the nature of his style and technique seems more a dramatist than a novelist. However, akin to Joseph Conrad, he deals in the extreme situation. Much as he seems preoccupied and obsessed with death and violence, he also seems very concerned with the theme of honor, personal honor. This implies the question by what shall a man live and by what a man shall die in a world governed by violence and from where religious and other traditional values have disappeared and no longer exist especially for the problem with which Hemingway is concerned. He is rather concerned with stating and discussing the problem. This is his technique in his collection of short stories where the problem is implied and the answers left unanswered. As stated earlier this collection of short stories is concerned with the boyhood experiences of the protagonist Nick Adams among the woods and lakes of Michigan, and how from being a naive boy he grows and is initiated into the world of experience, an understanding of the various facets of life in the companionship of his father and the Indians and the Indian guides and the Indian girl Trudy.


      The collection, In Our Time, is therefore in many respects a statement on the style, techniques and subject that Hemingway was concerned with and with which he remained so throughout his literary career. The themes he was obsessed with are all here—his obsession with war, violence and specially death, the obsession with the life of the senses, the sensual and physical appetite, and his style—terse, colloquial, economic. As also how man faced with such circumstances, accepts without fuss the given life and ‘tries his best even if he fails.’

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