Existentialism, as a literature technique, was introduced in to the short fiction world of stories to portray the real aspects about life as a whole. This element is believed to be an occurrence which was emphasized by writers to depict the psychological hardships characters undergo, while still portraying the harsh realities about life. This phenomenon of portraying about life is a technique which Hemingway depicted as a novelist. One of the founders and better still perfectionist of this feature of literature is endorsed to Hemingway, since he used his characters in a way which reflected the harsh and the unpredictable realities about life (Varshney 315).
He used different characters in his writing who showcased or rather represented the various forms of people living within any given society, and how this characters behaved when they were faced by difficulties in that matter. Hemingway is a writer who is so much accredited with the filling of his stories with themes of disillusionment, despair and even far much more, the major theme of the unavoidability of death itself. He is further known of choosing and directing his characters in a way which his heroes end up leading a catastrophic or rather dreadful form of life altogether.
It is believed that the element of existentialism, which influenced Hemingway’s writing, came about as a result of the aftermath of the First World War altogether. In itself, existentialism dates back into the 19th century, whereby Friedrich and Kierkegaard were the major founders. They presented a platform upon which this element was presented. It is wise to indicate that the aspect of existentialism stipulates that the existence of human beings is meaningless, and that each and every individual is responsible for the deeds for which they undertake as a whole (Mullik 8).
It is also noted that individuals own their own responsibility for which they use to lead their respective lives, so that they give meaning to the aforementioned lives, and this is brought about when they decide to overcome the aspect of hopelessness and sorrow. This research paper will, thereby, involve itself with the application of the element of existentialism in the broader literature of Ernest Hemingway, and thereby, analyze and evaluate the different characters for which he uses to depict the aforementioned traits as a whole.
Ernest Hemingway managed to depict that characters who lead individual lives, which, in accordance with the stipulations laid by the existentialism belief, are applauded and are perceived to lead a life in which they are filled with joy, let alone, the success that befalls them. On the other hand, those individuals who fail to portray the ability to live in accordance with the existentialism feature are accorded with elements of failure and sorrow.
It is also further noted that these individuals are derailed in their quest for better life to a point, whereby they cannot even control the aspects of life altogether, and all that is left for them is to face the hopelessness of reality which will eventually drive them into the inevitability wheels of life, which is abrupt death.
The aforementioned individuals are affected negatively by the ever-present atrocities, so that they are left at a point of no return. A point whereby they cannot control or rather compel the true meaning of life, but will rather exists in meaningless and senseless forms of hostile environment, upon which they will finally embrace death.
It should be noted that the aspect of existentialism was brought about by the belief that the traditional system was slowly being incapacitated by the new features of the modern world, and that the only way for which they could be regained was by instigating facets which encouraged on the same matter. It is, therefore, wise to indicate that the novels written by Hemingway were in one way or another focusing on the moral degradation facing the world as of present.
It has been noted by critics that Hemingway’s short fiction stories and novels were in one way or another identified with mostly male characters who are depicted as struggling the hardships in life, thereby making it hard for them to delineate or rather portray their respective identities as men, and in turn, find it a solace to participate in the various atrocities of the world altogether. While trying to develop and establish their respective positions, these men are allowed by the author (Hemingway) to undergo the psychological effects about life.
Hemingway manages to portray this feature when he puts into the limelight the various descriptions of the war, bull-fighting, game-hunting and the various survival tactics for which his male characters deploy, in order to avoid the wrath brought about as a result of the life mysteries altogether. Leslie Fielder’s description of Hemingway depicted him as “always less embarrassing when he (Hemingway) is not attempting to deal with women”.
This phrase, basically, means that he possessed the ability to deploy features which allowed male characters in his stories to face the life atrocities in a rather open manner without the exclusion of any embarrassing feature, so that it would in turn be understood by the reader for what life really holds in general.
As much as most of other writers works are characterized by the existentialism believe, it is wise to indicate Hemingway’s’ way of depicting it instigates the element of existentialism in far much different ways, so that the characters used exhibit the hardships of life in a rather unusual way. For instance, in his novel, “The Farewell to Firearms”, Hemingway uses the character Henry to depict the different stages of life’s mysteries. In this novel, the author mainly uses war as a facet for which to convey the message of hopelessness and sorrow.
Hemingway depicts war as the fruitless struggle man undergo in his desire to find the solace he so much desires, and the only way for which he can accomplish this goal is by way of looking down upon the fellow human beings altogether. In this infelicitous novel, Hemingway is able to bring about well the point which stipulates that in war there are no definite winners, as well as there will not be any form of justifications made for the loss of lives lost during these particular wars. It is further indicated that these characters are at first portrayed to be reluctant in their respective bids to suffer the life’s wrath, and would, thereby, perform anything to console themselves that they are going to suffer the wrath altogether.
For instance, Henry convinces himself that the war is not in any way related to him, since he has nothing to do with it. He feels that the level of participation for which he undertakes in the war is completely far from the war itself.
