Hemingway's 'In Our Time': a cubist anatomy.
I am inclined to accept Hemingway's own final evaluation, with a particular qualification that both coincides with some of the earliest critical reactions to the aesthetics of the work (specifically, that it is "cubist") and introduces a new generic term with which to discuss and examine In Our Time.(3) If, for example, Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and Joyce's Dubliners are obviously short story cycles, and if Joyce's Ulysses, on the other hand, can be seen as a cubist novel Oust as Eliot's The Wasteland can be seen as a cubist poem), then Hemingways. In Our Time is both notably similar to and different from all these works. It might most fruitfully be seen as a "cubist anatomy," when the word "anatomy" bears the same ironic sense of self-conscious organization that it does in Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism (365). Perhaps we are simply looking at the "same thing from different angles," as the "young man" from "Out of Season" remarks (IOT 99). Although his companion responds, "It doesn't make any difference," I wish to argue that our critical terminology does make a difference in terms of how we interpret the whole work and individual pieces within it.
In the glossary to his Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye defines the structure of a literary "anatomy" as "a form of prose fiction, traditionally known as the Menippean or Varronian satire and represented by Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, characterized by a great variety of subject-matter and a strong interest in ideas. In short forms it often has a cena or symposium setting and verse interludes" (365). In Our Time's alternation of the named "short stories" with the untitled "chapters" or "vignettes," which themselves dearly approach "prose poems," corresponds to what Frye here calls the "short form" of an "anatomy" as a cena or symposium.
Earlier, in the long chapter entitled "Theory of Genres," Frye describes Menippean satire--or an "anatomy"--with additional details that-also seem especially pertinent to In Our Time. "The Menippean satire," he argues, "appears to have developed out of verse satire through the practice of adding prose interludes, but we know it only as a prose form" (309). Moreover, this genre "deals less with people as such than with mental attitudes. Pedants, bigots, cranks, parVenus, virtuosi, enthusiasts, rapacious and incompetent professional men of all kinds, are handled in terms of their occupational approach to life as distinct from their social behavior" (309). We have only to think of the "senior officer" from "On the Quai at Smyrna," or the physician/father from "Indian Camp," or Krebs from "Soldier's Home," or the young "revolutionist"--or even Nick, at various moments in the total text--to realize how fitting this aspect of an " anatomy" is to In Our Time.
More provocatively, Frye asserts that at "its most concentrated," this particular genre "presents us with a vision of the world in terms of a single intellectual pattern. The intellectual structure built up from the story makes for violent dislocations in the customary logic of narrative" (such as the "dislocations" inherent in both visual and literary "cubism," I would add), "though the appearance of carelessness that results reflects only the carelessness of the reader or his tendency to judge by a novel-centered conception of fiction" (310).
In addition, Frye notes that the word "`anatomy" in Burton's title means a dissection or analysis" (as well as a "comprehensive survey of human life in one book") and that it "expresses very accurately the intellectualized approach of his form" (311). Last, but most certainly not least, Frye also says that "It is the anatomy in particular that has baffled critics, and there is hardly any fiction writer deeply influenced by it who has not been accused of disorderly conduct" (313; emphasis added).
Even this rough overview of Frye's discussion of "anatomy" as a generic form offers insights into the "dissection" or "analysis" Hemingway makes of the "intellectual pattern" and "mental attitudes" of his time. For instance, while addressing a very different question--specifically, the "authorship" of In Our Time--Paul Smith challenges Debra Moddelmog's assurances that seeing Nick Adams as the implied author of In Our Time would help answer many questions "'about the book's unity, structure, vision, and significance"
Unity and structure are old formalist terms, and they beg the same
questions they did fifty years ago: What is, so sacrosanct about
unity? Why do we fix our gaze on the structure of the collection
rather than on the individual structures of the stories? Would the
force of each of those stories be diminished if each was read as
randomly as they were written, as most of us do? (Smith 146).
