Hemingway's Dialectic with American Whiteness: Oak Park, Edward Said, and the Location of Authority.
Toni Morrison's Playing in the Dark (1992) inaugurated serious discussion of racism in Hemingway's prose. Claiming that Hemingway reflected the racism of America by demonstrating "no need, no desire, or awareness" of African Americans as readers or characters (69), Morrison argued that American white identity defined itself in relationship to an invisible but eternal Africanist presence (70). Reminiscent of Said's investigation into Orientalism, Morrison asks for "investigations of the ways in which a nonwhite, Africanist presence and personae have been constructed -invented -in the United States, and of the literary uses this fabricated presence has served" (90); she asks "to avert the critical gaze from the racial object to the racial subject; from the described and imagined to the describers and imaginers; from the serving to the served" (90). Since Morrison's challenge, scholars have applied Critical Race Theory to Hemingway's prose in order to investigate the ways a non-white, Africanist presence has been constructed, but we have not adequately turned the gaze to the describers, to white hegemony and its privileges. To examine the describers and imaginers, one must examine whiteness as Said examined Orientalism. Said sought not to "redeem" the Oriental, for that reifies the hierarchy Orientalism protects. Instead, Said sought to expose the motives for representing the Orient as Europe had represented her. In order to see the "eternal Africanist presence" in American literature that Morrison sees, scholars must expose the complex powers served when whiteness represents blackness as inferior and in need of white leadership.
Ernest Hemingway learned from his circumstances in early twentieth-century Oak Park that race was important and that as an affluent white man he had inherited a responsibility to define racial constructions and racial relations. The influx of citizens to Oak Park after the Civil War and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 included freed slaves as well as whites committed to abolition, creating a white power structure interested in supporting racial equality. Among these was Anson Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway's grandfather. Anson had attended Wheaton College -well known for its abolitionist stance -and had served as an officer with the 70th U.S. Colored Troops in Natchez, Mississippi (West 4, 5). Additionally, the state of Illinois enacted progressive legislation for black citizens immediately after the Civil War. "In 1865 the Illinois Black codes were repealed, by 1870 blacks were granted the right to vote, and in 1874 the schools were desegregated. A state civil rights bill was passed in 1885 prohibiting discrimination in places of public accommodation" (6). Prominent white men led these changes.'
Throughout Hemingway's childhood, Oak Park leaders addressed racism as a problem that could be solved by well-meaning whites. Frank Lloyd Wright's daughter, Frances, had an African-American best friend, Edith Palmer; the Oak Park-River Forest Boys Choir was integrated (West 20); the local black community included businessmen, skilled craftsmen, a fireman, and an engineer, all of whom had white customers. The Nineteenth Century Club, a white women's organization dedicated to social betterment, focused on improving race relations beginning in 1904 and continued active involvement in racial equality groups through the 1920s. The Elizabeth Charleton Day Nursery-a daycare founded by white women-proudly solicited financial support from wealthy patrons with pictures of its integrated classes (Oak Leaves 2 May 1914, 3). Hemingway came of age amidst upper-class white men and women who hired African-American skilled labor, invited African-American children into their homes and day care, advocated for peaceful and fair solutions to racial animosity, and entertained African-American leaders and artists. Yet, these same upper-class white progressives demonstrated clear limits to how they practiced inclusion, limits that protected the highest level of leadership for whites only.
The building of the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in 1905 became the first city-wide controversy over the limits of racial integration. After years of collecting and saving funds, the fourteen members of the black congregation purchased land to build their sanctuary and published in the local newspaper a thank-you to friends, "both white and colored, who have so kindly assisted us" (Oak Leaves 22 August 1902, 8). However, the white neighbors who owned homes near the lot purchased were not willing to have a black church built in their midst. City permits were offered and rescinded and the original site, purchased by the congregation for $600, was sold to a group of white neighbors for nearly four times the purchase amount (West 17). Eventually, support from prominent white Oak Parkers facilitated the selection of a new site and the building of the first African-American church in Oak Park was completed in 1905, when Hemingway was six. White citizens caused these problems, and white citizens fixed them without any attempt to alter the white man's perception that he had final say on African-American decisions.
The prominent Reverend William E. Barton, Anglo-American rector of the First Congregational Church who had a national reputation as a religious and social leader, publicly supported the building of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church and frequently advocated for equal rights for all races, but he also demonstrated an appreciation for eugenics which served to secure the place of whites at the top of the social hierarchy. When this venerated, white social activist advocated for social segregation, Barton gave his white neighbors what they needed to reject the African-American Mt. Carmel Baptist Church:
I do not plead for social equality. I do not want to marry a negress. I have lived in the south and appreciate the problem of the south. And I can say there is but one solution of the negro problem, which is to let the negro become as much a man as his own ability and character will permit him. He will have a hard enough time trying to change the leopards spots, some of which are native, some of them painted upon him by ourselves. But if by the grace of God he can bleach them a little, in the name of God help him. (qtd. in Reynolds 12)
During Hemingway's childhood in Oak Park, the intentional limits of white progressivism were conferred and confirmed by the religious community.
