"I knew that underneath Mr. H and I were really a lot alike": reading Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea with Elizabeth Bishop's "The Fish".
"I knew that underneath Mr H and I were really a lot alike" Elizabeth Bishop wrote in a letter in 1964 (Poems 859). Coming from Bishop, the usually self-deprecatory, closeted-lesbian poet, this statement of similarity with Ernest Hemingway, whose public persona was the incarnation of macho self aggrandizement, might seem surprising. With a moment's reflection, however, we do note some similarities in their lives, including (overlapping) residence in Key West followed by extended residence in a Latin country, an enjoyment (which faded, in her case) of deep-sea fishing, and alcoholism. A direct connection, by the time Bishop made this statement, was Pauline Hemingway, for years Ernest's second wife and, from around the time when he left her for Martha Gellhorn and Cuba, Bishop's intimate friend (Poems 803; One Art 290; Millier 180, 195). Bishop had even stayed in the Whitehead Street house, and in a 1949 letter to Robert Lowell wrote "Oh yes, I've been being the female Hemingway again" (Words 85). It was Pauline who showed Bishop's poem "The Fish" to Ernest and relayed his enthusiastic response, which gratified Bishop enormously. (1) In her 1964 letter about Hemingway, Bishop added that she liked "only his short stories and first two novels--something went tragically wrong with him after that--but he had the right idea about lots of things" His having the "right idea" about those things surely contributed to her sense of kinship with him, but what she was referring to is not totally clear. In the following sentences she ruled out hunting and bull-fighting, and praised him along with D. H. Lawrence and other writers for "living in the real world and knowing how to do things," only to add on second thought that "both Hemingway and Lawrence were capable of horrible cruelties" (Poems 860). Did she sense (or even know via Pauline) that his masculine bravado concealed a fascination with lesbianism and amorphous sexual roles (Reynolds Paris Years 260, 288)?
A key to more fully understanding Bishop's feelings of similarity might well lie in comparison of her poem "The Fish" to its counterpart in Hemingway's oeuvre, The Old Man and the Sea. (Bishop praised that work highly in 1952 when it first appeared and might have considered it a story rather than a novel, thus exempting it from her condemnation of his later work.) Such comparison offers not only additional insight into the similarity she discerned but also throws some light upon both texts.
In 1940, when Bishop wrote "The Fish," she wrote to her mentor Marianne Moore that it was "a real trifle, I'm afraid it is very bad and, if not like Robert Frost perhaps like Ernest Hemingway! I left the last line ["And I let the fish go"] on so it wouldn't be, but I don't know ..." (One Art 87). Robert Frost, who, as Bishop knew (One Art 89) did spend several winters in Key West, wrote no famous works about fish and fishing, so the suggestion of potential similarity with his work presumably referred merely to a shared intense engagement with the natural world. By 1940 Hemingway had published a number of works that incorporate fishing in a significant way. In "Big Two-Hearted River" Nick releases some of his modest catch and puts off an attempt to catch even bigger trout in the swamp, because such fishing will be "tragic." No fish are caught in "Out of Season." In The Sun Also Rises, Jake and Bill catch and keep several trout, but no big issue is made of their keeping them. And in To Have and Have Not Mr. Johnson's big marlin escapes. Bishop may have been thinking of Hemingway's 1930s Esquire articles describing his fishing experiences, and of course she no doubt saw at least some of his catches of marlin and other species hanging at the docks. The boat in her poem, a "little rented" one, evokes by contrast the large and elegant Pilar, on which Hemingway caught so many of the fish he did bring home. In any case, Bishop's letter to Moore establishes that in her poem she was consciously engaging in some sort of implicit dialogue with Hemingway, as a man and as a writer.