Without entering into the debate about "Who Wrote Hemingway's In Our Time," I would suggest that it is unfortunately true that "most of us" read the stories within Hemingway's first long work "randomly"--or that at the very least, we tend to give primary attention to the nominal stories fisted on the title page--and that what we do NOT do, to the detriment of the book, is pay attention to the "structure of the collection" that Hemingway, certainly not Nick, would so carefully organize in its late and final versions (recasting two sketches, "The Revolutionist" and "A Very Short Story," as stories; moving "Indian Camp" to the opening position after "Up in Michigan" was censored; adding "The Battler" and positioning it between Nick's childhood and later encounter with war; deleting the final pages of "Big Two-Hearted River" that imply Nick as the author of the entire collection; and finally, adding "On the Quai at Smyrna," first as "Introduction by the Author" and then as a story named in its own right). In fact, careful attention to the aesthetics and genre of In Our Time--what I am here calling a "cubist anatomy"--in no way diminishes the individual stories but rather increases our understanding of them, while highlighting their interplay with each other and with the vignettes or "Chapters" so frequently ignored.
Seeing In Our Time as a cubist anatomy may help to answer why and how a text so initially connected to Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio would come to take such a gigantic swerve away from that literary precursor--a precursor itself wonderfully metafictional in a way that Hemingway, though few critics, may have perceived. For example, much like Hemingway's own, the title page of Winesburg, Ohio belies the unity that the actual title suggests, listing the various stories separately. However, as in the ending Hemingway first envisioned with Nick as author of In Our Time, the title page of Winesburg, Ohio also implies that all of the stories after the first one--"The Book of the Grotesque"--may have been created by the fictional "writer" of that story, who is recording all the "grotesques" in the town he knows.(4) Hemingway's well-known desire to distance himself from Anderson's obvious influence may account for Hemingway's amenability to Stein's suggestion that he alter the ending. For leaving Nick as author--after Anderson--would ironically have made Hemingway's work not novel enough.
In terms of the final--or near final-work that Hemingway had come to construct by 1925, In Our Time actually bears the most resemblance to Jean Toomer's Cane, another generically complicated work I would also describe as a "cubist anatomy." Obviously Toomer himself was indebted to Anderson, and the publishing history of Cane also has a complicated historical chronology, leading critics over the years to encounter some of the same frustrations as with In Our Time when trying to determine its generic status.(5)
Linda Wagner-Martin seems most astute in describing Cane as a "collage"--an organization she also finds before Toomer in both Eliot's The Waste Land and Joyce's Ulysses (24). Moreover, as she provocatively notes, in-March 1924, Anderson wrote to Stein (still serving as mentor to Hemingway in Paris), urging her to read Cane; given Hemingway and Stein's interaction at the time, Wagner-Martin notes, "it seems reasonable that he also knew about Toomer's book" (24).(6) Although there is still no known proof that Hemingway read this work, it is notable that Hemingway began to rework the organization of "in our time"' into In Our Time during September and October 1924--the year of Anderson's letter to Stein about Cane. Hemingway's reorganization included, among other changes, following Stein's implicit advice later that same year to delete Nick as author in the final story (see Reynolds, 41-2).
Although I agree with Wagner-Martin in seeing Cane and then, implicitly, In Our Time as collages (a basic technique of synthetic cubist paintings and writings), I disagree with her conclusion that Hemingways work is radically "less experimental" than Toomer's--from structure and theme to the author's moral position:
It [In Our Time] used only prose forms, its title was thematically
directive, and it moved alternatingly between the longer and more
subjective stories and the seemingly objective vignettes that were
based on either bull-fighting or World War I experiences. Hemingway's
structure was, in some ways, predictable, plotted, controlled, as was
to be most of his writing throughout his career).... Unlike Toomer's
work, in Hemingway's, the author's moral position was clear. (24-25)
Although Hemingway excised actual poems from In Our Time, many of his prose pieces (like Toomer's) are more accurately seen as prose poems (another cubist technique of the time). The title is no more directive than Cane; certainly the structure does not merely alternate between stories and vignettes--an important point to be discussed more fully below--nor does that structure seem predictable or even morally "clear." However, I do concur with Wagner-Martin's assertion that Cane is nonetheless somehow "integrated"--and so, I would argue, is Hemingways work as well.(7)
As curiously "integrated" albeit "fragmented" texts, both Cane and In Our Time clearly surpass and even subvert the traditional order of short story cycles, moving well into the realm of literary anatomies when 'anatomy" has the particularly subversive intent and structure Frye describes. Viewed from this generic perspective, all the elements of their "cena" or "symposia"--including the poems in Cane and the vignettes in In Our Time--become critical parts of the overall texts and not marginal asides or intrusions we can dismiss or erase. In fact, the numbered chapters of In Our Time, which do not even appear on the title page, initially pushed me to describe the whole text as a "cubist" work, for they are clearly important both to the overall tone of In Our Time and to the anatomizing" or "dissection" Hemingway makes of Nick Adams, the protagonist of most of the stories identified on the title page.
