The Forgotten Female in the Works of Ernest Hemingway Essay

The Forgotten Female in the Works of Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway has often been accused of misogyny in his treatment of female characters (and, perhaps, in his treatment of women in his own life). “It is not fashionable these days to praise the work of Ernest Hemingway,” says Frederick Busch. “His women too often seem to be projections of male needfulness” (1). Many of his stories are seen as prototypical bildungsroman stories–stories, usually, of young men coming of age. There are few, if any, stories in the canon of women coming of age, however, and Hemingway is not the first to suffer the wrath of feminist critics. But is this wrath justified?

In his dissertation, Mark G. Newton reviews some of the critical literature that places Hemingway within the misogynist genre. “Cliches [sic] abound,” he says. “Hemingway was in search of his manhood (an ignoble quest?); he hated women; he had a “death wish” and a “thin persona”; he was the archpriest of violence, etc.” (6). However, Newton sees women in Hemingway’s works as the “positive life-directed force which transports the male Hemingway hero away from a debilitating wound” (2), and he places them into “[t]he roles manifested by Hemingway’s women in aiding the hero”: “Ideal Women,” “Sister Guides,” “Icons and Dream Visions,” “Wicked Women Who Also Serve,” “Feminine Points of View,” and “Full Cycle.” My problem with Newton’s approach to the feminine in Hemingway is that Newton seems to accept that, in presenting women as archetypal Eve’s, the woman as “help-meet”-type image, that Hemingway is somehow presenting women favorably.

A somewhat similar view is presented by Jeryl J. Prescott in “Liberty for Just(Us): Gender and Race in …

… of Melville, Twain, and Hemingway. New York: Peter Lang, 1984.

Kennedy, J. Gerald. “Hemingway’s Gender Trouble.” American Literature 63:2 (1991): 187-207.

Miller, Linda Patterson. “Hemingway’s Women: A Reassessment.” Hemingway in Italy and Other Essays. Ed. Robert W,. Lewis. Praeger, 1990.

Newton, Mark G. Beyond the Wound: The Role of Women in Aiding the Hemingway Hero. Dissertation: U of S. Florida, 1985.

Penn Warren, Robert. “Ernest Hemingway,” Introduction to Modern Standard Authors edition of A Farewell to Arms. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1949.

Prescott, Jeryl J. “Liberty for Just(us): Gender and Race in Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not.” College Language Association Journal 37:2 (1993): 176-88.

Willingham, Kathy. “Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden: Writing with the Body.” The Hemingway Review 12:2 (1993): 46-61.

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