According to Bishop, the poem embodied a precise description of her own experience:
[T]hat's exactly how it happened. It was in Key West and I did catch it just as the poem says. That was in 1938. Oh, but I did change one thing: the poem says he had five hooks hanging from his mouth, but actually he had only three. Sometimes a poem makes its own demands. But I always try[?] to stick as much as possible to what really happened when I describe something in a poem. (Millier 196)
Several years later she sent Robert Lowell a postcard captioned "Spotted Jew-fish--Municipal Aquarium--Key West, Florida" with the message "These are the Fish" (Words 71). The species isn't named in her poem, but can be inferred from the physical description and from the fact that "He didn't fight. / He hadn't fought at all" Although jewfish, now known as goliath grouper, can weigh 600 pounds or more and thus constitute a formidable challenge on most tackle, they typically put up little resistance compared to marlin, tuna, wahoo, dolphin, amberjack, sharks of various species, and tarpon--other species found in Keys waters. Nor were these fish scarce at that time or difficult to induce to take a bait, so the sense of accomplishment, even of "victory" so memorably dramatized in the poem, must arise from something other than the sort of feat about which anglers typically like to brag. What that something is must therefore be inferred from the literal event itself, as with Hemingway's so-called "iceberg method," or T.S. Eliot's "objective correlative," where precise physical description evokes a submerged feeling or complex of feelings.
Written during World War II, the poem is full of military imagery, including "fight," "weaponlike," "medals," "ribbons," "victory," and possibly (if we include puns) "mine" and "gunnels." However, a facile link between micro- and macro-battles, between sport fishing and war, cannot adequately account for the submerged portion of the iceberg, nor elucidate the poems political intent, if any. (2)
Considering details of the poem in light of the theories of C. G. Jung, however, offers a clue to a more profound level of meaning. According to Jung, the ocean is generally a symbol of the unconscious, and fishing thus symbolic of confronting one's unconscious, a process that is part of the universal human urge towards self-realization or "individuation," as he called it. Jung devoted much of his volume Aion to exploring the multivalent symbolism of the fish (103-172), and described a "big [that is, archetypal] dream" in which a young woman catches a "big fish" as summing up "in condensed form the whole symbolism of the individuation process" (Aion 151-153). For Jung, a key stage in a woman's process of individuation must be an encounter with an unconscious "male" component of the psyche, what Jung termed the Animus. Because social conditioning to adhere to strictly defined gender traits and roles was so strong in Jung's time, he saw the assimilation of the buried male side as an extremely significant accomplishment, a personal "victory" of an ultimate kind. Although Jung wrote comparatively little about lesbianism, we might speculate that in a Jungian interpretation of the poem, Bishop's conflicted sexual impulses would also have been at stake and would have made the victory even more significant. Bishop had an acute grasp of Jung's thought at least by 1950, when she perceptively observed that W. B. Yeats's philosophical treatise A Vision was "Jungian" (One Art 205); but in Jung's own terms, the quest for individuation was universal, and thus authors totally ignorant of his thought might embody the process in their work.
Jung wrote comparatively little about the creative process but did connect it with the search for individuation in passages such as "just as a man brings forth his work as a complete creation out of his feminine nature, so the inner masculine side of a woman brings forth creative seeds which have the power to fertilize the feminine side of a man" (Two Essays 209). Here Jung was limited by the patriarchal biases of his time, as June Singer points out (34ff), but in his later writings (especially the alchemical studies) he "soared above" the stereotypes (Singer 261) and saw intuitively that "the individuation process" involved a fusion of male and female, represented by the silver and gold coloration of the fish in the passage from Aion analyzing the "big dream" of fishing: "Silver and gold, in alchemical language, signify feminine and masculine, the hermaphrodite aspect of the fish, indicating that it is a complexio oppositorum" (Aion 152). Virginia Woolf memorably described such a balanced model in A Room of One's Own:
In each of us two powers preside, one male, one female; and in the man's brain the man predominates over the woman, and in the woman's brain, the woman predominates over the man. The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating. If one is a man, still the woman part of his brain must have effect, and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her. Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilized and uses all its faculties. Perhaps a mind that is purely masculine cannot create, any more than a mind that is purely feminine ... (96-98).
The connection between individuation and creativity offers an additional way of interpreting "The Fish." From this perspective the successful encounter with the "male" component of the psyche (here, the fish) enables the completion of the poem itself.
Arguably the poem also deals with the dynamics of literary "influence" particularly that aspect involving the need all writers have to assimilate or escape from the long shadows of their predecessors and most gifted contemporaries in order to define a unique identity for themselves. On the personal plane, this process paralleled the archetypal quest for individuation. In her letter to Moore, Bishop called attention to this aspect of her poem in relation to Frost and Hemingway. Not articulated but perhaps implied in the deprecatory term "a trifle" was its revisionary relationship to Moore's own fish poem, also called "The Fish." According to David Kalstone, Bishop's "The Fish" and "Roosters" were "[her] first efforts in a 'type' Moore had made her own" (87).3 The sense of"victory" dramatized in Bishop's poem may be in part a celebration of her success in finding her own voice so that she could even write on a subject inevitably inviting comparison with her mentor's work.
