In Our Time

Hemingway's Continued Relevance

Despite recent questions concerning Hemingway's future relevancy in mainstream Modernist studies, there can be little doubt that the man with the shotgun carries a hefty literary load well past beyond his grave. While it is true that he never managed to reach beyond his perceptions of a world that served merely as the solar system to his sun, he still managed to capture an important slice of Americana with his portrayals of an era of decay and hopelessness. To complain that he is not a Whitman or a Faulkner is to miss out on some fascinating details.

In order to grasp the truths behind In Our Time, one must first observe the historical context from which it sprang. Hemingway's generation witnessed the very apex of nihilism during the Great War. None of the ancient institutions such as romanticism or duty could repel the merciless batterings of that all-consuming spiritual void. As a result, soldiers and hospital drivers alike returned home with shattered expectations and a need to find something, anything else to believe in - thus the previously unheralded obsession with a chronologically-based lifestyle. Others, such as Hemingway and Eliot, sought refuge in mythology and the ritualistic qualities therein. This, and a...

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