Daniel J. Schneider
In a well-known essay Robert Penn Warren has drawn a distinction between two kinds of poetry, a "pure" poetry, which seeks more or less systematically to exclude so-called "unpoetic" elements from its hushed and hypnotic atmosphere, and an "impure," a poetry of inclusion or synthesis, which welcomes into itself such supposedly recalcitrant and inhospitable stuff as wit, cacophony, jagged rhythms, and intellectual debate. The distinction between the two types, so helpful in the analysis of lyrics, may obviously be employed to advantage in the criticism of novels, and I should like to use it here to call attention to an aspect of Hemingway's art that has not received any extended comment. For if there are works, such as War and Peace, Ulysses, Moby-Dick, and The Magic Mountain, whose power and beauty are best explained by their very "impurity"—novels that batten on the diversity of life and are most themselves when they are most "loose and baggy" (to use James's fine phrase)—the strength of Hemingway's novels is explained best, I think, by noting that they are in spirit and in method closer to pure lyric than to epic, and that they systematically exclude whatever threatens to interfere with the illusion of life beheld under the aspect of a single, dominant, all-pervasive mood or state of mind. They attempt to sustain perfectly a single emotion: they begin with it and end with it, and any scenes, characters, thoughts, or stylistic elements that might tend to weaken the dominant emotion are ruthlessly rejected. Consequently, Hemingway's____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. Contributors: Harold Bloom - Editor. Publisher: Chelsea House. Place of publication: Philadelphia. Publication year: 1987. Page number: 9.