Unintentional limitations appeared throughout Hemingway's hometown as well. Public schools failed to graduate an African American until 1923, six years after Hemingway graduated and forty-nine years after desegregation (West 34). In 1908, the Forest Park Amusement Park opening included the "African Dodger" game in which patrons threw baseballs at a black man's head, and the "African Dip" game featuring black men on a dunk tank with the slogan, "Hit a Coon and Win a Cigar!" (25). Public outcry over the violence of the "African Dodger" got it removed, but the "African Dip" continued. Minstrel shows were commonplace, both professional shows from Chicago and homegrown varieties staged to raise money for white church and civic groups even while Booker T. Washington and Ida B. Wells-Barnett were invited to speak to integrated audiences on achieving racial equality (27). The Oak Park summer baseball team regularly played black teams when other white teams would not. Still, newspapers reported the game between the "black boys" and the "academically educated white men" as one enjoyed by "a good-sized crowd... for there always is comedy when colored men play ball. They improvise dialogs and monologs much to their own entertainment and also for the amusement of the spectators" (Reynolds 165). The year Ernest Hemingway started high school, Oak Park experienced the most violent act of racism in its history: arsonists set on fire the home of the only black family in a white neighborhood (West 31). Whiteness did not acknowledge its paradoxes; instead it applauded itself for each progressive act accomplished and created the belief that white leaders were doing all that could be done. What was not achieved could then be read as caused by the deficiencies of blackness, even those deficiencies actually created by un-progressive and racist whiteness. Racism--both acknowledged and unacknowledged--was present in Oak Park, and it was tethered to a progressivism constantly at work protecting itself. For astute observers like Hemingway, this tethering moved the necessary interrogation from blackness to whiteness, from the racial object to the racial subject and exposed the paradoxes of white privilege. Hemingway explored the paradoxical and power-filled structures of whiteness immediately in his first stories.
"Judgement of Manitou," "A Matter of Color," and "Sepi Jingan" are Hemingway's three stories published in his high school publication Tabula in 1916. These stories demonstrate Hemingway's developing awareness of whiteness and the social contracts that protected it. In "Judgment of Manitou," Pierre, who speaks throughout the story in a Cree dialect, suspects his hunting buddy, Dick Haywood, of stealing his wallet. After a week of snarling at Dick and giving him the silent treatment, Pierre plans to catch Dick in a hunting trap and make him confess. Dick Haywood is marked as white not only by his name, but also by his world view:
"Wonder why Pierre is so grouchy just because he lost that money? Bet he just misplaced it somewhere. All he does now is to grunt like a surly pig and every once in a while I catch him leering at me behind my back. If he thinks I stole his money why don't he say so and have it out with me! Why, he used to be so cheerful and jolly; when we agreed at Missainabal to be pardners and trap up here in the Ungava district, I thought he'd be a jolly good companion, but now he hasn't spoken to me for the last week, except to grunt or swear in that Cree lingo." (93)
Dick identifies Pierre's language as Cree and then degrades it to a non-language by claiming that "to grunt or swear in that Cree lingo" means Pierre "has not spoken to [him] for the last week." Hemingway makes a concerted effort to show Dick understands Cree to be a lesser language than English. Dick also expects Pierre to confront him about his concerns. This assumes that Pierre trusts Dicks acceptance of him as an equal; that a minority could accuse a white friend of stealing from him and be dealt with fairly. History shows us that Dick's assumptions are false but that his belief is true and commonplace. Dick also values Pierre because he was "cheerful" and "jolly," a "jolly good companion." These are not terms commonly used to describe a trusted business partner or confidante; instead they reflect one white man's unexamined acceptance of the stereotype that ethnic people are happier than white people and present the paradox inherent in exoticizing the Other. Hemingway resolves this story by Pierre finding his wallet in the mouth of a red squirrel. Though he goes to rescue Dick, the wolves have already killed him and Pierre prepares to kill himself as part of the judgment of Manitou, a type of spiritual balance. The novice Hemingway creates his story in the woods in the tradition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn--to provide a place beyond the constructions of society where the structures of society can be exposed and examined. Both characters misunderstand the other; both characters pay the price for that misunderstanding. Dick is unable to see outside his privilege and power; privilege must exist for Pierre in society because Dick has granted Pierre privilege. Pierre, on the other hand, cannot see outside his lack of privilege and power. Pierre cannot imagine any white man, even his friend Dick, actually sharing privilege and weakening the established hierarchy. Though we cannot know if young Hemingway held Pierre accountable for his inability to accept the privilege Dick offered, we can demonstrate that the young Hemingway re-presented the gifting of privilege across a personal, individual friendship as ineffective by itself.
In "Judgment of Manitou" Hemingway presents a major limitation of white privilege: believing the way you see the world is the way it works. Presenting whiteness as the monolithic and correct world view has been a source of its power; however, Hemingway's story shows this monolithic world view as so limited it makes whiteness vulnerable and in constant need of protection. Hemingway acknowledges the stereotypical understanding of characters of color as less logical, more emotional, and committed to radical spirituality yet places the blame for Dick Haywood's death not on the stereotype of Native American savagery but on whiteness' monolithic view of the world. Dick Haywood dies because he does not understand the structures of whiteness. He believes racial equality exists because he, the white man who once imposed racial hierarchy, has allowed a friendship across racial lines. He believes whiteness has solved racism and makes no attempt to learn anything about the Other that his previously racist self did not know. The very basic miscommunication in "Judgment of Manitou" seems invested in exposing the paradox Hemingway was being taught about the races in Oak Park.