That is to say, the unnamed chapters, one of which notably includes Nick (who otherwise appears only in the titled stories), frustrate our attempts to create a "foreground" of stories, with a "background" of vignettes. Nick's unexpected appearance in "Chapter Six"--as a victim of senseless violence much like other briefly sketched characters in the interchapters--subverts, attempts to place the stories and interchapters in a hierarchy of foreground and background. This "flattens" the In Our Time collage, as in Cezanne's late work (which Hemingway admired) or in subsequent cubist paintings of Picasso, Braque, and Gris (whose work Hemingway also knew well). All "spaces" in the text--and one might add, all times--become equally important. The interchapters simply cannot be left out, nor even reduced to "introductions" to the following stories, for a complete understanding of "the time." The whole context of emasculating violence is necessary to understand Nick (the volume's most central character), just as the individual Nick and his experiences are necessary to understand the time--which includes other soldiers like "Krebs," "battlers," unknown Hungarians, and dying matadors.
The flattening effect of "Chapter Six," making all parts of the text equal--as well as the similar effect Hemingway created by recasting two of the vignettes ("The Revolutionist" and "A Very Short Story") as nominal stories--may have prompted him to print the 1930 version of In Our Time with the "Introduction by the Author" (set on the quai at Smyrna) as the actual "key" for reading the work.(8) In tone, content, and length, the "Quai" is most nearly like the book's unnamed interchapters. However, appearing on the title page first as a named "Introduction" And later as a supposed "story," the "Quai" dismantles our understandable tendency to view the chapters as introductions to the stories--well before "Chapter Six" frustrates that tendency as well.
In addition, the "Quai," set in a war following the Great War, further complicates our sense of time and chronology. What happens after the Great War involves the Great War and the stories from the years preceding it, and vice versa: the total picture of "our time" requires all "the different angles"--and all the times. There is no single authority, no single time, no single story, no single perspective--rather a simultaneous collage, if not collision, of interrelated forces at play in the text (and in reality, the text implies).
Such a jumbling of chronological development is not only cubist in its evocation of simultaneity, but also helps to answer how Nick in Chapter Six, shot in the spine and sitting with his legs sticking out, can be found subsequently in the text ("Cross Country Snow") skiing and hiking. Although Nick in the named stories does seem to move through some sort of chronological development, from childhood in "Indian Camp" to the somewhat stunned adulthood of "Big Two-Hearted River," the total text of In Our Time does not move chronologically at all, but rather evokes different senses of time--something dose to Bergson's sense of "saturated time"--to convey the complicated nature of "our time" or of modern reality.
Viewed from the perspective of its complicated publishing history, In Our Time as a cubist work seems fortuitously accidental and belated. At the level of style, however, cubism helps to explain Hemingway's rather astonishing use of repetition to achieve, ironically, not similar but differing perspectives. As a strategy, repetition clearly animated Gertrude Stein's writing, including her famous and early cubist pieces on Cezanne and Picasso.(9) Max Nanny has shown convincingly that the classic form of chiasmus describes the aesthetic composition of many Hemingway passages.
However, cubism, not chiasmus, most nearly describes the subtle but exquisite changes in perspectives Hemingway achieves through repetition in passages such as the following from "The End of Something":
He [Nick] reeled in the slack line so the line ran taut out to where
the bait rested on the sandy floor of the channel and set the click on
the reel. When a trout, feeding on the bottom, took the bait it would
run with it, taking line out of the reel in a rush and making the reel
sing with the click on" (IOT 33; emphasis mine).
In addition to repeating certain words, such as "ran" or "run," "bait," "line," etc., Hemingway deploys the almost identical phrases with subtle semantic and grammatical differences so that we get radically different perspectives from superficially similar phrases. The verb particle of "reeled in," for example, is finally not the same as the noun and preposition of "reel in." Nor does "click on" mean exactly the same thing in the two instances above.
