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The Consolation of Critique: Food, Culture, and Civilization in Ernest Hemingway

From: The Hemingway Review
Volume 32, Number 1, Fall 2012
pp. 16-38 | 10.1353/hem.2012.0027



This essay considers Hemingway's symbolic uses of food in "Big Two-Hearted River," "Ten Indians," and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Food—its acquisition, cultivation, preparation, presentation, and consumption—serves to illustrate and interrogate the characters' memories of, and potential recovery from, the traumas of war ("Big Two-Hearted River," For Whom the Bell Tolls), and colonization ("Ten Indians"). Food signifies culture and civilization; hunger, sickness, and the perversion of agriculture suggest civilization's breakdown. The process of metabolizing food parallels the characters' recovery from individual and cultural trauma, with food systems allegorically promising similar hope for civilization.