Structured a bit like the Uncle Remus tales, "Sepi Jingan" provides a more developed characterization of an ethnic character than "Judgment of Manitou." Native American Billy Tabeshaw, who will reappear in Hemingway's early professional short stories including "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife," tells an unnamed narrator the true story behind Paul Black Bird's death on the train track. Billy is, as the narrator tells us, "not the redskin of the popular magazine" (98). Billy Tabeshaw is ethical, cunning, and in-charge of himself, his dog, and his debts. This is a far cry from the picture of the "redskin" familiar to the obviously non-"redskin" narrator: "He never says 'ugh.' I have yet to hear him grunt or speak of the Great White Father at Washington. His chief interests are the various brands of tobacco and his big dog, 'Sepi Jingan"' (98). In this statement--the first of only two made by the narrator--the young Hemingway exposes white acceptance of stereotype and his own ability to question it. As these are quite unsophisticated stereotypes, not the nuanced paradoxes of educated Oak Park, it is reasonable to interpret the narrator as a young boy. He watches Billy; he follows Billy's direction; he is frequently offered advice by Billy. This does not speak of a man-to-man relationship, especially not a white man to Native America man relationship. Also, this narrator feels no need to control all stories: when Billy offers to tell a story, the narrator responds, "Like to hear it" (99), much like every boy in every adventure story Hemingway had ever read. This tool, so available to an inexperienced writer, allows the Native American voice (as imagined by white Hemingway) to control this story and to operate further outside the control of whiteness.
Billy uses his strong position as adult to immediately situate the narrator as having inadequate knowledge. When asked by Billy if he remembers Paul Black Bird, the narrator identifies him as "the new fellow who got drunk last fourth of July and went to sleep on the Pere Marquette tracks" (99). By asking this question, Billy acknowledges that he expects the narrator to remember what stories circulated among whites about Paul Black Bird, but not to have known Paul or his situation directly. The question was not about knowing. Said's description of knowledge as power and a means to control the Other is not at play here in the narrator; it is, instead, at play in the voice of Billy. Said claims and Hemingway seems to have intuitively understood, "to represent is to make powerless," to tell the story is to seize control over the represented (Laroussi 28). When Hemingway makes the choice to allow Billy to represent Paul Black Bird, to tell his story, Hemingway presents a white narrator as bereft of knowledge, power, and control, and a Native American man upending white representation of the Native American to create knowledge, power, and control. The young narrator reports the answer white society has owned and it is not the full story. Billy has knowledge the narrator and perhaps all white men do not: how to find Paul Black Bird after he killed the game warden; that the game warden was Billy's cousin; that Paul was only crazy when he was drinking and couldn't get drunk. Sober and drunk are terms whiteness understands. Good white men misbehave when drunk and are responsible when sober. Native Americans, or at least Paul Black Bird, can get stuck in the no-white-man's-land of in-between: "Up on the peninsula he couldn't get drunk. He used to drink all day--everything. But he couldn't get drunk. Then he would go crazy; but he wasn't drunk. He was crazy because he couldn't get drunk" (Sepi Jingan 99). Through Billy Tabeshaw, Hemingway presents a different world that exists outside the monolithic vision of whiteness.
In the narrative Billy tells, his ethnic tie to Paul Black Bird and his family's connection to Paul Black Bird's victim require Billy to exact justice. Paul, who knows Billy is looking for him to avenge his cousins death, finds Billy and knocks him unconscious. After he awakes, a fight ensues and Sepi Jingan, Billy's dog, kills Paul. Billy puts Paul on the train track and the white society's story is born. Billy makes clear in his narrative that the story the narrator knew was a part of the truth but not the whole truth: "So, you see, when you said that Paul Black Bird was drunk and lay down on the Pere Marquette tracks you weren't quite right. That Indian couldn't get drunk. He only got crazy on drink" (100). The emphasis on the inaccurate understanding of drinking and drunkenness reminds us that a self-defense killing is justified in a white man's world; no explanation of that is needed. In Billy's world, the circumstances of Paul Black Bird's death are not important; what transpired to merit his death is important. Hemingway used paradoxes in "Sepi Jingan"--being crazy on drink but not drunk; being not quite right but not wrong; a Native American man whose cousin was white--to reveal the hollowness of the rigid rules of the white social narrative and the limited, monolithic view they create.
Hemingway allows non-educated white characters to talk directly about race in "A Matter of Color," a humorous story about Joe Gans's first fight. Narrator Bob Armstrong is a boxing manager recounting a "classic yarn" about the "best frame-up we ever almost pulled off" (95). This recounting is being told to one referred to as "son" while Bob Armstrong is introduced as old; it is another educational tale akin to "Sepi Jingan" and the later, more adroit, Nick Adams tales. Armstrong has arranged a match between Joe Gans and Montana Dan Morgan. It is significant that Morgan had "never heard of [the amateur Joe Gans] at that time" and that the contract had a $500 forfeit clause in it for non-appearance (95). Based on the abundant boxing ring slang employed by Armstrong and his copious details to the locations and process of boxing training, Armstrong is presented as a man who knows his business. When Bob later makes clear that Joe Gans is a "pusson of color," we understand why there was such a high fee for forfeiture. Bob Armstrong's boxer, Montana Dan Morgan, is white and it was not uncommon for white boxers to refuse to fight black boxers.