Hemingway also achieves subtle changes in perspective through repetitions that again change both semantically and structurally, as in this example from "Cat in the Rain":
Italians came from a long way off to look up at the war monument. It
was made of bronze and glistened in the rain. It was raining. The rain
dripped from the palm trees. Water stood in pools on the gravel paths.
The sea broke in a long line in the rain (IOT 91; emphasis added).
The last sentence of this paragraph--"Across the square in the doorway of the cafe a waiter stood looking out at the empty square" (IOT 91)--merges; our perspective of the waiter at a distance "across the square" with the perspective of the waiter himself, looking back across-the square. Hemingway also tells us that in "good weather there was always an artist with his easel," and then changes that artistically self-conscious note in the next sentence to "Artists liked the way the palms grew," etc. At the level of style, then, simultaneity and multiplicity of perspectives (key characteristics of both visual and verbal cubism) are very much a part of Hemingways earliest crafted techniques.
Such multiplicity is found not only in narrative voice(s) throughout In Our Time, but in narrative voice(s) within individual stories and chapters as well. For instance, in the piece that would come to be called "On the Quai at Smyrna":
The strange thing was, he said, how they screamed every night at
midnight. I do not know why they screamed at that time. We were in the
harbor and they were all on the pier and at midnight they started
screaming. (IOT 11).
Here it is initially impossible to determine if "he" and "I" are the same person (because Hemingway does not use quotation marks until the end of the paragraph), if "we," represents the combined "he" and "I" or the "I" narrator and some other group with which he is aligned. In addition, it is impossible at the outset to determine who "they" are or what is causing the screaming.
As in a cubist painting, the individual pieces have to be put together before understanding the subject. Thus, the implicit fragmentation above degenerates appropriately to the actual fragmentation and objectification of the screaming women: "The, worst, he said, were the women with dead babies.... Wouldn't give them up.... Had to take them away finally" (IOT 11). In fact, the last "picture" of the "Quai" is one of literal fragmentation: "All those mules with their forelegs broken pushed over into the shallow water" (12). By the end of the story multiplicity and disjunction have been radically enhanced by our almost violent separation from the opening narrator, who regards the scenes described as "a most pleasant business," and by our own revulsion at the scene finally understood.
Such strategies can be readily found throughout the volume, from "Indian Camp" through the various interchapters to "Big Two-Hearted River." In "Big Two-Hearted River," however, Hemingway uses multiplicity of style in a way that is integral both to understanding the story on its own--to go back to Paul Smith's opening questions--and to understanding In Our Time as a whole--to go back to my opening answer. Although what follows is equally true of numerous passages in the story, I would like to concentrate on three passages from "Big Two-Hearted-River" and what they suggest about interpreting the story on its own before relating the conclusion of the story, in a cubist fashion, to Passages that precede "Big Two-Hearted River" in the larger, symposium-like anatomy of In Our Time.
In "Big Two-Hearted River" Hemingway uses a cubist aesthetic--a subtle multiplicity of styles-as ethical and interpretative markers in a way that hearkens back to, but totally modernizes, earlier narrative intrusions (as practiced by Jane Austen or Nathaniel Hawthorne, or even Edith Wharton, his near contemporary). Recognizing the multiple perspectives at work stylistically may change the long-standing interpretation of Nick's achieving some sort of balance, if not actual growth, in the final story of In Our Time--a perspective voiced most notably by Frank Scafella, who sees Nick engaging in a literal "heart time," or a ritual healing of a heart and spirit broken by the violence of war (77-90).
While I certainly agree that Nick--and other characters within In Our Time--have been damaged by war (and other kinds of cultural violence), Hemingway's style in the final version of "Big-Two Hearted River" undercuts the possibility that Nick will ever "fish the swamp," no matter how many days are forthcoming. That redemptive moment is not in "our time." Yet it requires all three passages discussed below to make dear how ruthlessly Hemingway undermines--and even satirizes--Nick (and presumably actual people of his own time) as someone damaged to the extent of retreating from all human sympathy and bonding and, finally, even from language itself.
Toward the end of the story's first section, after leaving Seney and the charred ground, after finding the river and making camp, Hemingway rather deviously allows us to be subjectively aware of Nick's mind and thoughts in a supposedly very objective language:
Already there was something mysterious and homelike. Nick was happy
as he crawled inside the tent. He had not been unhappy all day. This was
different though. Now things were done. There had been this, to do. Now
it was done. It had been a hard trip. He was very tired. That was done.
