Masculinity In Hemingways In Our Time Literature Essay
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Published: Tue, 15 Mar 2016
Masculinity can be defined as the condition or quality of being masculine, in the past which is traditionally masculinity was considered to be the characteristic of a man or male. Ernest Hemingway has written so many books among them In Our Time which is a collection of many stories which focuses on this theme of masculinity. The book captures the great influence of war with the patterns of the acts of people before war, during the war, and also after the war from the beginning of this book to the very end of the book. It is highlighted that it is always important that the male persons in the society obtain their value of being masculine. It is described as though being masculine is a duty which must be kept at task, to be recaptured or proven at all times.
This theme of masculinity is able to tie all the stories together in this book of Hemingway, making this theme of masculinity to be a major theme. In a short story titled “Indian Camp,” all the eyes of the characters are on one doctor rather than being on the Indian woman who was in labor. The male doctor takes over the role of child birth into his hands and he operates on the woman in labor. This male doctor does not give this woman any option of giving birth naturally, but he goes ahead to operate on her. This woman therefore gives birth successfully through a Caesarian section. We find the theme of masculinity well represented in this part of the story because this male doctor decided to operate on the woman although he did not have the required anesthetic to ease the pain that this woman was already experiencing. Afterwards after the baby was delivered successfully, we find the doctor, Uncle George and Nick’s father celebrating the birth of the childâ€¦â€¦â€¦â€¦./////////
The collection of the short stories by Hemingway in his book In Our Time, we find that it follows a character named Nick Adams. We start by finding him as a young boy during the Indian Camp and later we follow him into adulthood in the other two parts. We find Nick learning and developing the main facts of this life. Nick is shown to be a character that changes his lifestyle and behavior due to the effects of war in various levels. Though Hemingway does not mention the war, he uses these stories in order to express various emotions and effects caused by war. Nick’s father wants Nick to learn more about life through the experiences that they go through together. For example’ when the Indian man finally commits suicide, the father to Nick does not want him to find out because he believed that any man who would commit suicide is not courageous enough to face life. Nick’s father did not want Nick to learn such things. However, the father to Nick did not comment on this issue and this is a very strong sense of silent masculinity. Later in the book we find Nick opting to go out with his father rather than answering his own mother who was calling out for him.
After the incident of suicide of the Indian man,, the behavior of Nick changes and he looks to his father for further explanation of what has happened in the suicide case and also comfort him. This incident scars Nick a lot not even like the father had thought and the fact that he had witnessed suicide was disturbing enough at Nick’s young age and this would restrain the psychological development of Nick. Nick was almost sure that he would not die at the end of the story. From this we can conclude that though he had witnessed the death first hand, he still did not understand death fully. This is the first part of introduction to this theme of masculinity in the story and also how he is going to struggle with it throughout the story and his life.
The father to Nick stormed into the typically known female situation of giving birth and he changed it to be male dominated area or environment. This is where starts appreciating the masculine life that he would lead other than femininity. The three of the Adam’s family live in their different worlds. We find the mother to Nick lying in a room, the blinds drawn, and she is surrounded by so many Christian Science books. The father to Nick is cleaning his gun intently rather than having any meaningful and important and meaningful conversations with his only wife who is Nick’s mother. The father to Nick does not even want to answer any question that the wife would ask and asks and in case he is forced by circumstances to answer, he lies to her. This father to Nick assumes that the wife will not understand the reasoning that he had when he was arguing outside. This is a show case of masculinity in the family by Nick’s father.
The wife who is Nick’s mother has religious demands for the husband to always avoid losing his temper and this tells us that she does not want her husband to be some stereotypical protective and aggressive male. The Christian science religion that Nick’s mother totally believes in does not believe in the use of medicine, and this means that Nick’s mother does not have any respect towards the work of her husband. Therefore we find Nick’s father deciding to out hunting, to the environment where he could express his levels of masculinity. Nick also decides to follow his father into the hunting sprees, and this tells us that the young Nick has started showing interest in the male to male interaction. This means that the young Nick looks down on the male to female interaction especially with his mother. The masculinity that is very clear in this story can also be found at the end of the story when the young Nick is still calling out his father so that he could follow him around and learn more from him.
The family of Adams comprising of the father, mother and Nick should interact more amongst themselves and this would help Nick to develop much more psychologically. Nick is still treated as a young kid and therefore he tends to act like one. The father should be able to teach the young man to become a responsible man.
Nick is also taught to prefer the masculine life rather than the feminine life. Toughness is one of the characteristics of masculinity that Nick is taught by the father. There is also the strong believing that through the bull ring men or the male species are made. There is a male child in a bull-fighting vignette submits himself to the code of this ring and he is able to kill five times where he reaches his majority. This child had already made it into manhood and the crowd was overwhelmed and they threw and hollered things into the bull ring out of excitement. This is how seriously the quality of masculinity was valued in the community (Ernest 83). This also symbolizes masculinity because a man should make himself the master of his small arena; in the houses, hotels, camps, bull-rings, clearings and bedrooms.
