Good Example Of Loneliness, Nothingness And Despair In Hemingway’s Short Stories Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Literature, Life, Money, Opium, Death, Despair, Sense, Women

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2021/02/14

In his works, Hemingway described moments and events he faced or heard about of them. He depicted the life as it is and therefore his works seems to be so realistic. Furthermore, Hemingway managed to invent his own style, which was later called The Iceberg Theory. This technique influenced the writing process of the 20th century. As is clear from the name, the style is focused on the surface elements without deeper discussion into the implicit meanings. It is also confuses the reader because the omitted details often obscure the sense and moral value of the story (Santangelo 251). This style is revealed in his short stories. Hemingway believed that the meaning of the story should not be evident but it should be implied. Most of his characters are lonely. Even surrounded by family or friends, Hemingway’s characters feel the existential loneliness of their lives. The author demonstrates that neither money, nor fame can save a person from being alone, from experiencing the nothingness of the life. Hemingway depicts characters, which are strong enough to understand their lonely place in life and to live it facing nothingness every moment of it. He also describes persons who cannot live with the nothingness in their hearts. All in all, nada is inside the person and nothing can change.
The Clean Well-Lighted Place is regarded as one on the stylistic masterpieces by Earnest Hemingway. In five pages of “almost entirely in dialogue and interior monologue” (Hoffman 173) author describes the complexity of human interactions. An old man is drinking in a Spanish café. He is about 80 year old, he is deaf, he lost his wife recently and tried to commit the suicide. “‘He was in despair.’ ‘What about?’ ‘Nothing.’ ‘How do you know it was nothing?’ ‘He has plenty of money’” (Hemingway 143) He is wealthy but lonely. Nothing can save him from his loneliness, even alcohol. He has fortune but the loss of his wife indicated that he lost his sense of life as well. Money did not help him to find it. He faces nothingness and despair. The old man is observed by two waiters, who know that he would not pay if he gets too drunk. They wait for him as he is the only client and they talked to each other. The younger waiter wants home to his bed and his wife. He makes the old man to pay and leave the café. According to the older waiter, the younger has everything, because he has youth, a confidence and a job. The older one possesses only a job. Besides, they are of different kinds. The older waiter is reluctant to close the café because he understands that despite all of the bodegas a man needs clean, well-lighted place with no shade of leaves and no music and the opportunity to sit in dignity (Hemingway 146). The younger waiter leaves and the older head to the bar and orders a drink. The waiter does not like the bar because it is well-lighted but not clean enough. The older waiter thinks that the only problem he has is insomnia. This small episode from the life observed by Hemingway illustrates the global loneliness experienced by ordinary people. The old waiter understands the nada of the life. “It was all a nothing and a man was a nothing too” (Hemingway 146). He is desperate to find the sense of life but he is brave enough to live till the end without this sense. The old man also faces the nothingness but he tries to substitute it with alcohol. His continuous comebacks to this café (“he was a good client” Hemingway 143) imply that he succeeded in forgetting his own despair only partially.
Another masterpiece by Hemingway is called The Gambler, the Nun and the Radio. It seems that the title does not pass to the story, which is written by Mr. Frazer. He is a patient of a hospital, he broke his leg and he is interested in events taking place in the hospital. The sister Cecilia helps him and describes all the news in the hospital. The policeman comes to Cayetano Ruiz, the Mexican, who was shot recently, and tries to find out the justice. Ruiz is not willing to reply. The interpreter seems to be bad as well. Mr. Frazer is asked to help. It is revealed that the Mexican actually speaks English quite well but he does not want to tell the truth about the shooter. Mr. Frazer is constantly listening to the radio. He listens to football match. Sister Cecilia supports the Notre Dame team but she leaves the ward to pray for this team instead of listening. Three Mexicans come to visit the Ruiz. They tell Mr. Frazer that Ruiz is a gambler. He wins a lot of money, yet he is one the poorest men there. Mr. Frazer visits the Ruiz himself and talks to him. Ruiz is willing to tell his story. He likes gambling, so the game for him is more important than money. But his bad luck does not allow him to win. His bad luck also results in this shooting. On the last night, Mexican musicians come to play. Frazer is laying in his room and thinks of different kinds of opium. Religion, music, education, patriotism, alcohol, sex are opium for the people (Hemingway 367). Revolution, on the contrary is no opium but catharsis. He is forced