I write this to the students/teachers who don’t know the true impact Ernest Hemingway has had on our modern literature. I’m not trying to criticize anyone who doesn’t know this individual, I only want to inform people of the consequences of writing because of him. I also had zero knowledge of Hemingway and was resistant to want to read another book about another person that did another something until I did some background knowledge. My findings saw me digging deeper and deeper on his past and the actions that have proven he shaped literacy today. He’s so fundamental in our modern writing that he is considered the “grandfather of literacy”.
My goal isn’t to force students and teachers to instantly go out and gather all the knowledge they can on him, my goal is to try and get teachers to ask the question on why he isn’t incorporated as a major part in modern-day education system. The same way we teach so much about the founding fathers of our political system, we should shine the same light on the fathers of our literacy system. So, with teachers and students making up the educational system, they are my audience.
On writing by Ernest Hemingway is a difficult book to summarize. The difficulty comes from the fact the book itself is a combination of many of his writings put into one. The book is more like a picture book throughout his writing career. This book goal is diving deeper in Hemingway’s natural writing process, the way he comes up with his ideas, what personality to put in the writing, and his work habits.
The editors took a lot of time in making this book perfect, most of the short stories and advice is explained and elaborated in a way that gives you access to the writing process of Hemingway. This book is important to the writing community as for the first time Hemingway’s most valuable advice was all in the same cover, this gives any reader the ability to learn and benefit from Hemingway’s brilliance. It’s a great way for a reader to gain knowledge about writing that has been left out of our common educational path. It also requires a different attitude when reading, going into the book with the mentality that it will be like any other autobiography will only result in confusion and frustration. There’s no storyline in the book because it isn’t telling a story, that’s not the intention of the book. The book is supposedly written by Ernest Hemingway, which is partially true as most of the book is his writing. However, the book was put together by Larry W. Phillips who picked the most well known and most impactful parts of Hemingway’s life work. So yes, all the text in the book is Hemingway’s but, the credit of bringing the work of one of the greatest authors of the 20th century into a couple of hundred pages goes to Phillips.
Throughout Hemingway’s life he refused to write about writing, he said it was bad luck. Over time in his writing, more advice to writers was present. For example, “I love to write. But it has never gotten any easier to do and you can’t expect it to if you keep trying for something better than you can do.” This quote was one of the first times Hemingway talked about writing and one of the first times advising other writers on writing. I know that sounds very confusing, but Hemingway had some hunch about writing, most of his work was deep stories that usually had a bigger meaning by the end with some sort of life advice. So, advice about writing coming from Hemingway is rare. This book goes into deep into Hemingway’s life and a powerful quote from the book says “What is the best early training for a writer?….. An unhappy childhood.” This book is full of advice and an entire history lesson of Ernest Hemingway. With Hemingway having such an impact on our modern writing, it’s always influential to see where it all came from and how it started.
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Why is Ernest Hemingway not taught regularly? It’s a question I didn’t have at first, in fact I couldn’t even remember the name. It was only after research I found out he was the author who wrote “Old Man and the Sea”, a book I read in High School. After reading “Ernest Hemingway: on Writing” I found his writing style and process was short and to the point but leaves a lot of room for personal engagement and questioning. It allows the reader to hear his advice and interpret it in their way, allowing the reader to apply the counsel to their own life. I did a little research before reading and just after glimpsing quickly at his google search, I could see he was an important figure in the literary world. So, after finishing the book I was still confused about the extent of his influence on literacy. This all leads to my question, why didn’t I know who or what he did? If he’s this influential why didn’t I know him? I didn’t go to an uncanny school, I went to a regular public school, following the normal educational system. Yet my knowledge of the “Greatest 20th Century Writer” is next to none, why?
It’s a crazy thought that in our educational system we all are taught who founded the country or who fought who 200 years ago, but we don’t know who a founder of literacy is. We use writing more then we will ever use history, yet we know nothing of its origins or its development. Going off the normal criteria taught in schools, the only time Ernest Hemingway was ever brought up was an assignment to read “Old man and the Sea”. Even with one of his most influential and well-known books, the purpose of the book was to find the message in the book not to be conscious of the author or his influences. So, the larger question is, why are commanders of ancient wars praised more than one of the most influential 20th-century writers.