Montana Dan Morgan hurts his hand and Armstrong is unwilling to pay the $500 forfeiture fee. Danny suggests a scheme in which he fights with his uninjured but weaker hand and they hire another fighter, hidden behind the curtain, to hit "the smoke" with a baseball bat once Danny rushes him against the curtain. Armstrong hires "a big husky Swede to do the slapstick act" (96) and gave him these instructions: "Just as soon as the white man backs the black man up against the ropes, you swing on the black man's head with the bat from behind the curtain" (97). Armstrong identifies the fighters only by race, not by name. Armstrong is working from the same monolithic worldview that got Dick Haywood killed. When the plan fails because the Swede knocks out the wrong fighter, Armstrong asks directly, "Why in the name of the Prophet did you hit the white man instead of the black man?" The Swede responds: "Mister Armstrong, you no should talk at me like that--I bane color blind!" (97). That color blindness does not make it impossible to see skin tones seems not the point here. Hemingway's focus on Armstrong as the most developed character directs the ending to expose Armstrong's inability to imagine race blindness. Nothing in Armstrong's social narrative prepared him for such a concept. Whites may hate blacks or love blacks, but they could never be unaware that blackness existed or be incapable of identifying it. To use color blindness as a reason to not identify race may simply be a sophomoric joke by an immature Hemingway, but the joke only works in a culture with deep investment in racial awareness. That "The Swede's" claim is biologically inaccurate highlights the need for falsehoods to protect a racial hierarchy. That the mistake is made by a character identified as "The Swede," and therefore not an American, adds to Hemingways dialectic and interrogation into the biology of race. If race is biological, certainly any nationality could see it. If it is not, then this character's name explains his blindness: he was not taught the American constructions of race. At every level, the joke ending to this short story bumps hard against racial infrastructure and gives it a good shake. Maybe it is youthful writing unwittingly shaped by a racist culture; maybe it is a valiant attempt by a young man to imagine a loophole out of the stranglehold "agreed-upon codes of understanding" had on American race relations.
Hemingway moved immediately from the influence of Oak Park to his first job as a reporter in Kansas City, Missouri and began his apprenticeship period, writing news for pay before his fiction became his bread and butter. Much has been written about the influence of newspaper writing on Ernest Hemingway's style. However, the way Hemingway chose to report his first assigned stories also offers information about how he was learning to interrogate institutional and social constructions of American race and class. There are eleven stories verified to be by Hemingway and published in the Kansas City Star between December of 1917 and April of 1918 (Bruccoli). Six of those stories represent unwavering enthusiasm and excitement about being on the battlefields of World War I as they report current recruitment efforts. Another shows little interpretation of a laundry workers strike, and another questions whose duty it is to sequester smallpox patients quickly. The three remaining stories have characters and interviews and provide a glimpse into the developing Hemingway style and, I argue, into the developing Hemingway worldview.
"Kerensky, the Fighting Flea," tells of bantam weight fighter Leo Kobreen, also known as Kid Williams and nicknamed Kerensky at his job as office boy at the Kansas City Star. Though of small build, "scuffling and fighting almost has ceased since Kerensky came to work," reports Hemingway (15). Kerensky exposes boxing as performance with his honesty about what is "hippodrome stuff" like the "two bantams push[ing] each other about and scrambl[ing] fiercely each to pick up the most [change thrown into the ring]. Kerensky's dislike of "the smoke that fills the ring" (16, 17) also serves to weaken the metaphors of power at play during a boxing match, focusing instead on physical realities outside the ring. When asked for advice to young pugilist hopefuls, Kerensky reports how he used street fighting to learn the trade:
There is a newsboy rule that if one boy installs himself on a corner no other can sell there. A full grown man used to cry the headlines on a certain Grand avenue crossing. Poachers bothered him. "It wouldn't look right for a big fellow to hit a little kid," says Kernesky, "so he let me sell there, too, and sicked me on all the strange boys. I always ran them away..." (17)
Kerensky tells of proprietors soon giving him special privileges to train and of learning to work smart not hard. He is a success story by traditional standards of privilege in America, rewarded for his independence, hard work, and willingness to take the bottom job each time other white-skinned men grant him authority.
Hemingway includes Leo's description of his days in Russia as full of violence and tragedy, recognizing Leo's ability to tell his own story:
After hard days in old Russia, the life is full of joy for Leo, and who can say that he is not making the most of his opportunities? When he talks of the past it is of a pogram. That Christmas season the workmen in a sugar refinery near Kiev made a cross of ice and set it up on the frozen river. It fell over and they blamed the Jews. Then the workmen rioted, breaking into stores and smashing windows. Leo and his family hid on the roof for three days, and his sister fell ill of pneumonia. (Kerensky, the Fighting Flea 19)
Hemingway then admits the need to change the subject and allows Kerensky to end with a comment demonstrating his respect for the working people of America--"the crowd"--and evidence that he has the freedom to do more:
"Leo, do they ever match you with a bigger boy?" "Oh, no," he says, "the crowd wouldn't stand for that. But sometimes I catch one on the street." (19)
Hemingway's representation of Kerensky does not scream of orientalism but it does offer a portrayal that nods to an othered person and an othered place as dangerous and deficient to people and life in America. What is placed side-by-side with the Russian pogrom, however, is an adult American hiring a young man the size of youth to beat up "newsboy[s]" assisted by a police officer who "turned his back till the battle was over" and then told Leo to "cut this [streetfighting] out" (17). What is placed alongside recognition as a scrappy boxer is a sport that scripts preliminary bouts to include fighting for change on the mat. Though Hemingway gives this individual young fighter dignity in his portrayal, Hemingway places him in various systems of white culture that do not protect the dignity of this immigrant man or of children or of the sport that will, in Hemingway's lifetime, become a national phenomenon used to highlight racial differences. As he did with Billy and Pierre, Hemingway presents Kerensky as honorable on his own terms and the metaphors of society as hollow and untrue.