Such ritual ceremonies and arenas are very rich in importance and significance. The physical characteristics sanctions in the bull-ring and also the rituals carried out there are enough to show how masculinity is valued in most communities. The empty spaces should be made into ordered spaces which provide the necessary boundaries by which potentially chaotic action should become comprehensible structures. The small arena allows the men to show their mastery over all other creatures and also over themselves (Leo 230).
The five stories about Nick Adams deal very keenly with familial, cultural and also gender conflicts which are central to the collection of Hemingway. We find that Nick is initiated into adult men world through death and blood.
In the story titled “The End of Something” we find Nick and the reactions that he had towards relationships which would help us to bring out the theme of masculinity. When the story is coming to an end, we find Nick breaking up with his girlfriend named Marjorie. Nick says that he is bored with his life and therefore the two could not continue relating and staying together. Due to the past life of Nick, he was not ready to have relationships with women even when he was of age. Nick is also not ready to live the traditional life that Marjorie expects him to. This shows that masculinity on the part of Nick especially because he is not ready to change.
Nick has not developed well and therefore he can not commit and communicate at the time that he should have known to communicate. They were trying to catch fish but it could not bite on the line and this signifies that Nick was trying to inform Marjorie that it was not yet time for commitment especially for him. Nick was not ready to marry and settle down and he was also not ready to give up on his masculine life. This shows his value for the masculinity.
Nick also has an interaction with one of his friends named Bill in the story titled “the three day blow”. The two friends spend much time together but most of it was spent in drinking. At the same time Nick was still questioning the decision that he had made of breaking up with Marjorie. This story titled “the three day blow” represents a time in the life of Nick where only the most important things mattered and were necessary.
For these two friends, Nick and Bill, the most significant and important thing that would remain was to be their masculinity and also their love of games and sports. In order for Nick to become the manly, tough man, he had to put away or throw away the emotions he had towards Marjorie completely out of his system. His friend Bill attempts to convince him that he had made the correct decision of not wanting to marry. However, this is the biggest struggle that Nick has of deciding if he wants to become a family man or a man’s man. Nick is undergoing such hard times attempting to make this decision because of the power of masculinity. Nick has to decide on the type of person that he would want to become and also the decisions concerning whether life includes domesticity, love and marriage.
The two friends Nick and Bill do not want to face their lives and make the decisions that they needed to because of the masculinity aspect in them and therefore they decide to be completely drunk with alcohol and then go out on hunting sprees. Nick however as we already know is running away from the responsibility of making chief decisions in his own life. Afterwards, Nick is taken to another place in his own rites of passage. This is in the story titled “the battler”. In the previous stories Nick is in his own hometown where he does not develop but in this case he has to develop. In this story we find Nick taking a long journey which is to signify the internal progress that he has made through the physical indication. It is a clear indication of Nick in a war. Nick is able to learn more about life from a beating that he receives from a man who was in the same train with him. This man meets a crazy boxer named Ad Francis who offers various lessons to Nick. This Ad Francis is a tough and therefore Nick feels that he has to be tough like him. This kind of toughness is a part of masculinity which Nick is on the road to attain.
The man named Ad Francis has been made crazy by a woman and therefore Nick is warned against getting very close to women who would make him to be dependent on them for money or also be crazy for love like this man. However, it was the decision of Nick on whether to take the ideas that he was being given of manliness. Towards the end of the book we find Nick again in the story titled “Big two hearted river: part I” where we find Nick returning home to the old fishing ground slightly after the war. Upon reaching home, Nick is introduced to all the issues that all men should face after they return from war. This is the time when he found his home abandoned and burnt. This is a similar feeling that the most veterans have to face after returning from the fighting battles. This is masculinity because most of these veterans are male and they never find their homes as they had left them. The homes are not as cheerful and innocent as they were before hand. Nick is also left all alone because the people who had not gone to war could never understand what Nick was going through. This is a good exercise of masculinity because Nick can now take put up with the solitude.
The second part of this story titled “big two hearted river: part II” is a light hearted story. We find Nick attempting to enjoy his life by camping and fishing. Nick now shows masculinity in all the dealings that he goes through. He is now tough, courageous and ready to take risks and responsibilities. Nick sets up a small camp and in this camp he keeps telling himself that it is a good place and a good camp (Ernest 147). Nick is also ready to be happy just by the fact that he is alive. Nick takes his last form of combat when he is able to fight with a huge fish. These battles however are not violent like the ones that he had been used to before in the wars.
From this fight we can conclude that Nick and the big fish are the two hearts of this big river which makes the battle bring them close together other than much further apart. The two are unable to connect because they are both male. After all that Nick has gone through, he still did not allow women to get into his life. He still believed that there are successful unisons with the females in the masculine life. We therefore can conclude that Nick has not yet accepted the traditional ways of living and the way they work out. This is an achievement of the masculine self-reliance through sheltering himself from the rest of the world of human complication. Nick shuts out civilization from his life and even starts his own life in solitude and this is in an attempt to preserve masculinity.
This book titled “in our time” especially in this story “big two hearted river” focuses on the aggressive fishing expeditions by Nick that pit these heroic male protagonists against the nature. Violence also that we find in this book are associated with the entire heroic male who are engaged in the bloody hunting expeditions. We however know and understand that violence is synonymous with masculinity. The women who attempt to engage in violence are finally termed as killers or worse even as destroyers of men.
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