What are we to think of a character who cannot--or more accurately, in contrast to the well-known Benjy of Faulkner's later work--will not think past the most simple of simple sentences? This is a character who chooses to block out feeling, his own or that of others--and more specifically a character who blocks out thoughts, blocks out language, and even blocks out "the need to write" (IOT 134).
But lest we confuse Hemingway as author with this shallow protagonist, Hemingway as author deliberately intrudes into the text--not with commentary, but with style, flourishing his ability to write imaginatively, with depth, with complication. Hence the marvelous description of cooking breakfast at the beginning of the next section, where the author--not Nick at all--perceives Nick's controlled rituals through imaginative metaphor, a deliberately creative act set precisely against Nick's typical foreclosures:
[H]e put a handful of coffee in the pot and dipped a lump of grease out of
a can and slid it sputtering across the hot skillet. On the smoking
skillet, he poured smoothly the buckwheat batter. It spread like lava, the
grease spitting sharply. Around the edges the buckwheat cake began to firm,
then brown, then crisp. The surface was bubbling slowly to porousness.
(IOT 146; emphasis added)
The italicized portions of the quotation represent the kind of language that Nick does not or cannot possess. Set against Nick's earlier reductive language, this passage shows Hemingway as author demonstrating that, unlike Nick, he likes to think, he likes to feel, he likes to write. Against his somewhat risky description of pancakes erupting like Kilauea, Hemingway has Nick conclude the same paragraph stylistically and reductively with, "I won't try and flop it, he thought" (IOT 14 6). The almost ruthless "dissection" of Nick's emotional sterility, versus the demonstration of the author's versatility, seems especially clear in this instance.
The stylistic discrepancies in these two passages (and others) set up the complicated ending and offer signals for how to interpret Nick's choosing not to fish the swamp. The paragraph immediately before the story's conclusion begins with Nick's reductive kind of language, moves into Hemingway's more sophisticated analysis of Nick's situation, and then moves back to Nick's determined and guarded truncations:
Nick did not want to go in there now. He felt a reaction against deep
wading with the water deepening up under his armpits, to hook big trout
in places impossible to land them. In the swamp the banks were bare, the
big cedars came together overhead, the sun did not come through, except
in patches; in the fast deep water, in the half light, the fishing would be
tragic. In the swamp fishing was a tragic adventure. Nick did not want it.
He did not want to go down the stream any further today" (IOT 155;
Or ever, we might add. The first and last three sentences are written in Nick's typical grammatical and syntactical style' of unchanging and cryptic repression. In between, Hemingway as stylist lets us see, in contrast to Nick's fears, how beautiful and desirable depth and risk, experience and language, can be. If Nick has given up the need to write, if Nick cannot respond to his environment, if Nick is someone who both factually and figuratively cannot fish the swamp, Hemingway writes from within the swamp, within language, and within thoughts and feelings.
Although we might notice these stylistic clues without appealing to the cubist aesthetic, the multiplicity of styles engaged almost simultaneously does encourage multiple perspectives on the scene in a cubist fashion, forcing readers to fit perspectives together to see the whole picture and not just Nick's reductive version. Hemingway may be prompting us to read in just this way when, in one sentence only, he switches from an external narrator referring to "he" (or Nick) to the personal "I" (presumably Nick)--the only use of "I" in the story: "By God, he [the trout lost] was a big one. By God, he was the biggest one I ever heard of" (IOT 151). At the same time, this multiplicity of perspectives also allows us to see the subtle "dissection" Hemingway makes of both his main character and his "time."
Whatever the history of In Our Time's earlier versions, by the time Hemingway was composing and then radically revising "Big Two-Hearted River," he knew it was critical to the concluding sections of the volume he was crafting. As Frank Scafella rightly notes, though with a much more positive interpretation of Nick's character development or recovery than I can support, swamps appear in several other important moments in In Our Time. Scafella says that the swamp is "a factual memory in Nick's life and a feature of the terrain that he must fish out of love," concluding that the swamp appears in numerous stories from "The End of Something" through "The Battler" and the like, "stories that logically follow Nick's experience in `Big Two-Hearted River'" (89).
