“No matter how a man alone ain’t got no bloody […] chance,” an essay on To Have and Have Not by David Gagne.

It seems like I’ve said this about every one of Hemingway’s works that I’ve read in this class, but To Have and Have Not was my favorite. Harry Morgan was my favorite character and the best developed of all Hemingway’s characters and his death surprised me the least of all Hemingway’s characters’ deaths. This quote, if not the last then one of the last things Harry said, is descriptive of what Hemingway was doing with this story. It is descriptive of all Hemingway’s works, of Harry’s life, of everything Hemingway was doing. Hell, it’s descriptive of everything period.

The movie Tequila Sunrise with Mel Gibson and Michelle Pfieffer and that other famous guy whose name I can never remember is almost the same story as To Have and Have Not and it’s one of my favorite movies. There’s a scene in which Gibson is trying to explain why he smuggles cocaine and he says something along the lines of (Harry-esque), “my friends don’t want me to quit, the cops don’t want me to quit, the dealers don’t want me to quit…I might be paranoid, but, nobody wants me to quit.” There’s another scene later with Raul Julia and he’s saying to Gibson that he’s a fool for loving a woman, that the only thing you have in life is your friends, you can’t pick your family, you can’t keep your word, all you can have are your friends, which is something that I can imagine Harry saying at the end of the book when he’s dying.

Harry was alone. He had a wife and kid (kids?) and quasi-friends, but he was a man alone. No matter how a man alone is not just how he died but how we all live. It doesn’t matter how alone you are or it just doesn’t matter at all if you’re alone, you ain’t got no chance. All the people on the yachts, no chance. Krebs, no chance. El Sordo, no chance. Hemingway, no chance. He knows it. Knows it while he’s writing, knows it while he’s writing things that are not the things being written by everyone else, of forging ahead of trying to go against the stream, knows it between writing books, knows it when he shoots himself. Knows the pain of not being able to sit still of not being able to be like they want him to be of having of having no choice but to go alone and knows that there ain’t no bloody fucking chance a man alone ain’t got no.

To Have and Have Not

This post is part of The Hemingway Collection, an archive of essays, images, and hyperlinks to interesting articles about the great American author.

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davidgagne.net is the personal weblog of me, David Vincent Gagne. I've been publishing here since 1999, which makes this one of the oldest continuously-updated websites on the Internet.


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You can read dozens of essays and articles and find hundreds of links to other sites with stories and information about Ernest Hemingway in The Hemingway Collection.