Essay Topics On Ernest Hemingway

  • 1

    The Snows of Kilimanjaro: Does Harry want to live, or would he be happier, given his failure to realize his potential as a writer, to die? Is he resigned to his fate?

    This point is debatable, though the evidence swings in favor of his desire to live. Evidence for this point of view includes the fact that he dreams he is rescued at the end of the story, and that he is brought to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. This ascent symbolizes his desire to rise above his past failures to reach his goals by utilizing his talent as a writer. In addition, Harry is clearly frightened by death, which becomes a character almost unto itself during the course of the story.

    Evidence for his resignation to his fate includes his repeated self-criticism as far as his failure to write about his experiences. For example, he thinks, “He had destroyed his talent by not using it, by betrayals of himself and what he believed in,” (p. 63). He also thinks, “He had seen the world change; not just the events…He had been in it and he had watched it and it was his duty to write of it; but now he never would” (p. 69). This sort of language also speaks to his resignation to his own death. His dream trip to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro could symbolize not his desire to accomplish anything on earth, but to embark on a journey into an afterlife.

  • 2

    The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber: Is Francis Macomber’s death an accident? Support with evidence from the text.

    Macomber’s death is an accident because Margot is crying hysterically, because she shot “at the buffalo with the 6.5 Mannlicher as it seemed about to gore Macomber,” and because she is extremely upset at Wilson’s suggestion that she shot him on purpose. In addition, Wilson’s accusations of murder can perhaps be understood in the context of blackmail; he wants to keep Margot quiet about the use of a car to hunt down buffalo by holding the accusation of murder over her head.

    Macomber’s death is not an accident because Margot is visibly disconcerted by his newfound confidence after the buffalo shooting, because Wilson seems to think she shot him on purpose and he was an eyewitness who is unmotivated by the desire to blackmail her, and because her single shot was very precise, well-placed and killed him instantly.

  • 3

    A Clean, Well-Lighted Place: Scholars have suggested that, though not all of them realize it, all the characters in this story are all facing the “nothingness” or meaninglessness of life as expressed by the middle-aged waiter. Is this true? Are the young waiter and the old man simply too blind or dull to recognize this fact, or is the middle-aged waiter stuck in a private nihilistic hell?

    This question asks about existential nihilism, the philosophy Hemingway cobbles together from existentialism and nihilism and expresses in this story through the musings of the middle-aged waiter. Existential nihilism is based upon the premise that life is meaningless and that individuals must create their own meaning and value systems in order to live an authentic, self-fulfilling life. Hemingway implies, however, that this process is futile and that everyone ultimately will slip into despair.

    The middle-aged waiter is unquestionably a devotee of this philosophy and has apparently created for himself “a clean, well-lighted place” in which to take refuge from the nothingness that surrounds him. But the old man and the young waiter seem, at least on the surface, not to have come round to this view. The young waiter, in fact, seems reasonably happy with his job, his life, and his confidence. The old man has tried to commit suicide, which may indicate a belief that life is meaningless or may indicate despair, sadness, loneliness or a plethora of other emotions that are not mentioned in the story.

    For those who believe in existential nihilism, all the characters are facing nothing; for those who do not, it is only the middle-aged waiter. Indeed, the middle-aged waiter says of his younger counterpart, “we are of two different kinds,” implying that the young waiter has a completely different belief system.

  • 4

    The Capital of the World: Is this story a simple tragedy, in which a promising young man’s life is cut short before he can achieve his goals, or does Hemingway imply that it is perhaps better for him to die young while he retains his illusions and while he feels that he has something to live and die for?