"At the End of the Ambulance Run" (Bruccoli 27) provides a panorama of clients moving through the Kansas City General Hospital emergency room in the dead of night. The brief stories of six men and one young girl are told in unsentimental tone. One character is identified as "negro" and he comes in having been cut by a razor. "It is not a mere joke about negroes using the razor--they really do it," the young Hemingway writes. Later, a hospital attendant will comment: "It's razor wound in the African belt and slugging in the wet block. In Little Italy they prefer the sawed-off shotgun. We can almost tell what part of the city a man is from just by seeing how they did him up" (30, 31). The "Negro" patient will not tell the police who has hurt him, but Hemingway reports that they learn who it was because "[h]e was found dead--his vitals opened by a razor."
Through what is largely stereotype, we can see Hemingway's dialectic with hegemony twinkling through. First, he is surprised to find a racial joke has basis in fact, but he is not offended by the fact. The hospital attendant uses offensive stereotypes but claims the pattern he sees identifies where these patients live in the city, not their ethnicity. Certainly, these parts of the city were segregated sections of ethnic and racial groups, but the attribution to location instead of race seems a cover-up of sorts. There is no discussion in the emergency room of violence committed by whites, yet we must assume Chicago had whites who committed violence with knives and fists and guns in the 1910s. Hemingway was taught in Oak Park that it is the white man's job to identify and solve the problems of race. It seems significant that there is no racial problem identified here amongst the many racial terms and innuendos. Perhaps the young Hemingway points to this omission when he problematizes the safe-for-whites-solution of segregation with the ending he offers:
And so the work goes on. For one man it means a clean bed and prescriptions with whiskey in it, possibly, and for another, it is a place in the potters' field. The skill of the surgeon is exercised just the same, no matter what the cause of the injury or the deserts of the patient. (At the End of the Ambulance Run 32, 33)
The very bodies that supposedly mark one as inferior or superior based on skin color in reality mark us as the same. No matter where we live or fight or were injured, black, brown, and white bodies respond to trauma and medicine the same way. Socially constructed hierarchies do make their way to segregated neighborhoods and to hospital attendants who use pejorative stereotypes, but they do not hold of their own accord. In the night, when bodies have been assaulted, there is no difference between us.
Hemingway's representation of diverse people's interaction in an urban hospital demonstrates the institutional authority and "agreed-upon-codes-of-understanding" he first learned in Oak Park: difference is controlled and contextualized by constructions of whiteness, not by biology. But what does Hemingway demonstrate when he represents all actors as without racial labels? In his six articles recruiting men to military service and in "Mix War, Art and Dancing," Hemingway writes without any mention of race. Instead, in all seven articles he emphasizes gender. Remembering that Hemingway's work at the Kansas City Star was an apprenticeship, a training ground in how to see, understand, and present cultural events, we can argue that these stories demonstrate Hemingway's exploration of the American whiteness so carefully defined by Roosevelt: powerful, superior, and very, very male. Throughout Hemingway's life, the American national conversation on masculinity had been shaped by Theodore Roosevelt.
In The Winning of the West [1889-1896], an ambitious four-volume history of the late eighteenth-century American frontier, Roosevelt depicts the American West as a crucible in which the white American race was forged through masculine racial conflict. By applying Darwinistic principles to the Western tradition, Roosevelt constructed the frontier as a site of origins of the American race, whose manhood and national worth were proven by their ability to stamp out competing, savage races. (Bederman 177)
By the time Hemingway had come of age, Roosevelt's ideas on American masculinity had become hegemonic--a "pattern of practice" that "embodied the currently most honored way of being a man" (Connell 832). This hegemonic masculinity, then, came to operate as a "code-of-understanding" intertwining American masculinity and whiteness. At the Kansas City Star, Hemingway's attention to nuance would create his first forays into interrogating hegemony and expose the masculinity of whiteness.
In the seven war articles, Hemingway refers to the Kansas State Agricultural College, the U. S. Navy, the U.S. Armed Forces, and Camp Funston. All included African-American students or enlisted personnel, yet Hemingway identifies the race of no character in any of the war articles. Instead, he presents characters engaging power and hierarchy within a hegemonic group and the sole identifying difference noted again and again is gender. Hemingway omits instructions on how whiteness can identify and avoid the Other, and instead focuses readers' attention on how masculinity establishes and maintains power and privilege. In these stories with white characters only, Hemingway makes use of the cultural code situating masculinity and patriarchy as the arbiters of whiteness.
"Six Men Become Tankers" begins with noticeably generic language: "six men were accepted today;" "men of various occupations;" "all the men taken were of draft age" (41). Even the initial description of the work is generic: "The men of the tank corps enlist in a dangerous branch of the service, but it is thrilling work and, like aviation, has long periods of rest and inactivity between the short, concentrated spells of action" (41). Next Hemingway moves to telling the story of "a returned officer from the western front now training recruits" (42). Five paragraphs describe the noise, confining space, smell, and movement of working in a tank: "Close, oily smelling steel shells;" "cramped quarters;" "sits crouched;" "lurches forward;" "guns are roaring inside and the machine guns making a steady typewriter clatter;" "reeks with the smell of burnt oil, gas fumes, engine exhaust and gun powder" (42, 43). These more specific modifiers are not only more interesting writing, they lead logically to the definition of masculinity offered by Lieutenant Cooter: "We want fighters for the tank service.... Real men that want to see action. No mollycoddles need apply" (43, 44).
