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 In Our Time by Nathan Kotas
The Nick Adams stories were my favorite of the collection because I got to know Nick through the reading. I started to understand Nick and I could anticipate the actions and feelings that he was feeling. I am not sure if this is because I became familiar with Nick or because I have done many of the things Nick has done and was able to understand what he was doing.
“Big Two-Hearted River: Part I and II” were the most enjoyable short stories of the ones I read. The language that Hemingway uses is ideally suited for describing Nick’s activities by the river. Hemingway’s simple declarative sentences are all that is needed to convey the wonderful scene of Nick struggling with his pack, setting up his tent, and cooking his food. I have also done all the things that Nick was doing by the river and I was able to understand his satisfaction at pulling up a sound tent. Little sentences like “He was careful not to let the hook bite into his finger” convey so much meaning to anyone who has ever tried to tighten a fishing hook on a line that you can only help but nod your head in agreement.
I must admit that despite not being at the center of your course I could not help but think of how much Hemingway’s content was influenced by his life. Many of the stories like “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife” were based directly on personal experiences of Hemingway’s life. Since it is not the focus of your course, I am trying to just accepted the content and concentrate more on writing style and the way Hemingway writes something. I have found it difficult to pay close attention to both the story and the writing at the same time and have had to reread several times.
“The Three-Day Blow” offered an interesting irony to the title “In Our Time”, but maybe it is just my jaded view of the television. Nick and Bill sit and discuss intelligently on various topics like books and baseball, but I fear this sophisticated discourse is becoming rare in “our” time of cable television which has done much to dry up serious dialogue.
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As I am struggling to grasp the exact meaning of “In Our Time” I have been reading up on Hemmingway and the surrounding events in his life. In regards to your statement “I could not help but think of how much Hemmingway’s content was influenced by his life”, I wonder about the actual seperation of artist from art. It seems to me in some cases unless you understand the artist, or at least the time period, the work doesn’t stand on its own. Anyway, I just wanted to commment on this. Since “In Our Time” is so displaced from our reality today in many ways.