Complicated relationships are inevitable; they are involved. This book tells the story of entanglements. Hemingway has written this book with a complexity of relative friendship which disregards contented cooperation in deference to living a spontaneous lifestyle. We don’t discuss indiscretion, it festers and scars. Moral dilemma is non-participating, but it is a thematic undercurrent for Hemingway.
War, involved participation in positions of authority or class, destination, language, linguistics, a characterization of service through personification, all of these are his utilities for the capture of rapt attentive involvement with this author. This story involves all of it, it is a snarl of wounds without remedy of solution.
War is avoidable, (p. 24/25), « … the war… was in reality a calamity for civilization, and perhaps would’ve been better avoided. » He infers soldiering is an heroic effort that is best, and perhaps only, aptly endured (withstood, recovered from) with lucidity and foresight. He hands over his injuries with no reluctant antagonism. War is hell, and while it is a soldier’s hell-ish involvement and is avoidable, it is also unforeseen and best shed.
Chapter 5 – everything that happens in Paris, happens at night. It is good to at least know of your partner when you dance with the devil. Hemingway knows social graces and is a writer’s absolution.
He uses real-life names, celebrities of his day, as a way to keep his story grounded with all artistic temperament of this literary era, (p. 49), « Mencken hates Paris, I believe. So many young men get their likes and dislikes from Mencken. » His writing never veers from his direction and he always knows where he needs to go. He moves forward, disallowing descriptive imaginings to romanticize the effort, (p. 28), « Georgette was dancing with the tall blond youth, who danced big-hippily, carrying his head on one side, his eyes lifted as he danced. » This is Paris, it’s romantic already; this is Hemingway it’s romantic when you’re involved. He teases emotional preoccupation, (p. 71), she said « Good night, darling. I won’t see you again. We kissed standing at the door. She pushed me away. »
Hemingway speaks above the words, he is the literary purpose within these pages. His narrator is the primary subject in this story, Jake Barnes. He is American, a professional and a writer, living in Paris. He is not part of the social circle, the literary center of these times. He is the indignant mouthpiece as one who reads and is inspired by reading, then finds journalistic livelihood as a monetary leg-up into society. He discusses society as a consideration, it evolves. The Count, Lady Ashley’s flirtation with nobility, is the appearance of an economic evolution, where reigning noble entitlement meets a history destroyed by hostility, (p. 66), « I have been in seven wars and four revolutions, » the Count invites the shock of humilitude. For Hemingway there is always someone with perspective for stability, they never seem to grasp Jake’s direction.
His characterizations are a list of pitfalls:
- Bill is a debt, the personification of baggage
- Brett is the invitation into society
- Mike is the unrestrained, the loose cannon without the screen of conversational inhibition
- Lastly, the forgotten, Robert Cohn, is a regret. Robert Cohn (he requires both names to suggest familiarity) is the nagging alternative, the alter-perspective. This guy is the idea you can’t shake off or be rid of. He’s the advocate for distraction, and is typically dismissed, and only occassionally is he recognized, (p. 155), « We all felt good and we felt healthy, and I felt quite friendly to Cohn. You could not be upset about anything on a day like (this). »
This is a generation built to experience difference; to sight-see and to be there in the moment. To Jake, money is no object, (p. 96/97, and many others). He understands the power and authority of finance. His is the guideline for prosperous well-being while others of his circle are comparatively negligent. Jake is the big spender, not realizing that spending isn’t the easiest route. He gets where he’s going, though he is always disenchanted or disappointed, (p. 152), « I thought I had paid for everything… No idea of retribution or punishment. Just exchange of values. You gave up something and got something else. » Since this life is fleeting, they will have no cares, (p. 235), « Don’t worry about money, » Mike said, « You can pay for the car… I’ll send my share, » and we here, all of us, are good for our debts is his conviction.
Hemingway writes from experience, where he writes is where he’s been. He compares in order to suggest. To define ‘clean’ one needs a disadvantage of filth, (p.97), « I saw a cockroach on the parquet floor that must have been about 3 inches long… (it) must have come in from the garden. It really was an awfully clean hotel. » He has generous depth of understanding, what he sees is made anew through his wealth of exposure, (p. 96), « Bayonne is a nice town. It is like a very clean Spanish town… ».
His writing is a class unto itself, (p. 71), « She kissed the Count and put her hand on his shoulder to keep him from standing up. » Rather than ‘declarative’ as his literary constituents have suggested, this is not a sentence, this is class. He may have said, « She kissed the Count, leaving her hand on his shoulder… » and further, « suggesting (or to suggest) he needn’t stand. » Excluding the obvious familiarly feminine style my alternative evokes, the more important aspect is in his word distinction which is invested with his class or station in life. He dismisses necessary imagery as uninventive.
He sees distance; the horizon is forever, (p. 98), « You couldn’t see the sea. It was too far away. You could see only hills and more hills, and you knew where the sea was. » He depicts time as there and gone, « The next day Pedro Romero did not fight… The next day there was no bull-fight scheduled… all day and all night the fiesta kept on. » The next chapter begins the third day, (p. 174), « I walked out beyond the town to look at the weather… The flags on the square hung wet… and the streets wet and dark and deserted; yet the fiesta kept up without any pause. »
He describes the ‘clip’ of a conversation, « He asked me how many times I had seen him in the ring. I told him only three. It was really only two, but I did not want to explain after I had made the mistake. » He is a writer with the gift of social grace, he is a gentleman with relative objectivity.
His descriptions are simplicity. Beauty is subtle, (p. 234), « There was the green of the headlands, the white, red-roofed villas, patches of forest…, » he then creates a visual border for the senses, « … and the ocean… with… tide…and (the) water curling… along the beach. »
He writes that all language communicates necessarily, irrespective of a native authentic tongue. Hearing and speaking are separate skills. People are resourceful with language, and companionable people are expressive. He is genteel.
When he’s made it as far as he wished to go, « I can stay another week. I think I’ll go as far as San Sebastian, » (p. 232). His destination was intentional.
This is a book about complicated relationships, and this is just one story. All story’s conclude, and not all story’s are unexpected. The last page he acknowledges the frailty of species: Women need men in many more and different ways than men need women. He saves Lady Ashley as a courtesy; he is masculine and he keeps his position within society. Gentlemen are invested with rigor should formal chivalry be of necessity to a lady’s weaknesses, and « Isn’t it pretty to think so? »
A perfect title, he is the author, and this book has one. The only truth we have is that the sun will rise, and that each day beholds a fresh beginning.