Ernest Hemingway - Writing Style

Writing Style

The New York Times wrote in 1926 of Hemingway's first novel, "No amount of analysis can convey the quality of The Sun Also Rises. It is a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame." The Sun Also Rises is written in spare, tight prose that influenced countless crime and pulp fiction novels and made Hemingway famous. In 1954, when Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, it was for "his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style." Paul Smith writes that in his first stories published In Our Time that Hemingway was still experimenting with his writing style, he avoided complicated syntax and about 70 percent of the sentences are simple sentences—a childlike syntax without subordination.

If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing.
—Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon

Henry Louis Gates believes Hemingway's style was fundamentally shaped "in reaction to experience of world war". After World War I, he and other modernists "lost faith in the central institutions of Western civilization," by reacting against the elaborate style of 19th century writers and by creating a style "in which meaning is established through dialogue, through action, and silences—a fiction in which nothing crucial—or at least very little—is stated explicitly."

Because he began as a writer of short stories, Baker believes Hemingway learned to "get the most from the least, how to prune language, how to multiply intensities and how to tell nothing but the truth in a way that allowed for telling more than the truth." Hemingway called his style the iceberg theory: the facts float above water; the supporting structure and symbolism operate out of sight. The concept of the iceberg theory is sometimes referred to as the "theory of omission." Hemingway believed the writer could describe one thing (such as Nick Adams fishing in "The Big Two-Hearted River") though an entirely different thing occurs below the surface (Nick Adams concentrating on fishing to the extent that he does not have to think about anything else).

Jackson Benson believes Hemingway used autobiographical details as framing devices about life in general—not only about his life. For example, Benson postulates that Hemingway used his experiences and drew them out with "what if" scenarios: "what if I were wounded in such a way that I could not sleep at night? What if I were wounded and made crazy, what would happen if I were sent back to the front?" Writing in "The Art of the Short Story," Hemingway explains: "A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless. The test of any story is how very good the stuff that you, not your editors, omit."

I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain ... I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago .... Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.
A Farewell to Arms

The simplicity of the prose is deceptive. Zoe Trodd believes Hemingway crafted skeletal sentences in response to Henry James's observation that World War I had "used up words." Hemingway offers a "multi-focal" photographic reality. His iceberg theory of omission is the foundation on which he builds. The syntax, which lacks subordinating conjunctions, creates static sentences. The photographic "snapshot" style creates a collage of images. Many types of internal punctuation (colons, semicolons, dashes, parentheses) are omitted in favor of short declarative sentences. The sentences build on each other, as events build to create a sense of the whole. Multiple strands exist in one story; an "embedded text" bridges to a different angle. He also uses other cinematic techniques of "cutting" quickly from one scene to the next; or of "splicing" a scene into another. Intentional omissions allow the reader to fill the gap, as though responding to instructions from the author, and create three-dimensional prose.

In his literature, and in his personal writing, Hemingway habitually used the word "and" in place of commas. This use of polysyndeton may serve to convey immediacy. Hemingway's polysyndetonic sentence—or in later works his use of subordinate clauses—uses conjunctions to juxtapose startling visions and images; Jackson Benson compares them to haikus. Many of Hemingway's followers misinterpreted his lead and frowned upon all expression of emotion; Saul Bellow satirized this style as "Do you have emotions? Strangle them." However, Hemingway's intent was not to eliminate emotion, but to portray it more scientifically. Hemingway thought it would be easy, and pointless, to describe emotions; he sculpted collages of images in order to grasp "the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always". This use of an image as an objective correlative is characteristic of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Proust. Hemingway's letters refer to Proust's Remembrance of Things Past several times over the years, and indicate he read the book at least twice.

Read more about this topic:  Ernest Hemingway

Other articles related to "writing style, writing, writings, style":

La Vyrle Spencer - Biography - Writing Career - Writing Style
... In the 1980's and 1990's, Spencer wrote twelve New York Times Bestsellers ... Her books have been sold to book clubs worldwide, and have been published around the world ...
Maitreyi Pushpa - Career - Writing Style
... Since she is the only woman writer in Hindi who has chosen to write about rural India, her writing is a constant struggle against the feudal system which still prevails in Indian villages ...
Aristotele - Loss and Preservation of His Works
... originates with Aristotle himself, his writings are divisible into two groups the "exoteric" and the "esoteric" ... The 5th century neoplatonist Ammonius Hermiae writes that Aristotle's writing style is deliberately obscurantist so that "good people may for that reason stretch their mind even more, whereas ... Current knowledge of what exactly the exoteric writings were like is scant and dubious, though many of them may have been in dialogue form ...
Writing Style - Bibliography
... Evergreen A Guide to Writing With Readings ... Writing A to Z ... The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style, 2nd Edition ...

Famous quotes containing the words style and/or writing:

    Hemingway was a prisoner of his style. No one can talk like the characters in Hemingway except the characters in Hemingway. His style in the wildest sense finally killed him.
    William Burroughs (b. 1914)

    Hidden away amongst Aschenbach’s writing was a passage directly asserting that nearly all the great things that exist owe their existence to a defiant despite: it is despite grief and anguish, despite poverty, loneliness, bodily weakness, vice and passion and a thousand inhibitions, that they have come into being at all. But this was more than an observation, it was an experience, it was positively the formula of his life and his fame, the key to his work.
    Thomas Mann (18751955)