    In a sense, both readings of the story are correct; it is a tragedy, clearly, but the protagonist, Paco, is arguably better off dying while clinging to his dreams and his religion than living out his life in the profession of bullfighting that will, Hemingway implies, disillusion and possibly destroy him. Hemingway litters the story, and the Pension Luarca, with the human wreckage of the bullfighting profession: the cowardly bullfighter, the sickly bullfighter, the bullfighter whose star has waned, the picador who has lost respect for anyone unlike himself, and the busboy Enrique who learned the hard way that he lacked the courage to be a matador. Paco’s idealism and ability to appreciate the “romance” of his surroundings stand in stark contrast to these grey and tired characters. Depression, disillusionment, and dissipation will be Paco’s fate if he realizes his dream of becoming a matador, Hemingway implies.

  • 5

    Hills Like White Elephants: Do you think Jig ultimately has the abortion? Describe the evidence for and against.

    Yes: While Jig suspects her relationship with the American may be irrevocably changed simply by her pregnancy, she seems to think the only way to save return the relationship to its former status may be to have the abortion. She says, “If I do [have the abortion] you’ll be happy and things will be like they were and you’ll love me?” This clearly betrays her anxiety that if she doesn’t have it, he will leave her or be perpetually angry with her. If she does have it, he may not.

    In addition, she says she knows many who have had abortions, noting, “And afterward they were all so happy.” Taken at face value, this quotation reads like an argument for the procedure.

    No: Jig believes her relationship is irrevocably altered anyway and she is reluctant to have the abortion. She says, fatalistically, in response to the American’s assertion that they can have the whole world, “No, we can’t. It isn’t ours anymore.” This is a sign she senses her pregnancy has changed the relationship and that no abortion will return it to the way it was.

    Her line about “afterward they were so happy” is most likely sarcastic, judging by the American’s reception of it.

    In addition, at the end, Jig says “I feel fine…There’s nothing wrong with me,” as if she has decided not to have the operation and feels she is fine just as she is.

  • 6

    The Killers: Is Nick’s decision to warn Andreson taken in vain? Does he risk his life for nothing?

    On one hand, yes, Nick risks his life for nothing as Andreson refuses to flee or to take any measures to protect himself from the hit men. In terms of the plot and the likely outcome, Nick’s decision is futile. Indeed, for Nick, the ultimate result of his decision is depression and disillusionment as he contemplates Andreson’s fate and apparently bemoans his passivity.

    One the other hand, Nick proves by his act of courage that he is more of a man than both George and Sam, and he comes of age by deciding to warn Andreson. Nick has shown to George, Sam, Andreson, Mrs. Bell and perhaps most importantly, himself, that he is a man, capable of selflessness and sacrifice, and this knowledge will likely serve him well, not only in Summit, but in later life.

  • 7

    In Another Country: In what situation would Nick Adams be happier: fighting in the war with a chance to prove his courage in the face of ever-present danger or receiving treatment of dubious effectiveness in the safe environs of the hospital in Milan?

    The case for fighting: Nick regards the three Italian officers with medals to be “hunting-hawks” who proved their bravery in battle and were rewarded for it. He regards himself as “not a hawk” because he received his medal simply for being an American. As such, he can “never be accepted” by them. Returning to the war would afford him the opportunity to become a hawk and take his place among the war’s heroes. He doesn’t seem to be content at the hospital in Milan; it is implied that he believes the treatment he is receiving is not effective and he is suffering from depression, dislocation and isolation, like many of his fellow veterans.

    The case for the hospital: Going back to the war means ever-present danger, of course, and at least remaining in the hospital would ensure he lived until the end of the war to return to America and marry, as he tells the Italian major he hopes to do.

  • 8

    A Day's Wait: Is the father’s behavior toward his son callous, even leaving aside the fact that he is unaware of Schatz’s mistake about Fahrenheit and Celsius?

    Yes: Schatz has a fever of over 102 degrees, and Schatz’s father is told very clearly by the doctor that if the fever goes over 104, Schatz is in trouble. Also, he says Schatz must not be allowed to develop pneumonia, because then the influenza could prove fatal. Despite these various dangers to his son, who is obviously uncomfortable and behaving rather strangely, the father goes off on a hunting trip, leaving his 9-year-old son alone in his bedroom to beat the flu or succumb to it.

