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Ernest Hemingway

Thought in Action

Mark Cirino

Publication Year: 2012

Ernest Hemingway’s groundbreaking prose style and examination of timeless themes made him one of the most important American writers of the twentieth century. Yet in Ernest Hemingway: Thought in Action, Mark Cirino observes, “Literary criticism has accused Hemingway of many things but thinking too deeply is not one of them.” Although much has been written about the author’s love of action—hunting, fishing, drinking, bullfighting, boxing, travel, and the moveable feast—Cirino looks at Hemingway’s focus on the modern mind, paralleling the interest in consciousness of such predecessors and contemporaries as Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner, and Henry James. Hemingway, Cirino demonstrates, probes the ways his character’s minds respond when placed in urgent situations or when damaged by past traumas.
    In Cirino’s analysis of Hemingway’s work through this lens—including such celebrated classics as A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, and “Big Two-Hearted River” and less-appreciated works including Islands in the Stream and “Because I Think Deeper”—an entirely different Hemingway hero emerges: intelligent, introspective, and ruminative.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I am indebted to so many people for their kindness to me during the writing of this book. I am proud to acknowledge some of them here.
This book could not have been written without generous grants from the Hemingway Society, the John F. Kennedy Museum and Library, the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and the University of Evansville.

Abbreviations of Hemingway Texts

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pp. xi-2

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Introduction: Ernest Hemingway and the Life of the Mind

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pp. 2-19

In 1921, Ernest Hemingway wrote a frivolous epistolary fragment entitled “Because I Think Deeper.”1 The 1,800-word narrative is remarkable for its explanation of the source of the narrator’s own woes: he is burdened with the artist’s hypersensitivity, an impulse to intellectualize, an excess of consciousness. The narrator, Ralph Spencer Williams, writes to his fiancée’s sister and suggests what might be the source of the constant tension that divides the two of them: ...

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1. The Solitary Consciousness I: Metacognition and Mental Control in “Big Two-Hearted River”

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pp. 20-36

At this point in Hemingway studies, it is well understood that in “Big Two-Hearted River,” Nick Adams seeks a return to simplicity after his harrowing experience in World War I and that Hemingway’s prose replicates the veteran’s internal quest for manageable simplicity. At story’s end, Nick avoids the physical swamp at the edge of the stream and, by doing so, fends off the metaphorical swamp of his own psyche ...

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2. The Solitary Consciousness II: Metacognition and Mental Control in The Old Man and the Sea

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pp. 37-55

As we have seen in Hemingway’s early masterpiece “Big Two-Hearted River,” Shakespearean soliloquies, and Thoreau’s Walden, the activity of consciousness is never more imbued with depth and complexity than when a protagonist is alone. The two most poignant moments of The Sun Also Rises, for example, show Jake Barnes alone: ...

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3. Memoryin A Farewell to Arms: Architecture, Dimensions, and Persistence

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pp. 56-77

Two weeks after the publication of A Farewell to Arms in 1929, William Faulkner’s Quentin Compson futilely attempts to destroy time by mutilating its instrument of measurement, recalling his father’s lesson that “clocks slay time . . . time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life” (Sound and Fury 85).

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4. “The Stream with No Visible Flow”: Islands in the Stream and the Thought-Action Dichotomy

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pp. 78-100

As Hemingway was composing To Have and Have Not in 1936, he received an admiring letter from fellow Scribner’s author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who wondered how Hemingway balanced his internal conflict “between the sportsman and the artist” (Reynolds, The 1930s 238).1 Hemingway replied that he received “great inner pleasure and almost complete satisfaction” from hunting and fishing ...

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5. Beating Mr. Turgenev: “The Execution of Tropmann” and Hemingway’s Aesthetic of Witness

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pp. 101-115

Ivan Turgenev’s influence on Ernest Hemingway has been widely appreciated, a literary relationship whose discussion was repeatedly invited by Hemingway himself.1 Although critics have in the past discussed Hemingway with respect to Turgenev, important aspects of this link remain unmined. In this chapter, ...

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6. That Supreme Moment of Complete Knowledge: Hemingway’s Theory of the Vision of the Dying

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pp. 116-130

Although Hemingway’s interest in death and dying has become so accepted and well covered that any further comment risks retreading the stereotype of his frequently lampooned death “obsession,” I wish in this chapter to examine a strain of this subject more traditionally applied to Hemingway’s contemporaries and more conventionally metaphysical literary forebears. ...

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7. Reading Through Hemingway’s Void: The Death of Consciousness as Conversion or Annihilation

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pp. 131-148

In 1925, Hemingway considered several titles for the novel that became The Sun Also Rises. Some of his discarded ideas deepen our understanding about the eventual theme of the narrative: “Two Lie Together,” “Rivers to the Sea,” and “The Old Leaven.” Hemingway’s impulse to use these biblical phrases draws attention to the novel’s emphasis on the cyclical nature of life and on the contrast between the fickle, ...


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pp. 149-164

Works Cited

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pp. 165-174


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pp. 175-182

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9780299286538
E-ISBN-10: 0299286533
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299286545
Print-ISBN-10: 0299286541

Page Count: 176
Publication Year: 2012