What effect does Hemingway achieve by opening his novel with such unclear references and pronoun use?
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Hemingway was probably the most influential American prose stylist of the 20th century, and his spare, journalistic method is in top form in this famous chapter. Though the detached narrative at times seems almost mechanical, great feeling emerges through what is unsaid and through specific images, such as the soldiers with guns and ammunition under their capes that make them look "six months gone with child."
That image is particularly well chosen, for even in this opening Henry connects rain with an undesirable type of fertility that actually heralds death and destruction. In addition to pregnancy's equation with weaponry, rain makes the country "wet and brown and dead" and brings on the cholera; the dusty opening, on the other hand, is idyllic in its pastoral splendor. Many writers of Hemingway's Lost Generation, the disillusioned youth who felt The Great War had irrevocably devastated both their bodies and values, saw an emptiness and sterility in their modern culture.