    No: Schatz’s father left only because Schatz said he could, and because he wasn’t listening to the story; the father couldn’t do anything for his son aside from what he had already done, so he might as well have gone hunting.

  • 9

    Fathers and Sons: “If he wrote it he could get rid of it. He had gotten rid of many things by writing them.” Is this philosophy demonstrated by Hemingway’s own writings? What may or may not be therapeutic about writing about traumatic experiences?

    This philosophy is clearly demonstrated by Hemingway’s own writings. The Hemingway canon is full of tales of traumatic experiences, and many of Hemingway’s protagonists are similar enough to Hemingway himself that one can assume, as many critics have, that Hemingway was at least partly writing about himself. For example, Hemingway’s tales of World War I and the Spanish Civil War are undoubtedly traumatic, and Hemingway himself was involved in both of those conflicts.

    Writing about traumatic experiences may be helpful in terms of putting one’s feelings about the experience down on paper to both memorialize and contain them. Also, the process can help one organize one’s thoughts about people or events and put one’s feelings about these people or events in perspective. Also, the mere act of expression through artistic creation can be therapeutic, as has often been recognized.

    Writing about traumas may be the opposite of therapeutic in that describing disturbing people or events can cause one to relive unpleasant experiences.

  • 10

    Old Man at the Bridge: Who is the old man talking to when he says, “I was taking care of animals,” and the narrator observes that he is saying it “no longer to me”?

    There are several possibilities here: either the old man is talking to himself, to no one, to a person in his mind’s eye, or to the universe at large. His words, “I was taking care of animals…I was only taking care of animals” sound like an explanation for why he was so late leaving San Carlos and thus why he finds himself barely ahead of the enemy army. Viewed in this light, they seem to be a justification of his behavior; he couldn’t leave earlier because he was taking care of animals. If this interpretation is adopted, he could be talking to himself or to the universe at large.

    Another interpretation of his words is that he is seeking an explanation of why he finds himself about to die simply because he was soft-hearted enough to have been looking after animals until the last possible minute. Why should he be punished, he wonders, with death, simply because he was looking after his animals? Under this interpretation, he is likely talking to the universe at large, to the fates or the other forces he imagines are responsible for placing him in his predicament.

    Yet a third interpretation is that the old man is dazed and simply repeating phrases he has just said to the narrator because they are running through his mind. In this case, the man is talking to no one, to himself or to someone he imagines in his daze.

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    Ernest Hemingway intended this book for a mature audience. Considering the way he describes the horrors of the book. Ernest Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms uses nature to structure the novel and provide symbols that replace human emotions. Nature serves as a basic structure for the plot and the actions that occur.

    It also emerges as a source of symbols that replace human sentiment or feelings. Characters die and there is no mention of sadness or pain. Instead, Hemingway writes that it is raining, that it is autumn, or that peace has occurred when people are still at war. The replacement of emotions with symbols allows Hemingway to frequently understate what is really going on in the action. He further uses symbols to completely omit references to sentiments or feelings.

    Even more unsettling is the fact that these symbols often ironically represent the opposite of their meanings in common manner of speaking. Not only symbols, but also individual words, come to be used in this way. This undermines the use of technical language throughout the novel and causes the breakdown of that language. Thus, symbols and words provide a basis for the structure of the novel and for the loss of the technical language.

    The world of the first half of the novel is a dry, sterile version of the wet and sickly world that follows it. Within this world, the dry part is the world of success; Henry wins Catherine and the army wins some battles. The wet world is the exact opposite, the army loses and is forced to retreat and Henry loses Catherine. The natural world thereby provides the setting within which Henry's personal and military experiences can take place. Natural changes from dryness to wetness are paralleled in the plot by both Catherine's pregnancy and the corrupt horse races.