The tension created in such a hegemonic space continues in "Would 'Treat 'Em Rough," "Recruits for the Tanks," and "Dare Devil Joins Tanks." Men from different walks of life show up ready to fight in "Would 'Treat 'Em Rough." "A stout, red faced man wearing a khaki shirt claims, "I'm the treat 'em rough man," he bawled. "That cat in the poster has nothing on me. Where do you join the tankers?" (49). A "gray haired man wearing a derby, a well cut gray suit, a purple tie, socks to match and a silk handkerchief with a light purple border peeping from his vest pocket" claims, "I'm over draft age and it doesn't matter what my profession is... I never really wanted to get into this war before, but the tanks are different. I guess I can treat 'em rough" (49). Some men, a high school boy, and two youths come, wait, and leave before meeting with the recruiter. We are then left with men determined: "Gee, I hope I get in;" "... I want to try. It's about my last chance. They all throw me down" (50, 51). When 27-year old John R. Ecklund is asked why he wants to join, he responds, "I want to see action and get over in a hurry" (51). Lieutenant Cooter reports, "That is the type of all of them... That is what brings men here. Not promises of high pay or easy service, but telling the truth about quick action and danger.... They are the finest type of men for soldiers" (51). In a room full of white men, those seeking action and danger are the "real men."
Lieutenant Frank Cooter continues to honor the choice to act in "Recruits for the Tanks:" "It's the spirit of adventure which brings them up here.... The tank work is dangerous, of course, but men will always apply for clean, dangerous work with a chance for quick advancement" (52, 53). In "Dare Devil Joins Tanks," we meet William A. Whitman, a recruit "too good to be true." (55). He was a race car driver and then a lieutenant and machine gun captain in various Central American revolutions. Lest he seem too perfect, Mr. Whitman does report "a little difficulty with my teeth" but is recruited anyway. "Besides the regular quota of mechanics, barbers, motor car salesmen, bartenders and college students," Maynard Bush, 38 years old, instructor in journalism at Polytechnic Junior College" also applied and was accepted (55).
These recruitment stories, white by omission of any description of the Other, present a path to white power that is not limited by class, education, employment experience, or race. Coveted power in the recruitment stories is granted those willing to actively choose danger, to embrace Roosevelt's construction of masculinity as requiring courage and the willingness to "dare greatly" ("Manhood and Statehood" speech 1901). This is a more difficult and riskier way to whiteness than mere comparison to the Other and its awardees may give their lives for the privilege. Here Hemingway presents the club of whiteness as dangerous and under threat not from competition from the Other but from its own requirements. These newspaper articles, seemingly like so many others by so many other writers, present an understanding of whiteness turned on itself. Instead of sharing privilege, men yearning for white, patriarchal, masculinity will die for a privilege they will never enjoy.
Hemingway's "Mix War, Art and Dancing" is the last of the Kansas City Star war stories with only white characters. Charles Fenton claims this early story anticipates one of Hemingway's later strengths because in it "Hemingway's exposition was wholly implicit; he avoided both sentimentality and cheapness" (46). It is decidedly different than the other Kansas City Star stories Hemingway produced, even the more narrative "Kerensky, the Fighting Flea" and "At the End of the Ambulance Run," for in it he moves from reporting, beyond storytelling, to craft. By placing the woman at the beginning, middle, and end of the story, Hemingway constructs an implicit focus on females that reveals the limitations of whiteness.
Still new to newspaper writing and clearly an apprentice, Hemingway takes an unexpected risk with this story. He does not structure the seven-paragraphs chronologically or to highlight a lead but instead uses a repeated and disparate image as the spine.
Outside a woman walked along the wet street-lamp lit sidewalk through the sleet and snow. (First line, paragraph one) A crowd of men rushed up to the girl in the red dress to plead for the next dance. Outside the woman walked along the wet lamp lit sidewalk. (Paragraph four) After the last car had gone, the woman walked along the wet sidewalk through the sleet and looked up at the dark windows of the sixth floor. (Last line of story, paragraph seven) (Mix War, Art and Dancing 57, 58)
Placing this image in the first and last lines gives the image importance; its additional presence in a two-sentence paragraph precisely in the middle positions it as a fulcrum which shifts the reporting to something more. That shift hinges on Hemingway's disciplined use of "woman" and "girl."
Outside this image, the other females in the story are either "girls" or named females with assigned roles: chaperone, secretary of the school, hostess. Hemingway presents the girls and the men exclusively in relation to each other. A "merry crowd of soldiers... fox trotted and one-stepped with girls... while a sober faced young man pounded out the latest jazz music as he watched the moving figures" (56); "a private in the signal corps was discussing Whistler with a black haired girl" (56, 57); "an infantry corporal, dancing with a swift moving girl in a red dress, bent his head close to hers and confided something about a girl in Chautauqua" (57); "in the corridor a group of girls surrounded a tow-headed young artilleryman and applauded his imitation of his pal Bill" (57). The only soldiers not engaged with any girl and therefore not exhibiting overt masculinity were three men "looking at the exhibition of paintings by Kansas City artists" (57).
The fourth paragraph, the center of the story, is only two sentences and emphasizes a difference between women and girls. Girls are always engaged with men while the woman is always alone: "A crowd of men rushed up to the girl in the red dress to plead for the next dance. Outside the woman walked along the wet lamp lit sidewalk" (57). Void any demonstrated relationship with men, the woman exists, persists, and acts but without context. She remains unexplained, possibly without meaning.
Hemingway presents nearly every female character through her relationship to men. We are told the black-haired girl "heartily agreed" with the soldier talking to her, yet she is given not words. The infantry corporal, however, "bent his head close to [the girl in the red dress] and confided something about a girl in Chautauqua" during a public, social dance. He is described with specific thoughts and volition. "A group of girls surrounded a tow-headed young artilleryman and applauded his imitation" while "a crowd of men rushed up to the girl in the red dress to plead." The girls offer something to the artilleryman; the crowd of men demand something from the girl. By citing the school, giving the names of the chaperones, and stating that this dance "will be followed by others," the two factual paragraphs suggest social constructions support these interactions between men and women.
