Ernest Hemingway’s Writing Style

4 April 2017

Ernest Hemingway once wrote ‘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. ’ This is one of Hemingway’s most potent qualities as he is able to paint an extremely large picture, using a very small canvas.

PhD student Daniel Wood states in regard to this principle “After just a moment’s contemplation, then, a handful of carefully chosen words can yield great depths of meaning and allow us to glimpse a narrative far more elaborate than what actually appears on the page”. As a frame for this ‘iceberg theory’, Hemingway uses his life experiences, and drew them out further with “what if” scenarios, like for example ‘what if I was injured and then returned to the front’. The last scene strongly reflects the ‘iceberg principle’, where Henry walks from the hospital into the rain after Catherine dies.

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Does his walk alone in the rain represent emotional freedom or devastation? This scene is full of symbolism; hence the portion of iceberg beneath the surface is immense. The ‘six word story’ demonstrates the power of the ‘iceberg principle’, even though it is debatably not Hemingway’s creation. This story is an incomparable example of this principle, for such a minute piece of writing paints a much larger picture. Hemingway’s style of writing is notorious for the use of a specific code that the protagonist abides.

This is known as the ‘code hero’, and Hemingway’s style of writing is depicted through the use of his code hero. In reference to A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway writes ‘I opened up my holster, took the pistol, aimed at the one who had talked the most, and fired. I missed and they both started to run. I shot three times and dropped one’. This scene portrays the irrationality of war; however Hemingway does not illustrate any emotions that the protagonist, Henry, feels throughout the course of the murder.

This demonstrates how Hemingway will never talk about the protagonist’s beliefs, and instead he will describe the actions rather than focus on describing his thoughts. Hemingway writes with concise, vivid dialogue and exact descriptions of places and things. He believed that ‘a writer’s style should be direct and personal, his imagery rich and earthy, and his words simple and vigorous’. An Example of the Hemingway’s concise dialogue is depicted in this scene between Henry and Catherine. “’You do love me? ’(Catherine)”I really love you. I’m crazy about you. (Henry)”You really love me? ” “Don’t keep on saying that”. In conclusion, Hemingway’s writing style is simple, straightforward and modest on the surface, but includes many metaphors and further meanings to what seem ordinary words and phrases. Hemingway’s prose is unadorned as a result of his abstaining from using adjectives as much as possible. Hemingway creates a code hero throughout his novels, and because he is a master of transmitting emotion without embellishing it, his characters are embroidered with unique and surprisingly sophisticated character traits.

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