And yet, those stories--which appear both earlier in the text and in chronological time--do not "Logically follow" unless we retain Nick as author, something Hemingway finally does not do. What does follow logically, from In Our Time as a whole, and from Nick's own somewhat contorted chronological development within it, is that he is likely to remain emotionally repressed, intellectually scarred, truly damaged like others of "our time"--and not just from the war, but from the seemingly innocent structures in place since before the war, structures that perhaps gave rise to the war, as well as to other forms of physical and spiritual violations noted from "Indian Camp" onward.
The story that most directly supports this interpretation is, fittingly enough, "The End of Something." At the story's end, after having broken up with Marge (seemingly in collusion with Bill), after beginning to regret his decision (a regret he cannot fully articulate to Bill) and refusing "to talk about it," Nick is suddenly "happy"--a word prominent in "Big Two-Hearted River"--precisely when he thinks he can keep Marge "in reserve" or beyond emotional commitment one way or the other: "He felt happy. Nothing was finished. Nothing was ever lost" (IOT 48). In tone and sentence structure, these lines, from a slightly drunk and certainly narcissistic adolescent, are surprisingly--or not so surprisingly--similar to the internal thoughts of the adult and very damaged Nick on the river.
Other words and phrases entwine the endings of these two stories. At the end, with Bill's father "down in the swamp," Nick and Bill escape to a different outdoors where "The wind blew everything like that away," where "the Marge business was no longer so tragic" (49). Avoiding the Marge tragedy, just as he avoids the swamp, in a wind blowing "it out of his head," Nick concludes that the possibility of seeing her in the future "was a good thing to have in reserve" (48)--a possibility we know Nick will never avail himself of, just as we know at the end of the "Big Two-Hearted River" that he will never metaphorically fish the swamp. Or as Reynolds notes in relation to the "rest of the country" by 1930--at the end, Nick has come to realize the pathos of his situation.(10)
This interpretation begins to move well beyond reading the stories on their own to reading them in relation to each other--something to be gained, I would suggest, in answer to Paul Smith's opening questions, by regarding In Our Time not as a collection of individual stories, or as a short story cycle, or even as a "novel" (however experimental) but as an anatomy specifically and self-consciously critiquing the multivarious and generically complicated structures that, in reality, have led to the horrible denouement of our actual "time". Certainly the pessimistic endings of "Big Two-Hearted River" and "The End of Something" correspond in tone and theme to the endings of "Indian Camp," "The Battler," "Mr. and Mrs. Elliot"--to any number of the stories, as well as to the interchapters, with their devastating scenes of war and bullfighting. Taken as whole, nothing in In Our Time prepares us for the emotional redemption of Nick, the child victim of his father and his father's possible sexism and racism in "Indian Camp" and the adult victim of war.
The ending we have for Nick in "Big Two-Hearted River," coupled with "L'Envoi" (which brings us full circle to an imprisoned king without authority who like "all Greeks" wants to be an American in a highly ironic "time"), seals the genre, for me at least, as an anatomy, with specifically cubist techniques governing both its, purpose and aesthetics. The total work is self-conscious; multivarious in its genres, full of ideas, and--like Frye's own work ironically so named--fully conscious of both its critical belatedness and simultaneous on-going pertinence.
This last point brings me to another question Paul Smith asked of Debra Moddelmog that I prescinded until this moment: regarding the "self-reflexivity" she finds created by Nick as implied author, Moddelmog asks, "`Are we trying to make him "one of us'"--to which Smith replies, "First, yes, we are trying to make Hemingway `one of us,' as every critical generation has, and has to, to earn its critical stripes" (146; citing Moddelmog's letter).(11) I would like to argue, however, that Hemingway had already made himself--or his text--of "our time." If, as Roland Barthes once noted, criticism is always belated, the "criticism" constituted by In Our Time is belated--and consciously so. The final product is no longer written, in any real or fictionalized sense, in its time--however much it may have begun that Way. The final Nick of the collection is not the author, but the ironically realized "critic" in praxis of all that has gone before. The "Quai" is not merely the introduction, but an assessment of the emotional distancing, sexism, and racism that caused events earlier (as in "Indian Camp" or even the war scenes in the interchapters), and led to the "Quai" itself. By the time of its final construction, In Our Time was well into our time, a period when the ethical dimensions of literary texts and questions about what makes them "culturally binding" have become paramount.