There are only two acts of volition by females in this piece: the girl in red, while surrounded by "a crowd of men," seats herself at the piano, and the woman walks the sidewalk. Both actions modify the men's ability to grant privilege. The girl in the red dress, coveted by the men, chooses to use her art to direct her engagement with both the men and the other girls in the room. Her playing and their singing together makes peace, provides a safe performance scripted by lyrics and void of heads bent in confidence and crowds of men pleading. The woman's actions, emphasized through repetition, are unexplained. She is shown to have no relationship to men through proximity or stereotype. Her actions are not contextualized, are presented without explanation, and seem to operate outside the realm of privilege. Central to the story, placed architecturally so that her removal changes the story completely, the woman is never recognized by anyone yet faithfully acts on her own.
In "Mix War, Art and Dancing," white masculinity offers the girls choices to perform appropriate Other roles--confidante, champion, sexual object-while white masculinity does not recognize the woman's existence. However, Hemingway does not show white masculinity engage or share any privilege with the white woman acting autonomously. The absence of shared privilege suggests whiteness, masculinity, and patriarchy are intertwined. Neither women nor girls can assume they will be granted the authority, autonomy, or power of white privilege simply because they are white. In earlier newspaper stories in which no character is identified as non-white, Hemingway focused on masculinity. In this story, Hemingway focuses on femininity and patriarchy, revealing a seminal connection between whiteness and masculinity.
During the remainder of his informal apprenticeship, before In Our Time and while writing for the Toronto Star Weekly, Hemingway continued to demonstrate Oak Park's strong training in white progressivism. He celebrated Rene Maran, the first black-skinned winner of the Goncourt Academy Prize. Ma-ran's novel, Batoula, was a critique of French Imperialism which Hemingway claimed allowed its readers to truly experience life as a colonized citizen in Africa (DLT 146 -47). In "So This is Chicago," Hemingway wrote eleven images of Chicago, three of which include clear markers of and comments on ethnicity and race, demonstrations that he could see and find important social constructions other than whiteness and impoverished blackness (586-588).
One untitled story preserved from Hemingway's work before In Our Time, probably from his time in Chicago after the War, reflects the racial ambiguity he learned in Oak Park. In this story, Hemingway tells of "rookie" American soldiers serving in Samoa who ignore the advice of three veteran soldiers regarding native head hunters: "We three tried to protest but they kidded us and said they weren't afraid of no niggers. And they let the Philipinos come in and sit around the court while they ate. They never carried their guns with 'em and called us fools to take precautions" (sic) (You think it is pretty hot playing football). These rookie soldiers pay with their lives and others' lives for their arrogance.
There are several elements in this unnamed story that reflect the ambiguity about race Hemingway saw practiced in Oak Park. That the rookies conflate all dark-skinned peoples as "niggers" and believe no "nigger" in any setting can outsmart them reflect more overt racism not completely abated in Oak Park. Hemingway's choice to have the headhunters kill the regiment not only suggests physical and intellectual superiority to certain white American soldiers, but also demonstrates the danger inherent in accepting white privilege as an unconstructed, natural state. Still, Hemingway's portrayal of race is problematic: the "superiority" demonstrated by the natives was primitive and violent. That the veteran soldiers' respect for the headhunters was based on their cunning and lack of need to follow the rules of war may also be problematic. However, this clash of cultures is just that. The headhunters were operating by their culture's moral code, one that did not submit to American intervention in Samoa or to the world views of American soldiers. The apprentice Hemingway presents in this piece a microcosm of the problems privileged white progressivism can bring, an interrogation of Oak Parkers' belief that whites can and should identify and correct the problems of people of color without consulting any people of color. Readers are given no basis to believe the Samoans wanted the help of American soldiers. The American military is clearly an enormous system with its own rules of privilege and dishonor. The American government that wields the America military is another system with its rules of self-preservation and expansion. The individual will and identity of the Samoans does not exist in this story or perhaps in the culture in which Hemingway lived. Like Dick Haywood, these individual American soldiers fall prey to the belief that the way they see the world is the way the world works, that of course everyone would want to befriend and emulate white Americans. Such a belief serves in history to justify American military presence in Samoa during the Mau protests of the 1920s and serves fictionally to mask each individual soldier's inadequacies in the face of the unknown. Bravado is a useful tool in the service of empire. None of this can we prove was a conscious thought or belief of the person Ernest Hemingway, but we can argue all is present in the cultural representations in the developing fiction of this keenly observant young writer.
Oak Park citizens' willingness to confront racial inequality as a social ill without truly understanding racial equality or white privilege was fruitful for a young writer as sensitive to subtlety and nuance as Ernest Hemingway. Ian Marshall claims the way Hemingway constructs whiteness within his prose demonstrates Hemingway's racism. This may be true when examining Hemingway's prose through the lens of Critical Race Theory. However, when viewed through the lens of Said's Orientalism, readers see the Hemingway dialectic pointing to the hidden constructs of whiteness and white privilege and judging them insupportable.
