The Importance of Reading Ernest discussion

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Night Before Battle > Hemingway and War

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message 1: by Brad (last edited Mar 03, 2009 10:26AM) (new)

Brad (judekyle) | 219 comments Mod
Hemingway writes war well. What about this war? The Spanish Civil War? Has anyone read For Whom the Bell Tolls?


message 2: by Brad (new)

Brad (judekyle) | 219 comments Mod
I was thinking last night while we were watching M*A*S*H* about Hemingway's preoccupation with war. There is an episode of M*A*S*H*, not the one we were watching, where they make a thinly veiled attack on Hemingway's war writings. A famous journalist/author with a red beard and huge physical presence comes to the 4077th and has a run in of philosophy with Hawkeye and BJ (I think it was BJ), and he's written off as a bloodthirsty exploiter of warfare.

As a take on Hemingway, I think M*A*S*H* was pretty unfair, but it has made me seriously consider -- both in the past and again last night -- what Hemingway saw in war that made it such an important part of his writing.

And I think we see much of what motivates Hemingway in "Night Before Battle." Hemingway is interested, above all things, on what motivates people's emotions, and there are few more powerful settings for overwhelming emotion than war. And since war is an experience that Hemingway was familiar with at first hand (he was a genuine hero in the First World War, after all), it makes sense that Hemingway would focus on war and its aftermath as the background upon which to set his examinations of human emotion.

In "Night Before Battle," Hemingway is dealing most poignantly with the emotions of Al, the Tank Commander who's convinced he will die the next day in an attack that he knows should not be made. Al moves from feeling "wet," sure that he will die and genuinely afraid of what's to come, to an acceptance of his fate. And all around Al swirls a cast of wounded people making their way the best they can while fighting what most of them know is a lost cause.

For a man who so many people imagine as the very symbol of American masculinity, Hemingway's stories reveal a sensitivity to emotions and understanding of pain that is unparalleled by his peers. He just happens to use war as the touchstone for his examination.


message 3: by Gary (last edited Mar 06, 2010 11:34AM) (new)

Gary | 400 comments Mod
I think many men, hemingway included, could be emotional,and show caring toward each other, more comfortably between men, during a war type situation,that men couldn't share in everyday life, back in the states. even in the movie THE HURT LOCKER, it's ok for the soldiers to get drunk,and talk about how much they hate war,and cry, where they couldn't do that in a lockerroom in high school, or in the workplace. war was used as an effective mask to cover up the sensitive side of men, in general.

don't you think that's true, brad? hemingway used it the same ways in his writing.


message 4: by Gary (new)

Gary | 400 comments Mod
great movie , btw,and jeremy renner is amazing in the lead role. hemingway would have enjoyed that flick.


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