In the letter in which Bishop expressed her sense of kinship with Hemingway, she said mentions learning from Pauline not only that he liked "The Fish,' but that he added, "I wish I knew as much about it as she does" Bishop went on to write that "[a]llowing for exaggeration to please his ex-wife--that remark has really meant more to me than any praise in the quarterlies. I knew that underneath Mr H and I were really a lot alike" (Poems 859). It is not immediately clear what Hemingway thought Bishop knew more about than he did. It can't have been fishing itself, about which the poem reveals no significant insights, and about which Hemingway himself certainly knew more. As jewfish were never of particular interest to him as a fisherman, it can't have been the poems depiction of that species, which though unspecified in the poem he certainly would have recognized. Nor was Hemingway likely to have meant the use of graphic physical detail (a literary technique he had long since mastered in his own work), although as someone saturated since childhood with appreciation of the natural world he might have enjoyed the precise description of the fish's appearance inside as well as out. Both Bishop and Hemingway frequently used vivid description of the natural world to evoke submerged emotional and psychological elements. Is it possible, then, that he was responding to the nature of the inner triumph concealed beneath the surface of the poem?
In any case, Hemingway's response to "The Fish" provides a possible link to The Old Man and the Sea. Any literary text that made such an impression on him might in some way have affected a text of his own in which he turned his attention to a similar subject: the central figure's encounter, in a small boat in the same waters, with a "tremendous fish"--an encounter rich with hidden depths of meaning.
In his 1936 Esquire article, "On the Blue Water," written before Bishop had caught her fish, Hemingway had recorded the actual event that would constitute the "scenario" for the novella (BL 239-240). That event lay dormant in his imagination for a decade or more. Bishop's poem appeared in 1946 in her volume North and South, and if Pauline sent it to Hemingway around the time of its publication (it was in his library to the end of his life), he would have read and praised her poem during the fertile period when he was beginning work on the multi-part mega-project intended to be his masterpiece, a project on almost the same scale as A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, which he was also reading or rereading at this time. (4) The Old Man and the Sea was at some point intended to form a part of that ambitious project (Burwell 57). Hemingway actually began writing the story as we know it early in 1951 and finished the first draft in "six intense weeks" (Reynolds, Final Years 258). Not long after its publication in 1952 Bishop read it and "liked most of it--all except about six of his really horrible lapses--enormously. Such a wonderful sense of the sea and space, etc" (One Art 252). Her comment gives no indication of whether she felt any resonance between the novella and her poem.
Hemingway's literary competitiveness is well-known and many of his works were intended at least in part to "beat" rivals. Most of those rivals were from earlier eras, but although he wrote in "Monologue to the Maestro: A High Seas Letter" that "The only people for a serious writer to compete with are the dead that he knows are good" (BL 218), he was also notoriously concerned to beat potentially threatening contemporaries such as Fitzgerald and Faulkner. Hemingway might have hoped that the mega-project could challenge any rival, past or present. As a free-standing novella, The Old Man and the Sea might more modestly take on "The Bear" if not Moby Dick. (5) Both Melville's novel and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Baker 301-304) form part of a tradition which The Old Man and the Sea both enriches and modifies. That tradition might also include Whitman's "As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life," a text in which the speaker at a moment of great discouragement with his career as a writer achieves a hard-won triumph through the courageous embrace of his daunting "father" the "fish-shaped island" and his formidable "mother," the ocean. At the poems end, the speaker, having barely survived his ordeal, lies prostrate on the beach, just as Santiago after his ordeal falls into exhausted sleep, dreaming of lions on the shore. (6) Bishop's poem, too, forms part of this tradition.
While I think it most unlikely that Bishop's poem would have been in Hemingway's mind a big enough fish to need bettering, it does seem possible that "The Fish" was in his mind, at least subliminally. Because Bishop and Hemingway are known to have read and praised each other's texts, it seems natural to inquire whether the novella, like the poem, might reveal a "Jungian" concern with self-realization and its relationship to the creative process.