Not surprisingly, recent critics, in addition to Moddelmog, find an affinity between Hemingway's In Our Time and our own self-conscious critical work (including, for example, that of James Phelan).(12) However, even here Hemingway anticipated these critics--and Northrop Frye, whose term I have invoked. For if Frye produced a self-conscious "fictional prose" to describe an anatomy of criticism, Hemingway well before him provided an even more complicated critical anatomy--self-conscious in its fictionality and its mixed genres--of the very problems that would lead to both his time and our own. The "dissection," it seems to me, is complete from the horrors of "Quai" through the specificities of "Indian Camp" to the indifferences toward women in the rain, matadors in the mud, battlers in the night, and wops in the distance.
These, and many other instances as the text moves back and forth between pre-and post-war "tragedies," suggest (with many closely focused scrutinies on numerous actual bodies or anatomies, and many removed panoramas), as Edith Wharton well knew, that the "age of innocence" was not so innocent. Its legacies of domination, violence, indifference (even racism and sexism) comprise the anatomy of Hemingway's Our Time as he first wrote it, as he revised it, and as we continue to see it.
Seen as a "cubist anatomy," In Our Time emerges as a deeply ethical text, radically concerned with the way we see and will see the world. Hemingway seems to have wanted to wake us to "our time"--both his own and that of a critical world he clearly saw burgeoning. Ironically and belatedly, Hemingway critiqued with his astonishingly accurate anatomy the problems, the promises, and the pressures that would eventually sentence or conscript his time--a period rapidly becoming our time as well. Certainly not a mere collection of random stories, In Our Time methodically And even ruthlessly presents us with a violent world, full of emotional and physical abuses, racist and sexist denigrations, failed male (if not patriarchal) posturings, and--both as cause and consequence--military escalations on a global scale that seem disturbingly (however brilliantly and aesthetically given) altogether too much a part of our actual--as well as our critical--time. If Hemingway was not aware of this aspect of his writing when composing the first stories in 1923, by 1925--and most certainly by 1930 when he added the "Quai" as an "Introduction--he clearly was. And this is one of the reasons (in addition to his famous style) we continue to read--not the postulated stories of Nick Adams--but the actual artistry of Ernest Hemingway.
(1.) More than one critic has noted the impact of the visual arts on Hemingway's work; but see, in particular, Miller, Nagel, and Plath. For a thorough discussion of the changes Hemingway made in the manuscript over its long evolution, see Reynolds; for a discussion of Nick as the deleted but implied author, see Moddelmog.
(2.) Hemingway attributes "pretty good unity" to In Our Time in a 1924 letter to Edmund Wilson (cited in Baker 26). Harbour Winn summarizes various generic terms applied to In Our Time, noting that D. H. Lawrence called it a "fragmentary novel" in 1936 and Theodore Bardacke an "autobiographical novel" in 1950. Other critics have seen it as a short story cycle or literary hybrid.
(3.) As early as 1925, Paul Rosenfeld described In Our Time as "cubist." In recent years, this term (used to describe the aesthetics, not the genre, of the work) has resurfaced--from my own earlier speculation that In Our Time might be most successfully viewed as a "cubist novel" (paper given at the International Hemingway Conference, Boston, July 1990)--to Vaughn's suggestion that the work "may be the first instance in our language of visual prose" (5). However, cubist literature (both prose and poetry) was already a widespread phenomenon in the United States and in Europe well before Hemingway's publication (see my Part of the Climate), and in that sense In Our Time is truly part of Hemingway's own artistic climate.
(4.) Anderson's title page centers, in capital letters, "THE TALES AND THE PERSONS," and then centers under that, in italics, The Book of the Grotesque, which focuses on "The writer." Individual stories comprising the rest of the volume follow in regular type and flush left, as if constituting "The Book" the writer above has written.
(5.) The Norton Critical Edition of Cane reprints numerous letters between Anderson and Toomer and offers differing critical perspectives on this enigmatic work.
(6.) Wagner-Martin cites Anderson's letter to Stein from Item 92, Hemingway Collection, Kennedy Library, Boston, MA.: "There is a book by an American negro--Jean Toomer--called Cane [sic] I would like you to see. Real color and splash--no fake negro this time, I'm sure. Do look it up--Boni & Liveright."
