Ernest Hemingway was born in a suburb of Chicago in 1899. He began his working life as a writer for The Kansas City Star. During World War I, he was an ambulance driver in Italy, but he had to be sent home after suffering serious injuries. In 1921, Hemingway moved to Paris and spent time among other artistic American expatriates such as Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ezra Pound. He published a book of stories and poems in Paris in 1923, but In Our Time was his first American book.
The times during which Hemingway lived were extraordinarily important to his writing. World War I changed the way that the world viewed itself. No longer could Americans and Europeans claim to be innocent and simply happy. They had seen, heard, and been ravaged by a horrible, destructive war. Further, an entire generation of young men had experienced the horrors of warfare. Hemingway seemed to pick up on the attitudes and troubles of these men and translated them successfully into fiction. In a historic sense, Hemingway expressed the feelings of his generation.
Hemingway was also one of the leaders of the modernist literary movement, which took place after World War I. Modernist writers, including Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner, Marianne Moore, John Dos Passos, F. Scott Fitzgerald, e.e. cummings, Virginia Woolf, and William Carlos Williams, often experimented with language. Hemingway did so by trimming the often excessive language of the nineteenth century into a spare, hard-edged prose. Modernist writers also emphasized being brutally honest about their subjects; Hemingway never sugarcoated his material, cutting instead to the quick of his subject. Finally, the modernist period is often argued to have a distinctly masculine bent, which Hemingway certainly did. In 1954, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Sparknotes' commentary for On the Quai at Smyrna seems to have quite a few historical errors. The commentary states that the narrator is likely talking about the Greek evacuation of Thrace, but the title is On the Quai at Smyrna. Smyrna is a city in modern-day Turkey (now called Izmir). The Christian (mainly Greek and Armenian) part of Smyrna was burned in 1922 after the Turks recaptured the city from the Greeks. Hemingway was actually in Turkey just after the Great Fire to cover the Greco-Turkish War as a correspondent for the Toronto Star.... Read more→
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I think it is difficult to talk about this short story without acknowledging the use of literary minimalism. Several pieces of information are left out of the text but most readers come to the conclusion that Mrs. Elliot is a lesbian. Her marriage to Hubert is one of convenience, and her desire to have a baby is, arguably, to prove that she is not Lesbian (or just so that she can live in the current society without being judged).