Filtered Through Fiction: The Evolution of Perspective in Hemingway's In Our Time

Nuttall, Grant, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Cushman, Stephen, AS-English (ENGL), University of Virginia

Although contemporary readers are often more familiar with his achievements as a novelist, Ernest Hemingway offers his most revealing glimpse into the twofold evolution of his perspective on emotional responsibility and the art of writing in his first mature short story collection, In Our Time (1925). As the growing overlap of form and content in his earliest short stories suggests, Hemingway was a man and a writer of far greater emotional depth than his paratactic prose style might suggest to first-time readers of his work. From their nuanced attention to imagery and subtle shifts in perspective to their alternating inflections of the third- and first-person narrative voice, the stories collected in In Our Time filter the struggles Hemingway faced as a wounded veteran, young husband, and first-time father through his fiction in a way that correlates his personal coming-of-age with the maturation of his talents as a writer. By using the fragmentary bildungsroman that he unfolds across In Our Time to re-examine the emotional and social dissonance that characterized his experience coming of age before, during, and after the Great War, Hemingway offers a compelling portrait of the need he shared with other members of his generation to rediscover what it meant to live deliberately in the postwar world. At the core of his first collection, Hemingway’s experimentation with a range of narrative voices and techniques reveals the personal and artistic tensions that would continue to inform his creative process through the remainder of his literary career. Contrary to what readers only familiar with his use of first-person narration might expect, Hemingway discovered his voice as a writer of prose fiction through his parallel experimentation with techniques such as free indirect discourse and interior monologue. With its showcase of masterful imagery alongside a wide range of narrative techniques, In Our Time testifies to the psychological complexities underlying the chronic struggle Hemingway shared with characters, to accept his emotional responsibilities to himself and others.

MA (Master of Arts)
free indirect discourse, interior monologue, emotional responsibility
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