    These scenes are put onto each other through their side-by-side placement. They define the transition from love to "marriage" and advancement to retreat, respectively. After Catherine announces that she is pregnant, she and Henry consider themselves "married, " thereby catapulting their relationship from casual to serious. Similarly, the war with Austria goes well for the Italians until Henry describes the corruption of the horse races, a corruption that permeates every level of the Italian army and political machine. After the horse races, the Italian army no longer is able to win battles; instead, the war turns into a retreat and becomes far more serious and deadly. Rain represents death and all the accompanying emotions of grief, pain, and despair.

    Death is both brought by rain and can be considered similar to it. Catherine is the first person to make this analogy explicit when she tells Henry that she is afraid of the rain. "I am afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it" (126). Although Henry dismisses her words at the time, they continue to haunt the novel up until she dies. Indeed, immediately after Henry visits her dead body in the hospital, the novel ends with the passage: "I...

    walked back to the hotel in the rain" (332). The novel thus ends with rain being used as a substitute for Catherine's death. Using symbols to replace death or emotions allows foreshadowing. Rain, for example, is frequently used to foreshadow death. Before getting killed, Also states, "We drink barbera now. Tomorrow maybe we drink rainwater" (191).

    Henry comforts her and stops her crying. They use political language. Henry cannot adopt that language, and thus he chooses "a separate peace", a peace that has nothing to do with politics. This peace can also be interpreted as his choice of language; he denounces the political public speaking and instead uses the technical language that he can trust. In this sense technical language is equated with peace, political language with war. The word "peace, " (243) is further given an entirely different meaning by the line that immediately follows it. "I felt damned lonely and was glad when the train got to Stress" (243).

    Stress is where Catherine is located, and thus it seems that Henry is choosing love over war. In this case, "peace" merely means that he would rather be with Catherine than be in the war. This is in fact the choice that he makes, both by returning to Catherine and then fleeing with her to Switzerland. Life in the United States has changed through war and will never be the same. War has changed the face of the world.

    Death has changed how we agree with war. Life in the United States is barbaric war is prone to happen again. War is inevitable in our society because conflict is always around. However, like the symbols, the word "peace" is falsely interpreted.

    The flight to Switzerland placed Henry and Catherine in a world where everything seems "peaceful." This false peace is two-fold: it is an escape from war, and it is an escape from sentimental language. Neither of them notice the falseness of the peace, or realize the awaiting danger. Catherine comments, "Isn't it fine rain? They never had rain like this in Italy. It's cheerful rain" (278). This is the first time that someone thinks of rain as a positive symbol and gives rain its more common definition.

    Unfortunately, this is a trick; the rain is related to death throughout the novel. Thus the rain, like the peace, is false in Switzerland. Catherine's complicated childbirth, which takes place during the rain, undermines her statement. Henry's use of language crumbles around the same time; he becomes overly sentimental and "whiny" and explodes with numerous unanswerable questions. It is therefore the fact that language, in the form of symbols and words, cannot be trusted that causes him to give up on his technical language. The combination of natural symbolism with death and language creates a powerful unity to the events of the novel.

    The deaths are foreshadowed by the rain, which is used as a substitute for emotion. Thus the rain represents not only death, but also the grief, pain, and despair that accompanies death. It further represents a form of purging, a means of forgetting what has just happened. By having symbols stand for the emotional content of the plot, Hemingway cleverly removes the need to use extraneous language. This allows him to write much of the novel in the dry, technical language that he is famous for while still retaining the emotional content. It is important to notice that the breakdown of language at the end of the novel is not permanent.

    After having nearly given up his technical language, Hemingway returns to it in the final passage. Hence the novel ends with the word "rain" rather than the expected emotional outpouring. The book was deceptive and left things unanswered. The first question that never was answered is How does the war affect the characters' love story? Ernest Hemingway never said if it is fair to call A Farewell to Arms an anti-war novel?

    My opinion is that it is in way fair to call A Farewell to Arms a anti-war novel because it describes the horrors of war. This dissuades people to like war or believe in war. Bibliography: none


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