Murray, Don, 1917-||Fox, Arnold B.
M.A. (Master of Arts)
Department of English
Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961||Suicide
Circumstances surrounding the death of Ernest Miller Hemingway recall the suicide of his father, Dr. Clarence E. Hemingway, who shot himself in 1928. The fact that the manner of death was strikingly similar leads to a question about the emotional effect which the elder Hemingway’s suicide had on his famous son. Since Hemingway admitted that he thought of his writing as a therapeutic process which helped him to adjust to shocks and to put tragedies into their proper perspective, it seems logical that the most effective examination of Hemingway’s attitudes toward suicide should be based on his works. As preparation for this paper, the complete works of Ernest Hemingway have been searched for references to suicide. When the results of examination are interpreted, it becomes apparent that Hemingway struggled for approximately ten years with the moral dilemma posed by his father’s act. The full-length works Death in the Afternoon and To Have and Have Hot as well as the stories "A Clean, Well-lighted Place," "Fathers and Sons," and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" show Hemingway vacillating between condemnation and approval of suicide. With the writing of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway managed to crystallize his view. While he cannot deny the right of the individual to decide when his life should end, the Hemingway who wrote of Robert Jordan’s willingness to fight to the end cannot feel that suicide is a good thing, a brave thing, while there is still any hope that continued life will serve a purpose. However, Jordan is placed in a clear-cut wartime situation which has little to do with the quiet desperation of an aging man’s decline. For the elderly man, the first part of this decision—that anyone has the right to decide the time of his death— might seem most applicable. An understanding of the anomalous attitude stated in the above novel is necessary for an understanding of Hemingway’s own death. Never does he utterly rule out suicide as morally wrong. If the aging Hemingway could see no way to make his life seem worthwhile, the decision that Hemingway apparently mage in For Whom the Bell Tolls would maintain the right of the individual to end his life.
Fleming, Robert E., "Suicide in Hemingway's works" (1964). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 5134.
iii, 77 pages
Northern Illinois University
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