By Peter Messent (auth.)
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Extra resources for Ernest Hemingway
The attraction of the latter notion, though, remains strong. Traditional beliefs in the 'transcendental sanctity and stability of the subject'4 die hard. In Hemingway's case, in fact, such beliefs strengthen rather than diminish. 44 The Status of the Subject 45 In this chapter I will argue that it is Hemingway's foregrounding of the difficulty of 'fashion[ing] a self'S that accounts for the generally recognised superiority of the short stories and early fiction to the later novels. The stylistic and thematic changes that occur in the later fiction are related to the change in presentation of subjectivity.
The disaster which he and Catherine undergo at the novel's end is seen as 'just a dirty trick' (FA, 235) rather than as something that prayer can affect one way or another. My reference to A Farewell to Arms also connects up with Nick's next response in this story. For when prayer fails, he attempts to remember the names of animals, birds, fishes, countries, cities, types of food and streets. This calls to mind that famous passage from the novel when Frederic Henry says that only such things as 'the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers' (FA, 133) have meaning in a context where the abstract language of patriotism has been shown to be hollow.
He puts down what he sees, exactly as he sees it. He eliminates from his view the panorama, the weather, the crowd, the waiting matadors, the price of the seats, the hardness of the bench on which he sits, the odour of his neighbour, the colour of the sky, the degree of the temperature. 35 To describe the vignette as apprentice work is again somewhat to miss the point, in that the very essence of Hemingway's early technique lies in such an intensity of concentration on the individual concrete details of a scene.