Ernest Hemingway based his writing on real life experiences concerning death, relationships, and lies. He then mixed these ideas, along with a familiar setting, to create a masterpiece. Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park Illinois. One of Hemmingway’s first works was Indian Camp published in 1925. In many ways Indian Camp shows the relationship between Hemingway and his father. Hemingway then digs deeper into the past to create the love between Frederick Henry and Catherine Barkley, in A Farwell To Arms. Hemingway was later able to reflect his disgust of home life when he portrayed himself as the character Krebs in Soldiers Home, the character had problems with lies, women, and at home.
In the story Indian Camp the main character Nick and his father resemble the relationship between Hemingway and his father. Nick is a teenage boy that travels across the lake to an Indian Village. He watches his father, who is a doctor; deliver a baby by caesarian section to an Indian woman. Nicks father discovers that the baby’s father has committed suicide. Nick and his father have a conversation discussing death, which brings the story to an end. Hemingway grew up in a middle class suburb, where his parents Ed and Grace raised him. Ed was a doctor who took his son along on visits across Walloon Lake to the Ojibway Indians (Waldhorn 7).
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When Hemingway was young, his father made him have his tonsils removed by another doctor. The doctor did not use anesthetic while performing the surgery. Hemingway always held it against his dad for having his tonsils taken out, with out an anesthetic (Myers 48). Hemingway portrayed his father as the doctor in Indian Camp. In the story Nick asked his father about giving the Indian woman something to stop her screaming during the caesarian. Nicks father states “No. I haven’t any anestheticbut her screams are not important. I don’t hear them because they are not important” (Tessitore 18).
Hemingway uses the conversation between Nick and his father, concerning the suicide of the Indian, to show his distaste for his own father’s suicide.
Nick: “Why did he kill himself, Daddy?”
Father: “I don’t know Nick. He couldn’t stand things, I guess.”
Nick: “Do many men kill themselves, Daddy?”
Father: “Not very many, Nick”
Nick: “Is dying hard, Daddy?”
Father: “No, I think its pretty easy, Nick. It all depends” (Hemingway 19)
Hemingway saw his father as a weak workingman who served his wife, Grace, unconditionally. Ed worked everyday to come home and have to clean the house, prepare the food, and tend to the children. He had promised Grace that if she would marry him, she would not have to do housework for as long as she lived. Ill and depressed, Ed Hemingway committed suicide in 1928. Hemingway later stated “I hated my mother as soon as I knew the score and love my father had for her, until he embarrassed me with the cowardice.” (Myers 212). Hemingway used Indian Camp to express his feelings about how his father was a coward. He did this by having Nicks father refer to suicide as being pretty easy, which is compared to a coward’s way of life.
The characters and setting of Indian Camp are influenced by Hemingway’s childhood. In much of the same way, Hemingway’s second novel, A Farwell To Arms, has influences from his adult years spent in the war. A Farwell To Arms is a love story that occurs during World War I. Fredrick Henry, the main character is an ambulance driver who is wounded in the trenches. He is then sent to a hospital in Milan to recover. During his stay, he falls in love with a nurse named Catherine Barkley. The couple then flees to Switzerland to escape the war and have a child together. The novel then takes an evil twist at the end, Catherine dies while she is in labor, leaving Henry alone (Myers 22).
When comparing Hemingway to the character Fredrick Henry there are some very obvious similarities. “Hemingway joined the war in 1918 as an ambulance driver” (Myers 22). Hemingway was passing our cigarettes to soldiers at night, and a mortar shell hit him. Wounded, Hemingway picked up as a casualty and other solders began to carry him off the battlefield. He made it to the first aid center but was hit in the knees by machine-gun fire while on his way there (McSowell 43). During Hemingway’s recovery in Milan, Hemingway recorded his account of the action in a letter to his parents. In the letter he stated: “The 227 wounds I got from the trench mortar didn’t hurt a bit at the time, only my feet felt like I had rubber boots full of water on. Hot water. And my kneecap was acting queer” (Myers 32). Henry suffers form an identical wound by a trench mortar. Henry says that: “My legs felt warm and wet and my shoes were wet and warm inside. I knew that I was hit and leaned over and put my hand on my knee. My knee wasn’t there. My hand went in and my knee was down on my shin” (Hemingway 55). Hemingway recalled his war wound and used that same experience in the novel.
When Hemingway was sent to Milan to recover he fell in love with a nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky. The two wrote letters to each other when separated. Kurowsky signed up to work nights so that she could spend more time with Hemingway. There was even the possibility of marriage, which fizzled out later. After Hemingway healed and was sent home, Kurowsky fell in love with another. This was a devastating event that jaunted Hemingway long after (McSowell 20). Kurowsky didn’t come out ahead though. Her newfound love dissolved only after a short while. In much of the same way as Hemingway’s life, the characters Henry and Catherine marry. The union is set up to a more devastating event then in Hemingway’s own life (Tessitore 63). The couple is pregnant with a child; which convinces them to leave the war. During childbirth Catherine dies, thus leaving Henry all alone in the world. Kurowksy left Hemingway, so he returned to his home but he was mentally and physically hurt from his war wounds and failed romance.
Hemingway was able to reflect his disgust of his home life when he purposely portrayed himself as the character Krebs in Soldiers Home. Hemingway entered into an idle part of his life. All the returning soldiers had great war stories, most of them embellished beyond truth. Hemingway also was lying about the war experiences, which eventually made him sick. Krebs was a World War I veteran; he feels like he is forced to lie about his involvement in the war just to be heard. Krebs found that to be listened to all he had to do was lie. After he had done this twice he found that he had a reaction against the war and against talking about it. A dislike for everything that had happened to him in the war set in because of the lies he had told (Hemingway 69). This same thing happened to Hemingway so Krebs and Hemingway fell into a slump after the war. While Hemingway remembered his lost love, he produced the character Krebs who was troubled by female companionship. Krebs wanted a woman but was not willing to work for one. Krebs considered relationships too complicated and painful. Hemingway learned this from previous relationships especially the relationship between Hemingway and Kurowsky. Krebs who lived with his parents after the war continued to do nothing around the house. Tensions grew between him and his parents and Krebs was eventually driven out.
Hemingway was almost identical to Krebs in the story. Hemingway is heart broken after the war because of Kurowsky. Tension had also grown between Hemingway and his mother. “Shortly after Hemingway’s twenty- first birthday his mother gave him an ultimatum that he had to find a real job or move out of the house” (Waldhorn 9). Both Hemingway and Krebs moved out and got jobs.
Hemingway wrote form his past experiences form life. In Indian Camp it showed his relationship with his father. By leaving his childhood and entering the war, he was able to come up with the character Henry and Barkley in A Farwell In Arms. When returning home from the war Hemingway used Krebs in Soldier’s Home to express his distast