To consider a specific example first, Bishop's account of looking into the fish's eyes implies more than a concern with descriptive accuracy:
I looked into his eyes, which were far larger than mine but shallower, and yellowed, the irises backed and packed with tarnished tinfoil seen through the lenses of old scratched isinglass. They shifted a little, but not to return my stare. --It was more like the tipping of an object toward the light (Poems 33-34).
The first line creates expectations of a sort of "I--thou" communication, with overtones of the romantic gesture of lovers looking into each other's eyes. However, those expectations are soon disappointed by metaphors that stress the non-human otherness of the fish, metaphors of tinfoil, isinglass, and an "object" tipping toward the light.
With Bishop's lines in mind we are more likely to be struck by a corresponding moment in The Old Man and the Sea, when Santiago looks at the mortally wounded fish he has just brought to the boat and notes that "the fish's eye looked as detached as the mirrors in a periscope or as a saint in a procession" (OMS 96). Again, any expectation of quasi-human communication is denied. The double simile is surely among the most bizarre in Hemingway's oeuvre: the periscope (recalling his quixotic sub-chasing days) is used to look at the surface from the depths, while the saint's lofty detachment suggests a point of view above the ordinary human level, and perhaps reminds us that the fisherman has a saint's name. Bishop's passage and Hemingway's underscore one another, and both point towards areas of experience outside the ordinary boundaries. Bishop in particular points toward that region where human consciousness encounters unconscious components of the psyche, a process essential for full self-realization.
With this in mind we can return to her praise of the novellas "wonderful sense of the sea and space, etc." Both Bishop and Hemingway famously excelled at evocative description of the physical world. In "The Fish" the ocean is present only by implication, not described in detail, making its full evocation in The Old Man and the Sea is all the more prominent by contrast. To take one suggestive example:
[T]he sea was very dark and the light made prisms in the water. The myriad flecks of the plankton were annulled now by the high sun and it was only the great deep prisms in the blue water that the old man saw now with his lines going straight down into the water that was a mile deep. (OMS 40)
The word "prisms" stressed by repetition (here and on page 60), not only has associations with the mirrors in the periscope and with Bishop's scratched isinglass and object "tipping toward the light" but also implies the colors of the spectrum, a rainbow--the climactic and clearly symbolic image in "The Fish" as well--" where oil had spread a rainbow.../.., until everything / was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!" (Poems 34) The rhetorical flourish of the multiple repetition, so atypical of Bishop, is the best clue to the intensity and importance of the psychological experience shadowed by the literal scene, an experience best understood as reflecting the Jungian concept of individuation. In his studies of alchemy Jung connected individuation with the philosopher's stone, "the lapis, i.e., the diamond whose prism contains all the hues of the rainbow" (Psychology and Alchemy 187). In alchemy the fish would also be a symbol of the lapis (Aion 126). Reading The Old Man and the Sea with Bishop's text encourages our alertness to the possible presence of a similar experience beneath the surface of Hemingway's story. (7)
I do not mean to suggest any conscious use by Hemingway of Jung's thought. There were no books by Jung in Hemingway's library (Brasch and Sigman; Reynolds, Reading), and his reference to Jung in a letter of 21 February 1952 is strongly negative:
Criticism is getting all mixed up with a combination of the Junior EB.I.-men, discards from Freud and Jung and a sort of Columnist peep-hole and missing laundry list school. Mizener made money and did some pretty atrocious things (to young Scotty and any offspring she might have) with his book on Scott and every young English professor sees gold in them dirty sheets now. Imagine what they can do with the soiled sheets of four legal beds by the same writer and you can see why their tongues are slavering ... (SL 751).
Immediately preceding these comments Hemingway had been complaining about Philip Young's psychoanalytic study of him and opposing "writing about the private lives of living [sic] authors and psychoanalyzing them while they are alive:' By linking Jung with Freud and associating both with gossip columnists, F.B.I. men, and scholars gleaning tidbits about the sexual secrets of writers (perhaps alluding also to the trials of Oscar Wilde, in which soiled sheets were actually introduced in court as evidence [Ellmann 460, 477]), Hemingway showed that he associated Jung's perspective and methods with Freud's and both psychologists with prurience.
