Hemingway: The Sexist Or The Victim?

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Hemingway: The Sexist Or The Victim?

While he may be a bit of a popular and controversial figure, in the literary world and in popular culture, Ernest Hemingway has been loved on one hand and then reluctantly accepted or even openly hated in the other.  He’s been criticized in some circles for the way his writing has often portrayed the female characters of his short stories and novels.  Personally, in my youth I was ignorant to those aspects and I suppose I can attribute that to a lack of knowledge of the world and in literature.  Now while I can understand some of those criticisms, I still find myself wanting to like his writing at the very least out of respect for his skill with the art and craft of writing. The book is based on a Utopian society where it practices the idea of sameness to keep a calm and quiet community.

hemingway-quote

I really like this photo of a young Ernest Hemingway and the quote from his is spoken aptly like a true writer.  A big thank you goes to DJ Andy W.com (or ビッグアップジャパン on his flickr.com page) for posting this image!

When I was first reading Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” I was honestly a little bored (please forgive me, I was a teenager at the time and the subtlety of advanced literature was beyond me!) but after I actually read the entire story and fully processed the entire plot and underlying subtext, I was quite satisfied. I think the issue of whether or not Hemingway was sexist in his writing for this story is probably less of an issue, particularly since there are very few characters involved with the plot.  However, with the one and only female being a less sympathetic, (and generally considered to be also shallow) flat and antagonistic character, I can certainly see why many would find some fault in Hemingway’s characterization.  Although that is not to say I agree with it, I do understand their point of view.

mount-kilimanjaro

This stunning photo of the actual Mount Kilimanjaro is here due to Mike McHolm posting it online.  I can understand why Hemingway had such a romanticized idea of the mountain and felt compelled to use it as the setting of his story.

It’s not secret among those who have studied Hemingway that his personal life and his relationships with women were a huge influence on his writing.  He had a strained relationship with his mother (who he blamed for his father’s suicide) and would later blame Pauline, the mother of his children over one of his son’s (Greg) arrest (which was his own fault and involved his experimentation with drugs).  Greg would later detail how Ernest had aggravated Pauline’s medical condition by arguing so violently with her over the phone and that he was to blame for her death.  Ernest would kill himself a year later.  I can’t help but pity Hemingway a great deal and find him to be at once both responsible for the problems in his personal life, and also a victim of circumstance.

mature-hemingway

This is my personal favorite picture of Hemingway (© Marek.Krzystkiewicz).  You can sense an almost palpable struggle with his personal pains and genius talent in his facial expression.