A Window on the Prey: The Hunter Sees a Human Face in Hemingway's "After the Storm" and Melville's "The Grand Armada." (Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville)

By Philbrick, Nathaniel | The Hemingway Review, Fall 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Window on the Prey: The Hunter Sees a Human Face in Hemingway's "After the Storm" and Melville's "The Grand Armada." (Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville)


Philbrick, Nathaniel, The Hemingway Review


ERNEST HEMINGWAY'S "After the Storm" tells a simple yet haunting tale. A Key West fisherman discovers the wreck of a huge liner lying on its side just beneath the water's surface. Fully expecting to make his fortune from the salvage operation, he dives underwater with the intention of breaking through a porthole with a wrench. When he finds the face of a drowned woman staring at him through the window, he is undeterred and hammers at the glass. His makeshift salvage equipment, however, is not up to the task, and after several unsuccessful attempts to break through the porthole, he reluctantly heads for home. By the time he returns with others to finish the job, he discoves that "the Greeks had blown her open and cleaned her out" (SS 370). He laments, "I found her and I never got a nickel out of her" (376).

According to a letter Hemingway wrote to Maxwell Perkins, "After the Storm," first published in Cosmopolitan in 1932, follows "word for word" what the conch fisherman Bra Saunders told him during a fishing trip in 1928 (SL 400). But as a manuscript study by Susan Beegel has revealed, the story is something more than a transcript. Instead of the spare dramatic monologue it would ultimately become, "After the Storm" began as what Beegel terms a Conradian "story-within-a-story," in which a Hemingway-like narrator describes Saunders' reluctant telling of his tale to his three-man fishing party. Junking the fairly complex narrative structure, along with a rather sensational ending involving a retributive attack on and burning of a Greek fishing ship, Hemingway pared the story to the bone. But he also made several significant additions: the diving sequence that would become the story's central scene and a final attempt by the narrator to descibe what the captain of the ill-fated liner must have experienced during his last, terrifying night.

While Hemingway may very well have been, as one critic suggests, "covering his tracks back to Conrad" (Smith 242), this radical overhaul of the story may have been linked to something else as well: his reading of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, particularly chapter eighty-seven, "the Grand Armada," in which an underwater transformation occurs that has suggestive parallels to the diving sequence in "After the Storm." Whereas Hemingway's hard-bitten narrator looks covetously into a sunken ship of seemingly infinite bounty and sees a human face, Ishmael and his fellow whalemen look down into the suddenly serene waters at the center of a huge pod of whales and see an equally unexpected scene: mothers nursing their young and newlyweds making love in "submarine bridal chambers and nurseries" (389). By "humanizing" (a term used by the critic Robert Zoellner) the whale, the chapter threatens to undercut the traditional hunter-prey relationship that a whaleman takes for granted--a process that, as several critics have pointed out, is also at work in Hemingway's short story.

Whether or not he had read Moby-Dick by the time he published "After the Storm," a comparison of the two works offers an instructive context in which to examine not only Hemingway's artistic process but his fascination with the hunt and its relevance to his overall view of life. As his first attempt at the genre of sea fiction, "After the Storm" offers insights into how Hemingway scavenged bits and pieces from not only the stories that were told to him but his own darkest experiences in an attempt to match and even better Conrad and especially Melville.

I

Before beginning an analysis of "After the Storm" and "The Grand Armada," I'd like to review what we know of Hemingway's interest in Melville. In Green Hills of Africa (1935) he insists that the true greatness of Moby-Dick lies not in Melville's "rhetoric" but in his ability to convey "how things, actual things, can be, whales for instance" (GHOA 20). As it turns out, Hemingway had an early and "actual" connection to the island that is so critical to Melville's masterpiece.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Window on the Prey: The Hunter Sees a Human Face in Hemingway's "After the Storm" and Melville's "The Grand Armada." (Ernest Hemingway, Herman Melville)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?