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Hemingway & World War I

Literary Representation and the Effects of WWI

The literary representation WWI that Hemingway presents to us of the cultural history of the US during WWI, despite the general criticism that Hemingway’s work is anti-intellectual, is a representation from the viewpoint of the intellectual. Whether or not Hemingway’s heroes want to think or not, they are, especially in the case of Nick Adams and Frederic Henry, thinking beings. In other words, they cannot help thinking, and in particular thinking about the great nothingness that awaits them after death and consequently renders life devoid of meaning from without the individual. The existential motif signified in the last line is prevalent throughout the Nick Adams stories and A Farewell To Arms. During this period in Hemingway’s career, the great harbinger of nothingness, or what is refered to in the short story A Clean Well Lighted Place as the great nada, is World War I. This paper will discuss the central motif of nothingness and its relationship to the central character in the short stories “Indian Camp” and “Big Two-Hearted River.” We will then turn to a discussion of A Farewell to Arms to see how the existential motif of nothingness effects the lives of the soldiers in the great war and in particular the American soldier Frederic Henry.

Both the Nick Adams Stories and A Farewell to Arms have as their backdrop the war. This is not to say that the setting of all the stories or every episode in A Farewell to Arms is the war. However, it is to say that the war was never far from the author’s mind and that the war and all its represents, even if it can be detected only as a trace, is in the background of Hemingway’s work during this period in his literary career. For Hemingway’s ex-soldier, the war signifies a confrontation with the horrible which at first produces a strong denial that later yields to an attempt to come to terms with that which is sh...

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Hemingway & World War I. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 03:41, May 28, 2020, from