restricted access 1. Memory and Manhood: Troublesome Recollections in The Garden of Eden
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1 Memory and Manhood Troublesome Recollections in The Garden of Eden Marc Hewson • While it may be going too far to insist that the whole of Hemingway’s fictional enterprise was a remembrance of things past, a strong case can be made that the writing he did after his return from World War II is heavily influenced by the writer’s use of his life experience, whether as a creative well or for psychological self-assessment. Certainly the work he accomplished during the remaining years of his life (most of it available to readers only after his death and in more or less bowdlerized forms) evidences a man and writer looking back over a career and trying to forge from it a sense of self in ways different from his earlier work. Hemingway was careful to emphasize his new attitude toward remembering and writing after 1946. While at work on Across the River and Into the Trees, for instance, he was fond of explaining that his method of writing, his very understanding of literary composition, had changed. Though in the past he had used admittedly complicated methods to illustrate his conception of the writer’s art (whether it was by means of the “iceberg theory” or the elusive fourth dimension), his new explanations were even more difficult to understand. He described Across the River as being presented to the reader through a series of “three-cushion shots,” saying, “In writing I have moved through arithmetic, through plane geometry and algebra, and now I am in calculus” (Breit 62). According to his fourth wife, Mary, he later defined his technique of exposing himself by exploring other people in A Moveable Feast as a sort of “biography by remate,” a jai-alai term denoting a complex rebound shot (“Making of a Book” 27). If both descriptions lead us to conclude that the 3 Cirino & Ott.indb 3 3/23/10 9:34:27 AM 4 marc hewson late works revolve around reflection and reflexivity, they equally hint at a man with a fragmented or at least disjointed sense of himself and a writer hoping to use memory to regain his equilibrium. Returning from the European theater of war to Cuba in 1946, Hemingway began work on what he called at the time “the Land, Sea, and Air Book” that was to be an investigation of war’s effect on a man. (As with much of his writing , of course, it might also be fair to call his intention an investigation of manhood.) At the time of Hemingway’s death in 1961, the mammoth project had transformed, in Michael Reynolds’s words, into “a multivolume portrait of the artist/writer in the first half of the twentieth century,” a four-part vision of art’s effect on a man (138). If Joyce’s influence is to be seen lying behind those manuscripts as they metamorphosed over fifteen years, though, so too is Proust’s, given the central place that memory and reminiscence play in what would be posthumously edited and published as A Moveable Feast, Islands in the Stream, The Garden of Eden, and True at First Light, which became Under Kilimanjaro. Indeed, à la recherche du temps perdu seems to have been much on Hemingway’s mind as he worked on all of the intricately intertwined pieces, clearly bearing out Rose Marie Burwell’s contention that his late writing was a “search for a form and a style that would express his reflexive vision of the artist” (1). Writing like this was not simply autobiography; it was self-analysis in the same vein Proust had tapped thirty years earlier and with a similar focus on questions of gender and sexual identity. Like many others returning from the war, Hemingway felt the increased need for personal and cultural interrogation as social mores and gender roles began to change even more rapidly than they had after World War I. And the general impression from the writing of the 1940s and 1950s would seem to be that he hoped to turn to memories of his former years to perform that interrogation and to recoup or repair his gender identity. In A Moveable Feast, therefore, we meet a Hemingway character uncovering all those “facts” about his life that the writer manfully wanted to believe: the early struggle with poverty , the need of his friends for his knowledge and experience, the mistakes of his life being as much other people’s faults as his own, and the unwavering diligence...


Subject Headings

  • Memory in literature.
  • Hemingway, Ernest, -- 1899-1961 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Geography in literature.
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