Ernest Hemingway is one of the most acclaimed American writers, primarily due to his unique writing style, laconic and profound at the same time. However, there is still an ambivalent attitude to the themes he developed in his novels and short stories. Thus, André Maurois resolutely described Hemingway’s works as a body of writing entirely devoted to violence and death. While the themes of death and violence indeed permeate many of the works of Ernest Hemingway, the writer also touches upon other important subjects, such as love, loneliness and interpersonal relationships in general.
The story “Indian Camp” tells the story of death against the background of the birth of new life. A country doctor, the father of Nick Adams, goes to an Indian camp to help a local woman who has been in the labor of childbirth for a few days already. While the woman is severely suffering, the doctor has no compassion to her. Instead, he says to his son not to pay any attention to her screams: “I don’t hear them because they are not important”. The doctor has to conduct a Caesarean section, though the conditions are highly unfavorable for such an operation. After the baby is finally born, he boasts that “doing a Caesarean with a jack-knife and sewing it up with nine-foot” is worth of a medical journal, which also reveals his callous approach to the patient and to the process of childbirth. During the operation, the women bites one of the men who hold her still and hears swears in her address.
Hemingway thus portrays the birth of a child in very dark colors, which are intended to convey the toughness of life in general. The atmosphere of hopelessness and despair reaches its peak when the bloody death of the woman’s husband is revealed. Childbirth is thus interpreted in the story to be equivalent to death, as both these bloody processes take place at the same time. Nick Adams passes his initiation to the adult world in a very tough manner, conceiving many questions about life and death. He tells himself that he will never die, but the readers know that he will have to reconcile with the inevitability of death sooner or later.
Another Hemingway’s story, “Cat in the Rain” is written in quite a different tone, which seems light and frivolous at first glance, though here the writer also discusses the most important issues of human existence. The story portrays an American couple that stays in a small Italian hotel on a rainy day. Looking out of the window, the American wife (who does not even have a name in the story) notices a trembling cat, which tries to hide from the rain under a table. She leaves the room immediately to rescue “the kitty”, while her husband, George, is lying reading. When she finds out that the kitty is no longer there, the woman is very disappointed. She keeps saying to her husband how much she wanted that “poor kitty”, while he is still concentrated on reading. Starting with the cat, she proceeds to enumerate all the other things she wants, which reveals her immaturity and capriciousness. George is obviously tired of her incessant talking and he does not say anything to comfort her. There is a whole paragraph in the story that describes the numerous things that the woman likes about the innkeeper. He is so kind that he even sends a maid to cover her with umbrella and eventually orders to bring the kitty to the room.
Therefore, the innkeeper is presented in the story as more caring of the American wife that her own husband. The story brightly illustrates the Hemingway’s distinctive “tip-of-the-iceberg” writing style. A simple and unremarkable situation of saving a cat from the rain is used as the background to elucidate the issue of problematic relationships of young marital couples, where neither wife not husband is ready to refuse from their egotism. The woman is solely focused on her petty desires, while the man is immersed into his own interests. As a result, both are feeling utterly lonely and dissatisfied with each other to the extent that outside people can seem closer to them than their spouse. Hemingway thus manages to depict a wide range of human emotions, starting with passion and ending with loneliness, with minimal linguistic means.
The themes of death and violence are undeniably important to Hemingway, since he viewed them as inalienable components of human life, which is clearly illustrated in the story “Indian Camp”. However, it is a gross exaggeration to say that these themes run through the whole body of his work. “Cat in the Rain” is one of Hemingway’s stories that reveal his strong interest in the nature of human relationships and love as another notable aspect of the human existence.