This perception about war is refuted when he is in fact sent to the frontline to pick the wounded, and by that, he comes face to face with the matter for which he feared most: war. The mystery continues when he is mistakenly confused for a German soldier, and is arrested ready to face execution. He later manages to escape the wrath of life, but only for a small period of time. This experience teaches him to accept the various atrocities about life itself. He comprehends the fact that life is an already decided phenomenon which is meant to end at any particular time without warning.
In a more general way, it is apparent to indicate that Hemingway conducts his novel in a way which depicts the metaphysical interests in human beings, as opposed to the setting of the nature surrounding them. It is also clear to indicate that Hemingway uses the aspect of symbolism to enhance this theme of existentialism as a whole.
These symbols are used to reflect the sufferings and the sorrows faced by human beings in their bid to be successful in life itself. The theme of existentialism refutes the fact that human beings live in accordance with the philosophies put forth about life itself. For instance, Henry does not find solace in living this life where happiness and “good-life” is always outshone by the features characterized by violence and the aspect of morality completely overlooked and in some other cases reinstated with elements of personal gains and materialism in general. Rain is used to depict the sorrows befalling Henry, while he is busy finding out the real causes of his atrocities.
In the story “The Capital of the World”, Hemingway describes in detail the sudden death of a very young waiter, of Spanish origin, who had the dream of becoming a matador at some point in his life time. Despite the fact that Hemingway portrays “Paco” as a hero, he (Paco) dies trying to be the best bullfighter in the town. Unlike the rest of the bullfighters who were living in the town, Paco was depicted or rather portrayed to be a unique character, as he believed in love, romance and bullfighting in general.
He mixes with second-to-do bull fighters, in order to get a glimpse of the art of bullfighting. Throughout the entire story, he is involved in activities which are related to the one he loves best, but eventually, dies a simple man who never got to accomplish his dreams altogether. In this way, Hemingway figures out the best way for which can be used to convey the message of hopelessness in life.
For instance, the waiter is made to believe that life is completely meaningless, and as much as a person may try to impose the will to fight for another day, and thus, in so doing find the solace of the reason for living, it is only later that the person finds out that death will always overtake us all, and thus, put an end to the un purposeful life altogether.
Hemingway further popularizes the aspect of existentialism in the African stories he wrote during his life time. For instance, in the African story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” which in fact is one of his best valued stories, he talks about a writer called Harry who is depicted as a despaired writer, who after finding out that he had no chance of becoming a writer, resorts to become a “fortune-finder” in the sense that he takes to find rich women who will help him grow rich.
He is led by the existentialism aspect of life for which he fails as a hero, and is in fact looked over as a character who stopped form living off his area of expertise, and instead, chose a rather irrelevant path altogether. He is also led to understand that the death factor is upon him and for that reason he has no business in living a miserable life, while he can choose to have the shortcut and be rich. In writing this story about Africa in general, Hemingway is perceived to be focused on emphasizing the fact that life in the whole globe is rather meaningless, and it does not, therefore, matter where a person is situated, the meaninglessness of life will catch up in one way or another.
In the short fiction story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, Hemingway is perceived to portraying the hopelessness found in life’s most treasured facets. In this story, Hemingway depicts the character Macomber as a rather coward form of human being who lets his wife not insult him, but also sleeps with their guide whenever the character, Macomber, is out on Safari in Africa. As usual, Hemingway depicts Macomber as a character who does not give up in life for whatsoever reasons.
This is reflected by Macomber, when he opts for relieving the pain and embarrassment he possess as a man without the masculinity aspect by resorting to hunting of buffaloes as a way of handling the matter down. By hunting down, the buffaloes in the African plains, Macomber is trying to disapprove the cowardice aspect in him. It should also be noted that Macomber engages in this activity, because he needs to give his life a purposeful meaning.
He is tired of living a hopeless life, and thus, embarks on hunting to keep him away from the mysteries brought about as a result of life, as well as acts as a facet through which he can regain the confidence he deserves as a man. It is so unfortunate that Macomber is killed at the very moment, when he was depicted as slowly regaining confidence.
This mode of death is used by Hemingway to portray the fact that it is entirely impossible to lead a meaningful life. It is further stipulated that even though human beings find faults in their life, they are never placed at a better position to overcome the challenges of life, no matter the efforts made to put an end to the suffering experienced.
In yet another short fiction of Hemingway, “The Killers”, Hemingway, depicts Nick Adams as a person who is never afraid to undertake any form of risks. For instance, he takes the risk of warning Ole Anderson that hit men were after him. Ole Andreson is a character who makes a living out of prizefighting, a unique form of game. Despite the warnings, Ole Andreson takes to face his fear without any element of cowardice altogether.
He is not afraid at all, as he chooses to make public appearances. This phenomenon of a character succumbing to his fate is one way through which Hemingway uses to portray those human beings, when faced with consistent hardship scenarios reach a point, whereby, they no longer care for what the future holds for them, and will, therefore, resort to depict the element of fatalistic form of heroism.
