Date of Award

1-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

College/School

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department/Program

English

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Monica Elbert

Committee Member

Melinda Knight

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg

Subject(s)

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)--Characters--Soldiers, Soldiers in literature, War in literature

Abstract

American involvement in World War I, although for only one year, wreaked havoc upon millions of young men, many never overcoming the horror and suffering. Although the men returned to America externally fit and physically intact, internally the war still raged. Drawn into a nightmarish world thousands of miles from home, the American World War I veteran endured the carnage, chivalrously defeating the evil attempting to permeate the world. Exposed to sophisticated weaponry, as well as incompetent leaders, these young men from American farms, cities and suburbs persevered and sailed home, welcomed and greeted as heroes by their homeland.

Upon return to their childhood homes and communities, the American veteran encountered family and friends, incognizant and ignorant of their recent harrowing experiences. Parents expected their sons to resume their lives, just as they were before the war. Unwilling to acknowledge or accept the alteration of the men’s personality and attitudes, parents recoiled to a steadfast denial. Their sons were suffering from “shell shock,” or what is referred to today, as post traumatic stress disorder. Among these disillusioned former soldier’s was nineteen-year-old Ernest Hemingway, who at the time, was reeling in this aforementioned environment, a victim languishing in the stagnant midwestern United States.

Not only were the family members and communities unable to comprehend the apathetic behavior of the tortured veterans, the United Sates government was equally unprepared. Soldier’s suffering from PTSD or shell shock, received inadequate care for this debilitating mental illness, often the recipients of electroshock therapy, deemed a possible cure. Eventually, the soldiers, for various reasons that will be discussed in this thesis, forfeited meaning and reason to live productively, relinquishing their souls, desiring a life without responsibility.

Ernest Hemingway wrote of this despondent lot. Hemingway, severely wounded while serving as an ambulance driver in Italy, returned home to Oak Park III, physically impaired and psychologically wounded. Settling down as a writer in Paris, France among the expatriates seeking refuge in the salons and cafes, Hemingway penned numerous tales depicting the plight of the shell shocked World War I veteran. Hemingway became the voice of this generation, ultimately coined as “lost,” by writer Gertrude Stein. The question remains if Hemingway wrote these stories as therapy to quell his own case of shell shock. Close analysis of his World War I novel A Farewell to Arms as well as the short stores cited in this thesis attempt to answer this question.

As one of the most discussed American authors of all time, numerous scholarly articles and biographies, as well as Hemingway’s own words, attest to the possibility he wrote his wandering soldier tales in order for the apathetic American citizenry to fully understand the inner conflict the veteran endured. Although a few scholars dispute this claim, the majority believe Hemingway was writing of his own war experience. For the purpose of this thesis and the belief of its writer, Hemingway was the tortured World War I veteran, misunderstood by family, and forever unable to forget the war.

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