Hemingway's In Our Time: Lyrical Dimensions

Synopsis

"Many scholars consider In Our Time to be Hemingway's finest work, yet the cohesiveness of this sequence of stories and interchapters has often been questioned. Hemingway himself, however, had a clear idea of the work's integrity, as his manuscripts and letters reveal. As he wrote to his publisher Horace Liveright on 31 March 1925, "There is nothing in the book that has not a definite place in its organization and if I at any time seem to repeat myself I have a good reason for doing so" (Selected Letters, 154). According to Ms. Tetlow, author of this thoughtful study of Hemingway's In Our Time, the relationship among the stories and interchapters is precisely analogous to that within a modern poetic sequence as characterized by M. L. Rosenthal and Sally M. Gall in The Modern Poetic Sequence: The Genius of Modern Poetry: "... a grouping of mainly lyric poems and passages, rarely uniform in pattern, which tend to interact as an organic whole. It usually includes narrative and dramatic elements, and ratiocinative ones as well, but its structure is finally lyrical" (9). The structure of In Our time, then, is similar to such works as Ezra Pound's Hugh Selwyn Mauberley and T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, works that progress tonally. Looking closely at the language of In Our Time, Ms. Tetlow pays particular attention to recurring images and sounds, and the successive sets of feeling these tonal complexes project. She traces the lyrical pattern in the sequence as it builds in intensity from denial of fear, suffering, and death in the first stories and early interchapters, and then traces the progression to cautious resignation in the latter stories and interchapters. The author also takes into account the importance for Hemingway of Pound's and Eliot's aesthetics and demonstrates how Eliot's idea of the objective correlative and Pound's idea of "direct treatment of the 'thing'" apply to Hemingway's stories and interchapters (Literary Essays, 3). Opening with a discussion of the six prose pieces in the original version--the shorter "In Our Time" (1923)--the study considers the aesthetic choices Hemingway made in revising these pieces when he incorporated them in his longer sequence of eighteen in in our time (1924). The study then discusses the lyrical progression of the prose sequence in the fully developed volume In Our Time (1925). Finally, it looks at A Farewell to Arms and shows how the lyrical structure of In Our Time anticipates the longer work with its more continuous narrative pattern." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Lewisburg, PA
Publication year:
  • 1992