Hemingway was probably unaware of the distinctive theories Jung developed after his break with Freud in 1912-13. At that point Jung underwent a prolonged psychological crisis, exacerbated from 1914 on by the Great War, and this crisis led to the formulation of his most famous theories (The Red Book 193-221). Jung's mature thought was not centrally concerned with revealing anyone's "soiled sheets" but rather with the development of human beings over a lifetime, and particularly the archetypal quest for full self-realization. Hemingway would have encountered references to Jung in Tender is the Night--where "the great Jung" actually puts in a cameo appearance at a conference (195)--and may have known that during Zelda Fitzgerald's mental crisis, Fitzgerald considered having Jung treat her but chose someone else instead (Milford 179). In a provisional ending of The Garden of Eden, a novel that engages Tender is the Night, Catherine has returned from treatment in Switzerland. This context suggests that Hemingway might have associated Jung not only with the revelation of repressed obsessions but also with severe mental illness--another reason for Hemingway to be uncomfortable about psychoanalytic studies of him and his work? Despite all this, his novella may embody Jung's paradigm for human development; he could have encountered components of the process dramatized not only in Bishop's poem but in other texts he knew well, such as James Joyce's Ulysses and perhaps James's "The Jolly Corner." Interestingly, the letter in which he referred to Jung was written in 1952 between the drafting of/he Old Man and the Sea and its publication.
Susan Beegel has argued convincingly for the significance of Santiago's referring to the ocean as female, as la mar, instead of using the normal masculine form, el mar. Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious (1916), the first English translation of the book that precipitated the break with Freud by daring to diverge from "the sexual hypothesis" actually contains a passage that supports Beegel's elaboration of the archetypal associations of la mar in/he Old Man and the Sea: the Magna Mater, the Eternal Feminine, various Biblical "foremothers" and the Virgin Mary ("Santiago" 134). Jung had observed that:
The sound resemblance of mar, mere with meer=sea and Latin mare=sea is remarkable, although etymologically accidental. Might it refer back to the great primitive idea of the mother who, in the first place, meant to us our individual world and afterwards became the symbol of all worlds? ... The Christians, too, could not refrain from reuniting their mother of God with water. 'Ave Marls stella' is the beginning of a hymn to Mary ... (Psychology of the Unconscious 283)
From this matrix of associations emerged the key archetype Jung called the Anima.
Just as Santiago treats the usually male-gendered mar as female, so he refers to the huge marlin as male, though a marlin that size would almost certainly have been a female. (9) This reversal of norms regarding these two central symbols in The Old Man and the Sea encourages interpretation outside the boundaries of the literal, including a Jungian reading of the text. Carlos Baker long ago stressed Hemingway's use of symbols from the "visible material universe" to express "the eternal" (290), with this novella as his primary example, and although Baker does not consider Jung, a Jungian dimension would be consistent with his emphasis. It would be possible to see the masculine billfish as corresponding to what Jung termed the Shadow (always male in a man), "the negative side of the personality, the sum of all the personal qualities one wants to hide, the inferior, worthless and primitive side of man's nature, the 'other person' in one, one's own dark side" (Critical Dictionary 138-139). Robert Cohn's relationship to lake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises exemplifies the pattern perfectly. But lung also says of the Shadow that "its ultimate ramifications reach back into the realm of our animal ancestors" (Aion 266) and stresses that it is "not wholly bad. It even contains childish or primitive qualities which would in a way vitalize and embellish human existence" in "our present civilization, [which] has detached itself from its roots, and is about to lose its connection with the earth as well" (Psychology and Religion 78). Thus the marlin, obviously "primitive" and "animal;' might correspond to the Shadow. Or we might identify it more generally as a symbol of the male side of the psyche, which for the achievement of psychological wholeness must be balanced by acceptance of the (unconscious)female side, the Anima, symbolized in The Old Man and the Sea by la mar (Archetypes 284). In lung's eyes, "[t]he creative process has a feminine quality, and the creative work arises from unconscious depths--we might almost say from the realm of the Mothers" (Spirit 103). So both the fish and the ocean can symbolize psychic components activated in a drama about both self-realization and creativity.
