Ernest Hemingway’s Attitude to War

February 15, 2021 by Essay Writer

Ernest Hemingway was one of the most unique writers of his time. “His literature is free of the extensive use of adjectives…” (Zam). This form of direct writing separated Hemingway from other authors of the time period. The fact that Hemingway worked throughout his life as a journalist heavily influenced the style in which he wrote in. Hemingway’s writing was so singular that he could easily be separated from other works by reading just a single paragraph of his work. What really enticed readers to pick up his works was the way Hemingway wrote from personal experience. One of the biggest influences on Hemingway’s writing was his time spent in World War I. His experiences included “The blow that knocked him unconscious and buried him in the earth of the dugout; fragments of shell entered his right foot and his knee and struck his thighs, scalp and hand.” (“This Day in History”). Along with this injury to his knee, Hemingway also received a silver medal of honor when “A third Italian was badly wounded and this one Ernest, after he had regained consciousness, picked up on his back and carried to the first aid dugout.” (“This Day in History”). With this heroic act under his belt, Hemingway was awarded an “Italian medal of valor, the Croce de Guerra” (“This Day in History”). Although honored with a medal, Hemingway was still bitter about his war experiences. These experiences are what urged Hemingway to express his deep rooted hatred for war in his writings. As a young man, Hemingway was constantly quoted on war. He believed that his view on war was so personally unique that he claimed “I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition.” (Hemingway). As a changed man, he truly believed war was evil. Hemingway stated, “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”. Not only did he believe war was a crime, he also believed that the lives sacrificed for the war cause was pointless. Hemingway expresses, “In modern war you will die like a dog for no reason.”. However, speaking out loud was not enough for Ernest to spread this beliefs. He wanted the world to hear them. His solution to this was to write books and short stories which would reflect his views. Ernest Hemingway expresses his hatred for war from his personal World War I experience through Frederic Henry, A Farewell to Arms, and “In Another Country”.

Ernest Hemingway expresses his hatred for war through the character Frederic Henry. It is crucial to understand that Frederic Henry is an autobiographical character. He represents Ernest Hemingway and the events he experienced in World War I. There are many ways to detect the similarities between Frederic and Hemingway. As stated by Putnam, “Ernest Hemingway served as an ambulance driver in WWI…” (“Hemingway on War and Its Aftermath”) which is exactly the occupation Henry holds in the novel. Putnam also points out another similarity when he quotes, “Recuperating… Hemingway fell in love with…an American Red Cross nurse.” (“Hemingway on War and Its Aftermath”). Frederic Henry mirrors this when he falls in love with main character Catherine Barkley. The most important similarity between Hemingway and Henry is the hatred for war they both express. Hemingway makes Frederic express this disgust for war when Frederic Henry claims ““I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain…” (A Farewell to Arms 184-185). Frederic Henry also expresses his hatred for war when he makes the bold move to bid a “…farewell to arms. No longer supporting the war or the Italian army…” (Brenner). The reader is coaxed into liking Frederic’s character so that they also will agree with his view on war. The reader is clearly introduced to Henry as a volunteer doctor who gave up his dream of wanting “…to be an architect.” (A Farewell to Arms 242). Not only does Frederic offer himself up for another country, but he also is seriously injured while trying to help other war mates. The reader also feels pity for Frederic when he must endure the loss of his child and wife “It seems she had one hemorrhage after another…it did not take her long to die.” (A Farewell to Arms 331). Hemingway purposefully sets in this pity for Frederic so the reader will see the damage and misfortune the war has caused such an innocent man. Here, Hemingway uses the autobiographical character Frederic Henry to express the hatred he has for war.

While Frederic Henry personally makes the reader feel a hatred for war, the book in which he stars in, A Farewell to Arms, is just as expressive of Hemingway’s disgust for war. The title of the book is a dead give away to Hemingway’s belief that war is not an answer to solve disputes. The term “A Farewell to Arms” symbolized the main character Frederic Henry’s disassociation from the war itself. “I was going to forget the war. I had made a separate peace. I felt damned lonely…” (A Farewell to Arms 243). Hemingway formulates the books feelings towards war in the way he wants the readers views to formulate. In the beginning, the characters view war in its glorified form. But, quick to realize at hefty costs, the characters in the novel quickly form a detestation for the war and the reality of its being. This feeling is not only recognized by Frederic Henry, but also his entire regiment. Rinaldi expresses this aura of distaste for the war when he states, “This war is killing me…I am very depressed by it.” (A Farewell to Arms 177). The events in the book makes the reader feel as though the war is gruesome. Hemingway does this so he can exploit war for the gruesome crime it was. Frederic Henry’s knee is completely blown to pieces during battle “I knew I was hit…My knee wasn’t there” (A Farewell to Arms 55). Hemingway also includes the gory details of Passini’s dragged out death as he describes, “The other [leg] was held by the tendons…the stump twitched and jerked as though it were not connected.” (A Farewell to Arms 55). The reader is also exposed to the gruesome mental effect of war when Frederic Henry snaps and shoots down an officer who is then brutally shot in the head by fellow warmate Bonello “…leaned over, put the pistol against the man’s head and pulled the trigger.” (A Farewell to Arms 204). Ernest Hemingway includes these horrific scenes in the novel to give the reader a reality check as to how horrible war is.