These early stories, raw as they are, expose a young writer discovering what he can do. His prose is not yet shaped by professional concerns of publication, salary, or reputation. In this discovery, apprenticeship period, Hemingway uses concrete details to expose society as constructed. Focusing on the construction of society opens the possibility of interrogation. Hemingway does not present a complete society and ask characters to evaluate it; he points readers to building blocks that contradict and, therefore, enable readers to question. In this way we see Hemingway's developing style shaping content and perspective. Additionally, the young Hemingway consistently reveals information about individual characters that is not controlled by that characters circumstances. Such writing certainly makes for more interesting characters, but it also opens enough space between individual and hegemonic circumstance to see the tensions within and against hegemony and hierarchy. In some instances, the young Hemingway represents (in Said's terms) the lens of white privilege as limiting and dangerous and relocates authority outside of whiteness. He seems to work consistently to represent his tales through an individual lens not controlled by a national, cultural, or racial narrative, not controlled by any "agreed-upon codes of understanding." Through all of these, the young Hemingway seems to allow and explore a dialectic between individuality and hegemony.
Said's ideas about Orientalism allow scholars of American literature to dissect whiteness by looking at language as "an integral formative part" of reality itself (Said Humanism 59). Orientalism became ubiquitous--and therefore invisible and impossible to challenge--through cultural work of the words of law, aesthetics, art, scholarship, history, and custom. Said's scholarship demonstrated a way to render the work of Orientalism visible. When scholars receive and resist the realities of Orientalism, they can elucidate the frameworks in which Orientalism exists and begin to interrogate a whole network of relationships (61,62). Applying Said's methodology for investigating Orientalism to race in American letters via Ernest Hemingway does the same work: it exposes ways Hemingway's prose engages in a dialectic with the paradoxes of whiteness.
(1.) In 1877, John W. E. Thomas was elected to the Illinois legislature, making Illinois the first state in the Midwest and the second state in the north to send a black man to its state legislature. Thomas provided significant leadership in Civil Rights legislation and his term of service was followed by the election of a second African American legislator. Thomas was the only non-white in the legislature. See From Slave to Stale Legislator: John W.E. Thomas, Illinois 'First African American Lawmakerby David A. Joens. Southern Illinois University Press, 2012.
Bederman, Gail. Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States, 1880-1917. U of Chicago P, 1995.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., editor. Ernest Hemingway, Cub Reporter. U of Pittsburgh P, 1970.
Connell, R. W. and James W. Messerschmitt. "Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept." Gender and Society, vol. 19, no. 6, 2005, pp. 829-59
Fenton, Charles A. The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway: The Early Years. Farrar, Straus & Young, 1954.
Hemingway, Ernest. "At the End of the Ambulance Run." Ernest Hemingway, Cub Reporter, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, U of Pittsburgh P, 1970, pp. 27-33.
--. "Black Novel a Storm Center," Dateline, Toronto: 'The Complete Toronto Star Dispatches, 1920-1924. Scribner's, 1985, pp. 146-47.
--. "Dare Devil Joins Tanks." Ernest Hemingway, Cub Reporter, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, U of Pittsburgh P, 1970, pp. 54-55.
--.Dateline, Toronto: 'The Complete Toronto Star Dispatches, 1920-1924. Scribner's, 1985.
--. "Judgement of Manitou." Hemingway at Oak Park, edited by Cynthia Maziarka and Donald Vogel, Jr., Oak Park, IL, Oak Park and River Forest High School, 1993, pp. 93-94.
--. "Kerensky, the Fighting Flea." Ernest Hemingway, Cub Reporter, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, U of Pittsburgh P, 1970, pp. 15-19.
--. "A Matter of Color" Hemingway at Oak Park, edited by Cynthia Maziarka and Donald Vogel, Jr., Oak Park, IL, Oak Park and River Forest High School, 1993, pp. 95-97.
--. "Mix War, Art and Dancing." Ernest Hemingway, Cub Reporter, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, U of Pittsburgh P, 1970, pp. 56-58.
--. "Recruits for the Tanks." Ernest Hemingway, Cub Reporter, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, U of Pittsburgh P, 1970, pp. 52-53.
--. "Sepi Jingan." Hemingway at Oak Park, edited by. Cynthia Maziarka and Donald Vogel, Jr., Oak Park, IL, Oak Park and River Forest High School, 1993, pp. 98-100.
--. "Six Men become Tankers." Ernest Hemingway, Cub Reporter, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, U of Pittsburgh P, 1970, pp. 41-44.
--. "So This Is Chicago." Dateline, Toronto: The Complete Toronto Star Dispatches, 1920-1924. Scribner's, 1985, pp. 586-88.
--. "Would 'Treat 'Em Rough."' Ernest Hemingway, Cub Reporter, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, U of Pittsburgh P, 1970, pp. 49-51.
--. "You think it is pretty hot playing football." Hemingway Collection: Personal Papers, Box MS62, Folder 859, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Laroussi, Farid. Postcolonial Counterpoint-Orientalism, France, and the Maghreb. Buffalo, NY, U of Toronto P, 2016.
Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Harvard UP, 1992.
Oak Leaves. 22 August 1902, p. 8.
Oak Leaves. 2 May 1914, p. 3.
Roosevelt, Theodore. "Manhood and State-hood." Address at the Quarter-Centennial Celebration of Statehood in Colorado, Colorado Springs, 2 Aug. 1901.
Said, Edward. Humanism and Democratic Criticism. Columbia UP, 2004.
--. Orientalism. Random House, 1978.
West, Stan, Peggy Tuck Sinko, Frank Lipo with Yves Hughes, Jr., eds. Suburban Promised Land: The Emerging Black Community in Oak Park, Illinois, 1880-1980. Oak Park, IL, Soweto West Press and The Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, 2009.
Margaret E. Wright-Cleveland
Florida State University
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|Author:||Wright-Cleveland, Margaret E.|
|Publication:||The Hemingway Review|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2019|
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