In this case, Ole Andreson does not possess the fear of being assassinated anymore, as he chooses to face his challenges, rather than lag behind them, thus, leaving them as unsolved. He is driven by the fact that in one way or another, the fate of his destiny is already decided, and that if it meant, he would die as a result of being assassinated by the hit men, then he was ready to face it altogether. This form of “heroic fatalism” depicted by Hemingway is a technique in which he deploys to portray the fact that all the pessimists in any forms of scenarios are deemed to realize the insignificance of living in this world, and thus, the illogicality of people living trying to flee the aspect of death. Hemingway made sure that all his characters faced their fate with a stronger sense of dignity.
It should be pointed out that Hemingway directed his characters to follow this form of channel for the mere reason that, in doing so; they demonstrate the aspect of courage in the real face of this ever brutal and chaotic form of life. The moral lessons which he always tries to put across depict the hidden form of courage which is never considered to be a positive aspect. While some critics argue that the way for which Hemingway directs his characters portrays them to be pessimistic, as opposed to the courageous terms used upon them altogether (Rama 45-67).
According to Hemingway, it is better to die than live a life of mysteries and sorrow. He is never concerned with death, since he does not accredit death as a hindrance to the better living of life in human beings, since it was present even before human beings came to exist. He is perceived to accredit the fact that men who try and die while still trying are the real type of men which the society needs to embrace altogether.
It is still true to indicate that Hemingway perception of death is completely different in nature and meaning. In most of his stories he uses death to depict the end of the never-ending sorrows experienced by human beings, while still living on this world, and perhaps, the beginning of a completely new life where there is happiness. It should be wise to indicate that Hemingway’s manner of portraying death reflects an even bigger achievement in terms of the goals which were being figured out by those faced by death.
Another of Hemingway’s story in which the element of existentialism is portrayed is the fiction dubbed “Old Man at the Bridge”. This story unfolds in 1937, when the Spanish civil war was being fought. As the title of the short story suggests, the events unfold through an old man, a 76 years old man to be exact, who is being forced to withdraw from his work to join a fleet of refugees. He spent most of life looking after animals. He is described to be leading an empty and purposeless type of life, as he has no family and does not comprehend for what the future holds for him altogether.
He is forced by the underlying circumstance (the heavy artillery exchange) to flee his hometown leaving behind the animals for which he had created a strong relationship. As he nears to cross a bridge, whilst in the midst of other refugees, he falls to the ground and sits still by the roadside, unable to get up and walk to safety.
He remains adamant to call for help, and instead, lets the force of despair and defeat, carry with him. However, he does not panic and does not perceive the need to beg the passerby to assist him in getting up. He chooses to sit fatalistically by the bridge, and as though, displaying the element of heroism in him, he accepts the fate of death as a whole.
It is quite clear to indicate that the old man as a protagonist was succumbing to the final destination which everyone is to accomplish. He seems to understand the fact that, despite the struggles people put in life, they are always going to come down tumbling upon them and there would be nothing to do about this phenomenon, except of accepting the defeat as a whole.
Still, in this story, Hemingway manipulates the character Santiago, in order to depict the elements of hopelessness in life. For instance, he makes Santiago continue with fighting his opponents, despite the fact that they are indomitable. Santiago is also portrayed as going fishing without catching any fish. He goes fishing for more that eighty four times, but still does not cease from trying even harder. He faces several attacks from sharks, while others steal his catch away from him. He fights the shark back, but they prove to be undefeatable and continue with stealing his catch. In this particular scenario, it is clear to indicate that the character Santiago has been used to display those people who lack the ability to quit altogether (Young 145-176).
Santiago’s mysteries seem not to cease, since he faces rejection first hand, as his allies choose to discriminate against him from there company, thus, making Santiago opt for fishing as an alternative solace for the hard times he is experiencing. With this character, Hemingway is perceived to be a very unique writer whose philosophy surpasses the need to survive in human beings. He makes the readers understand that in this life there is nothing which comes for free or rather in easier ways, in order for human beings to make their respective ends meet, they need to struggle beyond doubt. They are expected to overcome challenges, but in the end, when the call of death tolls, they are expected to succumb and accept the defeat as a whole.
According to Reese (11-15), Hemingway was a writer who depicted his reasoning in writing, he at one point in time tried to commit suicide with a shot gun, while still living in his hometown of Idaho. He had earlier been diagnosed with memory loss and was so depressed with the life he would have led without the ability to remember anything. It is assumed that he got angry when he realized that his major asset had become vulnerable, and thus, would compromise his ability to write the stories. Just like his characters, Hemingway portrayed a characteristic which promoted the phenomenon about the sorrows and the hardship of life in general. He must have perceived that he had tried so hard in trying to live a better life, but then the ever-present mysteries were involving him in one way or another. All in all, it is wise to indicate that Hemingway was so successful in depicting the element of existentialism as a whole in almost all of his stories.