to see himself as he had seen others. He is not happy to discover that everybody including himself has his or her opium But instead Frazer gets the “stoical perseverance” (Montgomery 204). There three main characters are captivated by their opium. Sister Cecilia has her religion, Mr. Frazer is interested in the radio, and Cayetano is obsessed with gambling. All of them just to try to escape from the nothingness of life. Yet, God, broadcasting, and cards cannot provide them with the sense of life. The more everyone understands his/her despair, the more he/she is obsessed with the opium. Mr. Frazer understands the ephemerality of his being. According to him, even “bread is the opium of the people” (Hemingway 367). He thinks of this situation, and he perceives it. Here Hemingway also shows that money cannot save from nothingness. Ruiz has money and he is a famous gambler, but he spends money immediately for gambling because life is nothing for him without the game. Mr. Frazer can afford the whole ward for himself but he is obsessed with radio and alcohol.
The Snow of Kilimanjaro is perhaps one of the most famous stories by Ernest Hemingway. The author describes the life of a spouse, Harry and Helen. At the beginning of the story, it revealed that the couple is constantly quarrelling. Harry is a writer, but he cannot write at the moment, because he is too secured with the fortune of his wife. Money cannot make him more creative and cannot save him from nothingness. They left their life in Paris and moved to the foot of Kilimanjaro. The adventure cannot be called successful. Harry did not notice the wound on the knee. Later, the unqualified mechanic caused the car burning. The Harry’s leg has inflamed, and as a result, he gets the gangrene (Hemingway 41). The character feels his upcoming death. Helen thinks that his leg can be cured. He does not love her anymore. Moreover, he never did so, but she still adores him. Helen advises him not to drink alcohol but he does not listen to her and asks his servant to bring him a new drink. His conscious dialogue is messed up with unconscious memories about adventures he had before. He feels lonely towards his wife. For her, he is the sense of life. She supports him with money and attention but he does not accept it. Later, they go to bed. Harry dies in the night. Helen understands he is dead only when a hyena starts howling like a man. The meaning of this story is unclear and still arguable. On the one hand, Harry sees the plane, which should symbolize salvation. On the other hand, his attitude to women and his death as a writer cannot guarantee him any kind of afterlife blessing (Santangelo 252). Harry feels the tiredness of life. “he had very little curiosity. For years it had obsessed him; but now it meant nothing in itself” (Hemingway 41). He is dead as a writer and his physical life does not matter to him, he even seeks his death and waits for it. He cannot bear the nothingness of life, and even the loving wife can help him to overcome his loneliness. He lost his curiosity and only nothingness is left to him.
These short stories depict how all the character face nada, mentioned in The Clean Well-Lighted Place. Nada means “nothing” in Spanish. Here, the concept is revealed as a philosophic and existentialistic. Besides, the stories are not about nada itself but about different human responses to it (Hoffman 174). Both stories describe the types of the hero, the naif and the victim and their reaction to nada (Hoffman 190). The victims like an old man and Mr. Frazer take different opium to forget about this nothingness they face every time. Naifs just accept it, like Sister Cecilia and the younger waiter. The older waiter and Cayetano Ruiz are heroes, who understand the concept but they have no fear of it. Harry from The Snow of Kilimanjaro is also a hero because he is just tired of life and of upcoming death as well. All of the main characters are lonely. They live desperate live, where despair is characterized by the opportunity of insight into the human soul and condition and the depth of feelings experienced by the characters (Bennett 262). The characters do not feel the confidence to anybody. Their main feeling is nada, which remains with them till their death. “Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee” (Hemingway 146).

Works Cited

Bennett, Warren. “Character, Irony and Resolution in ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.’” American Literature 42.1 (1970): 70-79
Hemingway, Ernest. The complete short stories of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Scribner's, 1987.
Hoffman, Steven K. "Nada and The Clean Well-Lighted Place: The Unity of Hemingway's Short Story." Essays in Literature 6 (1979).
Kennedy, X.J. and Dana Gioia. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 12th Interactive Ed. New York: Longman 2013.143-147.
Montgomery, Marion. "Hemingway's "The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio": a Reading and a Problem." Forum 3 (1962): 36-40.
Santangelo, Gennaro. “The Dark Snows of Kilimanjaro.” The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: Critical Essays. Ed. Jackson J. Benson. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1975. 251-261

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