The harmonious and complementary relationship of fish and ocean in the novella offers an image of the desired relationship of male and female elements within the psyche. For Hemingway, as for lung and Bishop, strict definition of gender roles was a dominant cultural force, so for him as for both of them achieving acceptance of the unconscious opposite would be a personal triumph. During the period in which he wrote The Old Man and the Sea he was exploring related issues in The Garden of Eden. The complex ambiguities of that text suggest just how challenging such struggles might be. It is worth recalling Bishop's dramatic release of the grouper, arguably possible because the psychological process of acceptance projected in the action of the poem might require that the fish be encountered but not that it be killed. That Santiago does kill the marlin might suggest failure, but could just as easily point towards the "death" of a narrowly defined, partial version of the psyche at that point in the individuation process when someone is metaphorically "reborn" as a more complete person. Santiago's partly nocturnal fight with the fish has overtones of "the night sea journey" one of several Jungian metaphors for a change so ultimate that it amounts to a symbolic death and rebirth (Aion 111). During Jung's intense psychological crisis in the years just before and during the Great War, one of the symbolic pictures he painted depicted a small boat (possibly the sun barge) with a huge fish swimming beneath it:
In the corresponding crisis period in Hemingway's life, during the years after World War II, he depicted an equivalent symbolic situation in his novella. (10)
Jung typically suggested that while all human beings undertake this quest, virtually no one fully achieves it. What would be at stake for Hemingway in the book besides his own unconscious quest for completeness would be a corresponding access to the deepest sources of creative power. Jung argued that in the act of creation the artist "plunged into the healing and redeeming depths of the collective psyche, where man is not lost in the isolation of consciousness and its errors and sufferings, but where all men are caught in a common rhythm which allows the individual to communicate his feelings and strivings to mankind as a whole" (Spirit 105). The Old Man and the Sea has often been read as allegorizing the author's quest, while beset on all sides by assertions of decline or failure, to confound his critics by "catching the big one," the novella itself. Reading The Old Man and the Sea with "The Fish" would reinforce that dimension of the story, while possibly emphasizing by contrast that Hemingway's "triumph" is more limited. There is nothing in The Old Man and the Sea comparable to the ecstatic ending of "The Fish" so perhaps the novella embodies not final achievement but rather an intense struggle towards wholeness and recovered creativity. Successful completion of the mega-text on which he was working throughout his later years would have been the ultimate equivalent for him of Bishop's "rainbow," but sadly that did not come about.
The repeated references to Santiago's memories and dreams of lions on the beach at dusk support this interpretation. He actually observed such an event during a period "before the mast" as a young man, but its persistence may be more than nostalgia, for as Santiago himself wonders, "Why are the lions the main thing that is left?" (OMS 66). They even appear in the story's final sentence: "The old man was dreaming about the lions" (127). Jung had come to see "big dreams" as coded symbolic messages from the unconscious about the individual's necessary future development; and in those symbolic dreams the Self, "the whole of the personality" could be represented symbolically by lions "and other powerful animals" (Archetypes 187). The beach is a liminal space between two realms or conditions. Harold Bloom (96) has noted that American crisis poems are typically set on a "shore," and the lions' appearance at "dusk" or "in the evening" introduces a darkness that will be followed by the dawning of a new, more complete being. With this in mind it is possible to read The Old Man and the Sea as at least envisioning, if not actually projecting, the achievement of that ultimate goal.
Jung stressed that the encounter with the shadow was "a test of courage on the inner way" and the encounter with the Anima likewise "a test of courage, an ordeal by fire for the spiritual and moral forces of man" (Archetypes 20, 29). This was particularly true, he felt, for someone such as Hemingway whose "persona," whose public image, was so powerful a force in his life:
Every calling or profession.., has its characteristic persona. It is easy to study these things nowadays [1939-1950], when the photographs of public personalities so frequently appear in the press. A certain kind of behaviour is forced on them by the world, and professional people endeavour to come up to these expectations. Only, the danger is that they become identical with their personas-the professor with his text-book, the tenor with his voice. [Here Jung might just as well have been writing about Hemingway.] Then the damage is done; henceforth he lives exclusively against the background of his own biography ... One could say ... that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is. In any case the temptation to be what one seems to be is great, because the persona is usually rewarded in cash. (Archetypes 122-123)
The effort needed to escape from control by the persona would be tremendous: "[t]he garment of Deianeira has grown fast to his skin, and a desperate decision like that of Heracles is needed if he is to tear this Nessus shirt from his body and step into the consuming fire of the flame of immortality, in order to transform himself into what he really is" (Archetypes 122-123). The Jungian dimension of The Old Man and the Sea suggests that in this novella (and in a very different way in The Garden of Eden) Hemingway was at last stepping into "the consuming fire" in an effort to transform himself into what he really was. Doing so was arguably the most courageous act of his life.
