The thing that I have always liked about Hemmingway’s narrators is that they come off as trustworthy, not as people, for they are all heartbreakers and gamblers and drunks, but in the relationship between reader and story-teller. I don’t feel the need to second guess the facts as they are presented. That, more than anything else has always made me love Hemmingway, despite the various politically incorrect failings so often associated with his work. He may be sexist, but he’s honest, and I can work with that.
A Farewell to Arms is about war, of course, and that it is terrible, as one would expect. The interesting thing about Hemmingway’s war novels as compared to say, the work of e.e. cummings or Wilfred Owen is that Hemmingway lets the reader in on the delights of war as well as the misery. His male characters bond and march and enjoy the landscape while drinking and joking and just generally being manly. Few other authors can write a man-friendship with such insight and authenticity. The conversations between Henry and his friend Rinaldi are just about perfect dialogue, summing up the whole novel in a few pages of discussion. Sex, love, war, religion and death, interspersed with insults, like a conversational Cliff’s Notes.
It might be possible to be so in tune with the male psyche and still understand women, but Hemmingway isn’t the right person to demonstrate such a talent. Catherine, the love interest, is needy and shallow. Her conversations with Henry are pale and pointless when compared to those he has with male characters. The story ends with the typical punishment of a female character, drawn as tragedy but really there as a release from commitment and the boredom of a happy ending.
Elana Scherr: Reread Wuthering Heights so I’m ready for moody discussion when you are.
Hannah Greely: Not finished yet, but soon.
Elana Scherr: I’ve been practicing my glowering and sneering.
Hannah Greely: I’m working on my slapping and pinching.
Justin Reade Sarno: Oh, Heathcliff.
Soooo, there have been some complaints about this review. Apparently, some people think the brevity of the above discourse does not do justice to Ms. Bronte’s work. To these people I say fine, fine, I will besmirch Wuthering Heights with my opinion. You have only yourself to blame.
Wuthering Heights is monumentally disturbing. Disturbing in a way which towers above you and casts a shadow. I can’t figure out why Heathcliff is so often referred to as a hero. Even the term “anti-hero” doesn’t fully do justice to the cruelty of his character, and it’s not like he’s alone. Everyone in the story including the narrator is at best a coward and at worst…we shall not speak it. When a scene involving a small boy hanging puppies is comic relief, you know you’re in deep waters.
If you find yourself harboring resentment towards friends or collegues, or for that matter, if you favor one child noticeably over another, take warning. Hatred eats and and destroys hater and hatee alike.
I’m still a hater though. Just saying.
It seems somehow fitting to start out with a post about Great Expectations.
I hadn’t read Great Expectations since high school, and my memories of it mostly involve speaking Dickens’ patois out loud in an attempt to capture the glory. Try it now – Ram-page. Isn’t that nice? I feel that I have seen people on the Ram-page. I’m glad to have a spelling for it. Thank you Charles, for that.
The copy I read was a 1965 paperback edition purchased in a thrift store for 99 cents. Critical reading was given a special sense of urgency due to the fact that the pages would fall out as I turned them. There’s no going back, Pip.
Great Expectations is famous for Miss Havisham, pathetic in her crumpled wedding finery, waiting for a man who will never arrive…only that’s not really the case. She know he won’t arrive. Her insistence on maintaining the crumbling trappings of a wedding is more a form of self punishment than self delusion. Anyway, it doesn’t matter that much, because despite being an incredible bit of imagery, Miss Havisham’s story is not the main story.
The main story, appropriately enough (considering my disintegrating pages) is about moving forward, how choices made affect the future and can’t be undone, even when the effects are not immediately clear. Feel free to use that as your thesis, high school folks.