(7.) Wagner-Martin points out that "Each part of Cane reflects an integrative order, and the fact that Toomer included poems he had written earlier--seeing their usefulness to the total structure of Cane--suggests that he saw the process of "writing" this book as an assemblage" (21)--a remark that applies, with only minor adjustment, to Hemingway's work.
(8.) I am indebted to Sandra Hayes for suggesting that "On the Quai at Smyrna" may be the literal "key" to reading In Our Time, although she would argue that it is a surrealist text.
(9.) Stein's cubist piece entitled "Pablo Picasso" (from the 1912 Special issue of Camera Work, which also included her cubist piece on Matisse) is reprinted in Brogan (33-5). All three of her verbally cubist "portraits" (on. Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso) appear in her Selected Writings (329-35).
(10.) See Reynolds 48: "Beside the river, half afraid to face the swamp where fishing will be tragic, Nick Adams has nothing left to tell us about his, era or its pitfalls. Unlike Gabriel Conroy at the end of Joyce's `The Dead,' Nick is not in tears, but the two remain first cousins nonetheless. Both men, anchoring as they do the collections that house them, have come to realize the pathos of their situations."
(11.) Debra Moddelmog, undated letter to Paul Smith and panelists at the International Hemingway Conference, Boston 1990.
(12.) Drawing upon Peter Rabinowitz, Phelan conjoins critical theory and dose reading, making a careful distinction between the "authorial" and "narrative" audiences--and their very different assumptions--that is extremely revealing of many of Hemingway's finest texts.
Anderson, Sherwood. Winesburg Ohio. 1919. New York; Viking, 1969.
Baker, Sheridan. Ernest Hemingway. An Introduction and Interpretation. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1967.
Brogan, Jacqueline Vaught. Part of the Climate: American Cubist Poetry. Berkeley: U of California P, 1991.
Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism 1957. New York: Atheneum Press, 1967.
Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. Stories by Ernest Hemingway. 1930, New York. Scribner's, 1970.
Kennedy, J. Gerald. Ed. Modem Short Story Sequences: Composite Fictions and Fictive Communities. New York: Cambridge UP, 1995.
Moddelmog, Debra A."The Unifying Consciousness of a Divided Conscience: Nick Adams as Author of In Our Time." American Literature 60.4 (1988):591-610.
Nanny, Max. "Hemingway's Architecture of Prose: Chiastic Patterns and Their Narrative Functions." North Dakota Quarterly 64.3 (1997):157-76.
Phelan, James. "What Hemingway and a Rhetorical Theory of Narrative Can Do for Each Other: The Example of `My Old Man.'" The Hemingway Review 12.2 (Spring 1993):1-14.
Rabinowitz, Peter. Before Reading. Narrative Conventions and the Politics of Interpretation. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1987.
Reynolds, Michael. "Hemingway's In Our Time: The Biography of a Book." In Kennedy 31-51.
Rosen, Kenneth. Ed. Hemingway Repossessed. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1994.
Rosenfeld, Paul. "Tough Earth." New Republic 1925, in Ernest Hemingway. Six Decades of Criticism. Ed. Linda Wagner. Michigan State UP, 1987. 61-3.
Scafella, Frank. "`Nothing' in `Big Two-Hearted River.'" In Hemingway: Up in Michigan Perspectives. Ed. Frederic J. Svoboda and Joseph J. Waldmeir. East Lansing: U of Michigan P, 1995.77-90.
Smith, Paul. "Who Wrote Hemingway's In Our Time?" In Rosen 143-50.
Stein, Gertrude. Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein. Ed. Carl Van Vechten. New York: Vintage, 1990.
Toomer, Jean. Cane. 19 23. New York. W.W. Norton, 1988.
Vaughn, Elizabeth Dewberry. "In Our Time and Picasso." In Rosen 3-8.
Wagner-Martin, Linda. "Toomer's Cane as Narrative Sequence." In Kennedy 19-34.
Winn, Harbour. "Hemingway's In Our Time: `Pretty Good Unity'." The Hemingway Review 9.2 (Spring 1990):124-40.
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|Title Annotation:||Ernest Hemingway|
|Author:||Brogan, Jacqueline Vaught|
|Publication:||The Hemingway Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1998|
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