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--. Psychology of the Unconscious. Trans. Beatrice M. Hinkle. 1916. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1949.
--. The Red Book: Liber Novus. Ed. Sonu Shamdasani. New York: W. W. Norton, 2009.
--. The Spirit in Man, Art, and Literature. Trans R. E C. Hull. The Collected Works of C. G. Jung. Volume 15. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U P, 1971.
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PHILLIP L. MARCUS
Cornell University and Florida International University
(1.) At the time of Pauline's death, Bishop drafted but never published some moving elegiac verses addressed to her: "You set off, sweetie (as you said), to the stars..." (Millier 286-287; Bishop, Poe 301-304).
(2.) See Bishop's letter to Moore regarding "Roosters": "the essential baseness of militarism" (One Art 96-97).
(3.) Bishop sent a draft of "The Fish" to Moore and received suggestions for changes, most of which she adopted (Bishop, One Art 87-88; Millier 154).
(4.) Brasch and Sigman, item 623; Reynolds, Final Years 257; Burwell, 1, 57-61; on Proust, Burwell 1, 187 note 2.
(5.) Regarding "The Bear," see Rosenfield and Timms; regarding Moby Dick, see Beegel, "Santiago" 305.
(6.) For a different connection with Whitman, see Beegel, "Santiago" 133,305 note 1.
(7.) The "rainbow" symbol also concluded two famous modern American poems, Hart Crane's The Bridge (Complete Poems 108), which Bishop studied "rather carefully" but disliked for its "romanticism" (One Art 18); and Robert Lowell's "The Quaker Graveyard in Nantucket" (18), published in Lord Weary's Castle in 1946. Bishop met Lowell the following year and they became close friends.
(8.) On Zelda, see also Cline; on Tender Is the Night, see Comley and Fleming. In the manuscripts of the "provisional ending" of The Garden of Eden, Catherine returns from treatment in Switzerland (JFK 422.2/1). In 1932 Fitzgerald referred to "European leaders, such as Lawrence, Jung and Spengler" (Letters 433).
(9.) For the complex problems related to the gender of the marlin, see Beegel, "Guide" 270-271. For the purpose of the present essay it is sufficient to know that Santiago believes the marlin to be male.
(10.) See Wehr 165-198. It is tempting to see some connection between the "Old Man,' of Hemingway's title and the Jungian concept of the Wise Old Man, or the quite different Jungian concept of the senex, but neither seems to me helpful in illuminating the text. For different Jungian interpretations of The Old Man and the Sea, see Harlow and Norman; for discussions of Jung and other Hemingway works, see De Falco and Nakjavani. Some of the best current work on The Old Man and the Sea deals with the Cuban dimensions of the text: see especially Sylvester, Grimes, Herlihy, and Valenti. I see my own work as complementary to theirs.
(11.) After the death in 1951 of Pauline ("a good friend" and "the wittiest person, man or woman, I have ever known,'), Bishop no longer had "inside" information about Ernest. She seems to have been somewhat surprised as well as saddened by his death. "I feel dreadful,' she wrote to Pearl Kazin at the time, "he must really have been half out of his head for some time, don't you think?" (One Art 400). Of his suicide she wrote to Robert Lowell that it "seems to be the last thing he should have done somehow. I'm sure he must have been very sick for several years--out of his head--perhaps you know?" (Words 373). The comments she made about him in 1964 show mixed feelings, but include her assertion that he and she were at some deep level "a lot alike" Although she did not mention The Old Man and the Sea in that regard, it stands (along with The Garden of Eden, which of course she did not know) as our best evidence that she was right.
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|Author:||Marcus, Phillip L.|
|Publication:||The Hemingway Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2013|
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