However, A Farewell to Arms was not Ernest Hemingway’s only novel which tried to show readers the true detestation he had for war. The short story “In Another Country” focuses on a young soldier returning from the front with an injury to the knee. The main character, Nick Adams, is also meant to be semi autobiographical. “Autobiographical assumption is virtually automatic among those who write about Nick.” (Hannum). The similarities between Nick and Hemingway are very easy to recognize. Nick, like Hemingway, suffers an injury to the knee during World War I, constantly is surrounded by disrespect for the role he plays in the war, and also realizes the cruel reality of war through his experiences. The character of Nick Adams embodies hatred for war. Nick, a supposed respected officer of war, is disrespected by the townspeople during his time of rehabilitation “The people hated us because we were officers, and from a wine-shop someone called out, “A basso gli ufficiali!” (Down with the officers) as we passed.” (Hemingway, “In Another Country”). Nick expresses the true lack of hope in war amongst the injured when he talks about the machines that are supposed to heal them all. “There was a time when none of us believed in the machines, and one day the major said it was all nonsense.” (Hemingway, “In Another Country”). Even the men who are supposed to be his friends and give him comfort end up treating him as an outsider. “…that I had been given the medals because I was an American. After that their manner changed a little toward me, although I was their friend against outsiders.” (Hemingway, “In Another Country”). Nick explains how the war can ruin a person’s post war life when he describes his friend who was a world renowned fencer. “In the next machine was a major who had a little hand like a baby’s…He had been a very great fencer, and before the war the greatest fencer in Italy.” (Hemingway, “In Another Country”). Nick also explains how the war has forced people to put the war before their personal lives and grievances when he has a discussion with the doctor about his friend who is a major “The doctor told me that the major’s wife, who was very young and whom he had not married until he was definitely invalided out of the war, had died of pneumonia…” (Hemingway, “In Another Country”). All of these events Nick goes through are meant to make the reader feel pity for him and the surrounding characters while also setting in a reason to dislike war and its effects. The whole basis of the story “In Another Country” is to focus on showing the reader how much loss war causes people. “Many of the characters grapple with a loss of function, a loss of purpose, and a loss of faith.” (Miksanek). Nick Adams and the major both have lost a function of their body (Nick in the leg, the major in the hand). All of the injured soldiers lose connection to the people they are surrounded by because they are hated. The injured have also lost hope in the machines that are supposed to be rehabilitating their bodies back to health. “There was a time when none of us believed in the machines, and one day the major said it was all nonsense.” (Hemingway, “In Another Country”).. The major faces a more literal form of loss as his young wife dies of pneumonia. Therefore, the main purpose of the story, just as Frederic Henry and A Farewell to Arms, is to make the reader realize the horrible crime war is and form a hatred for it just as Ernest Hemingway has.

Ernest Hemingway expresses his hatred for war from his personal World War I experience through Frederic Henry, A Farewell to Arms, and “In Another Country”. Ernest Hemingway was a renowned writer of his time period. With his unique style, direct wording, and journalistic background, he became quite popular with both fans and critics. “His style of writing and his contributions as an author and journalist made him one of the most famous and influential authors in the U.S.” (Erwin). One of the reasons he was so popular was the way he incorporated his personal life experiences into his works. “There he met a nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky… provided fodder for his works…A Farewell to Arms.” (“Ernest Hemingway Biography”). Popularity comes with both good and bad. The critics loved to pick apart Ernest Hemingway for his extreme hatred for war which he displayed in his writing. “…but there is also a lot of criticism out there for the famed author who only had a handful of major novels to his claim.” (Marina). Ernest Hemingway was brave enough to display an unpopular and new belief in his writings. He gave his readers a different insight on war and the effects it had. With his direct language and persuasive manor, he was able to spread and share his negative view on war. With this controversial writing, Ernest Hemingway was a one of a kind writer who was not afraid to speak his mind.

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