Masaryk University Faculty of Arts

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Masaryk University

Faculty of Arts
Department of English
and American Studies

English Language and Literature

Eva Jasmine Jasná

Theme of Dignity in the Work of Ernest Hemingway

Bachelor’s Diploma Thesis

Supervisor: doc. PhDr. Tomáš Pospíšil, Dr.

I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.


Author’s signature


I would like to thank my supervisor, doc. PhDr. Tomáš Pospíšil, Dr., for his kind help,

Dr. Kalogroulis for inspiration and my family for their support.

Table of Contents

Introduction 6

1.The Life of Ernest Hemingway 9

2.Terminology 14

2.1Dignity 14

2.2 Dignified death 17

3.Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises 19

3.1Jealousy as an inspiration 20

3.2The dignity of locations 21

3.3Characters 24

3.4The effect of using the theme of dignity 29

4.Farewell to Arms 32

4.1Matching wounds 33

4.2The dignity of places 34

4.3Characters 35

4.4Dignity of soldiers as a double standard 39

5.For Whom The Bell Tolls 42

5.1Dignity of settings 42

5.2Characters 43

5.3Dignity until the end 46

6.The Old Man and the Sea 50

6.1Ingredients for a masterpiece 51

6.2Dignity of the locations 51

6.3Characters 53

6.4Dignity means purpose 55

7.Short stories 58

7.1The Snows of Kilimanjaro 58

7.2A Clean, Well-Lighted Place 60

7.3The problem of dying and dignity 63

Conclusion 66

Works cited 70

Works of Ernest Hemingway 74

Resume in English 76

Resume in Czech 78


There is no one worthy of eating him [marlin] from the manner of his behaviour and his great dignity,” (64) says Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea. This remark suggests that the fish has more dignity than the people who would eat it. The aim of this study is to thoroughly explore the theme of dignity in the work of Ernest Hemingway and to establish its effects.

According to the Oxford Dictionary the term “dignity” means “the quality of being worthy or honourable; worthiness, worth, nobleness, excellence” and the Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “calm, serious and controlled behaviour that makes people respect you” (392). This thesis investigates whether the heroes and other aspects of Hemingway’s novels and short stories posses this quality or not. To do so, it must be established what dignity actually is and what characteristics one must possess to be considered dignified. In addition to the explanation the dictionaries provide, works on dignity by recognized philosophers such as Kant or Schopenhauer will be also explored for this assessment.

Another goal of this thesis is to find a connection between the theme of dignity appearing in Hemingway′s writing and in his life. He also drew inspiration from experiences that influenced him so this study shall also look at correlations with historical events. In his memoir, A Moveable Feast, he describes his writing method: “All you have to do is write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say” (12). Here we see that he admits the use of experience himself.

The fact that Hemingway widely used the theme of dignity is well known, nevertheless this work tries to research new points and produce a comprehensive text summing up the appearance of the theme in Hemingway′s most famous fictional writings. The results of a close reading will be organized into chapters, novels first in chronological order and short stories at the end, all provided with a support of relevant secondary sources.

The primary sources of this thesis were chosen for several reasons other than to illustrate the theme of dignity. First of all they cross through Hemingway′s career, starting with The Sun Also Rises that gained him recognition and ending with The Old Man and the Sea for which he got a Nobel Prize. Secondly, they are of those most popular among readers and received more positive criticism than Hemingway′s other writings. The third reason is my personal liking for this selection.

This study should contribute to others written about Ernest Hemingway and his work and give a comprehensive insight into the theme of dignity in Hemingway′s writings.

1.The Life of Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park Illinois and was a second child of six. His father, who was a physician, was also a passionate fisherman, hunter and outdoor person. He passed his passion, as well as his knowledge, down to Ernest. Carlos Baker provides information on this subject: “He taught Ernest how to build fires and cook in the open, how to use an ax to make a woodland shelter of hemlock boughs, how to tie wet and dry flies. . . . He insisted on the proper handling and careful preservation of guns, rods, and tackle, and taught his son the rudiments of physical courage and endurance” (9). Baker also talks about Hemingway′s mother, who was a singer and from her side he got an appreciation for art, especially for oil paintings, and the impulse for creativity (17).

Ernest was keen on sports in high school and practiced quite a few of them, including boxing. On the other hand he also contributed to the school paper and showed off his literary talent as well as imagination. His family hoped that he would become a doctor (Baker 11) but he got a job as a reporter for the Kansas City Star where he learned newspaper-style of writing. He enjoyed his independence only for few months until he decided to enlist in the American Field Service and after some time applied to the Red Cross as an ambulance driver on the Italian front.

Hemingway was badly wounded in Italy 1918, both his legs were seriously injured. Even with damaged knees he manged to get to safety whilst helping another soldier and received a silver medal for it. About this Baker tells us that ”he was surrounded by so many dead and dying that to die seemed more natural and normal than to go on living: for a time he even thought seriously of shooting himself . . .” (45). However he was transported to Milano and as he was recovering he fell in love with a nurse.

Hemingway returned home and moved to Chicago. He met there his first wife and soon after wedding they moved to Paris where he worked as foreign correspondent from 1922. In Paris, he met many influential people. He became friends with Gertrude Stein, who gave name “Lost Generation” to the group of artists to which Hemingway belonged. In A Moveable Feast he recalled her saying, “You are all a génération perdue. . . . That′s what you all are. . . . All of you young people who served in the war. . . . You have no respect for anything. You drink yourselves to death” (29).

Among his other literary friends were James Joyce, F. S. Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound. Hemingway read extensively and discussed the books with other authors including Gertrude Stein, who held parties for her circle in Paris, and under the influence of his company (especially Pound) he worked on and improved his prose. Meanwhile, his work for newspapers was uninterrupted and he was sent to Constantinople to cover the exodus of Greeks from Turkey.

His marriage did not last long, even after many years he still blamed his rich companions for it. As noted by Baker, “his ancient scorn was still much in evidence . . . and of predatory rich (including Pauline and the Murphys) whom he blamed for the dissolution of his first marriage” (539).

While giving birth, his second wife experienced complications which Hemingway used in his novel Farewell to Arms. Soon afterwards Hemingway received a tragic message about his father′s suicide. By this time Hemingway lived with family in Key West and spent his summers in Wyoming.

In 1933 he went on safari to Africa and this trip inspired “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”. Next year he bought the now famous boat “Pilar” and started sailing. Then the Spanish Civil War started and he went to Spain as journalist. After he finished his work in Spain he moved to Cuba with his third wife and soon another war disrupted his life, this time it was World War II and he was even present at the Normandy Landing even though only from distance. He was given a Bronze Star for bravery he showed when he went close to the battlefields to obtain the most accurate news. Two major events happened during his visit of London, he was in a car accident and he also met his fourth and last wife.

Hemingway suffered many injuries in the following period. After the car crash he encountered a much bigger disaster in 1954. While travelling in Africa, he and his wife survived two plane crashes. His health was very poor for several years afterwards and in addition his eyesight started to deteriorate. He also suffered from pain and depression. By chance, he obtained his luggage that he left in hotel Ritz during the 1920′s. Receiving all his old notes enabled him to work on the book of his memoirs, A Moveable Feast, which was published posthumously. His physical health was much better and he was working on his last books but his mental state was deteriorating. At the end of his life he was admitted to a psychiatric institution and his depression was treated by electric shocks. After several attempts to commit suicide he was finally successful and he shot himself on the morning of July 2, 1961.

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