Note: This post is part of The Hemingway Collection, an archive of essays, images, and hyperlinks to interesting articles about the great American author.
An essay on Green Hills of Africa by David Gagne
This is a response paper I wrote on September 27, 1995 …
[before I begin I’ll tell you that this time I haven’t actually finished reading the book I’m only on page 97 but I’m enjoying it no surprise there I just figured a half response was better than no response and I want to make a million excuses for not being finished yet like I’m sick or I have been busy with other classes or I’m a victim of the oppressive University system but in the end and down deep it doesn’t matter I’m sure so here’s my response to the first 97 pages which I’m hoping is better than no response at all]
Before I begin I’ll tell you something which I already mentioned in class. I think that with each of Hemingway’s works that we read, we are taken further by the narrator into the experience which is being presented. In Our Time is Hemingway writing for writing’s sake: “Here are some stories.” The Sun Also Rises is Hemingway creating one, unified, coherent story: “Here is a story.” A Farewell to Arms is Hemingway weaving a tale, painting a many-faceted gem: “Here is a story for you to read.” Green Hills of Africa is Hemingway bringing his experience directly to the reader: “Come with me into this story.” (I do intentionally make a distinction between Hemingway and narrator.)
These response papers are getting more and more difficult to write, mainly because within 24 hours of their composition you have me feeling completely differently about the work in question. At the very least I see things in an entirely new light after a class discussion on the book. I am reading the same as I always have, and I doubt anything will change the way I read. Now I am simply bombarded with alternate opinions after I finish reading. Text is alive, y’know? Is a book never read existing? This is a question which has bothered me for quite some time (and I know it’s just a tree-in-the-forest question, but it’s still there).
On page 64 of my copy the narrator speaks of a female author who calls him yellow. In my AML 3124 class we have just finished reading The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and I have to believe he is speaking of Gertrude. When I read that bit, in which the narrator criticizes G.S., I was shocked! Would contemporary readers have made the connection, I wondered. This changes the entire GHoA script for me. It stopped, for a moment, being a story and became something different. This is a living text, I was thinking. Here, in the middle of a story, I stumble upon a message to another author, an aside of sorts. It’s really an odd experience, reading…always an adventure.
Here’s to “drinking a little too much as a good man should.”