In our deconstruction of the mystery, we can discuss the possibilities he’s left out. One of the first reasons that can be called to question is his questionable opinions on women. Leslie A. Fiedler has said that he is only comfortable making his characters men without women. His women characters are stereotypical with no depth or importance to the story. This can because of Hemingway’s belief that women were the same in society; they had little to no importance in society and were best left in the background. This controversial opinion could have sacrificed his potential to be a household writer name. Leslie A. Fiedler also criticized that Hemingway learned to write “through the eye rather than the ear. If his language is colloquial, it is written colloquial, for he was constitutionally incapable of hearing English as it was spoken around him. To a critic who once asked him why his characters all spoke alike, Hemingway answered, ‘Because I never listen to anybody”. This can be seen as another way that stopped any chance of Hemingway deserving the recognition he’s earned. If critics have been protesting his style of writing since the beginning, then maybe that’s a cause to never being credited by the education hierarchy. He was considered to have some bad practices at the time of his rise. These bad practices cause a bad taste in the mouth before he was ever allowed to influence. Ernest Hemingway fits the criteria for a futurist. He was scrutinized for his work due to the fact it was different than anything done before which caused questions of his legitimacy as a writer. In a clear point of view, the commanders in ancient wars were recorded down as heroes, so now the history we learn is how they were heroes to their respected people. With Hemingway, he was always recorded down as a delusionist. This creates the gap where his influence was lost because of the different views and ideas he had on writing. This is where this book comes into play. The books goal was to fit the writing mind of Hemingway in a few hundred pages. Give the public a real view on the goals of Hemingway’s writing. This is exactly what the book showed me, I was able to learn about this individual’s influences that have been covered up for years. I was given the chance to learn of the writer behind the change in short stories, poems, and personal character engagement; something a majority of current writing is based off.
Now to discuss what makes Hemingway described as the greatest 20th-century writers we can explore his style of writing and the ways he made short writing powerful. His short and efficient writing style can be seen in most of modern-day story writing. This new style showed the new wave of writing that sometimes less is more. Instead of describing every detail to a story or conflict make it blunt and allow the reader to conflict with themselves over the conflicts at hand. This conflict created with the reader started the new theme of captivating stories with lots of room to interpret and spark controversy. Repetition and a lack of dialogue were also characteristics of Hemingway’s writing, also following with the style of short and captivating.
A theme of this personal war in Hemingway’s writing was also a defining characteristic inside his novels. He was able to captivate feelings of disagreement and frustration of the entire human race towards the wars. Hemingway’s peace views and anti-war messages in his novels was the entire gist of his novel “The Lost Generation’. Hemingway took a stand against the battling nature of governments and people and he served as a symbol of resistance that influences authors to this day. This action to rise is another reason Hemingway can be described as some as a futurist. Usually, a futurist isn’t credited until years after their impact on the modern world, in this case, Hemingway is being denied titles for his accomplishments.
Now the question sits with you. Is Ernest a futurist and revolutionist of modern writing or is a writer who only created this style of writing by accident by just wanting to write less as his ideas could only take him so far being a “writer by eye”. Take a look back and grab a greater perspective. Story novels and poems now and days are very straightforward, grabs your attention quickly and getting you invested in the character’s conflict. All of this wasn’t how it use to be; letters, plays, stories all examples of writing that when looking at before Hemingway’s influence are very long and very descriptive. Think about a movie where it’s an Englishman reading a letter and it seems to go on and on when all they had to say was “I’m on a dangerous voyage, I love you and I’ll see you soon”. This was the norm of writing until Hemingway fought the system and made stories shorter and more captivating than anything before them.
- “Contributions to Literature.” Ernest Hemingway: A Legend of the Lost Generation, ernesthemingwaymca.weebly.com/contributions-to-literature.html.
- “Ernest Hemingway.” Ernest Hemingway, www.u-s-history.com/pages/h3801.html.
- Hemingway, Ernest, and Larry W. Phillips. Ernest Hemingway on Writing. Scribner, 1984.