In Our Time is the piece of writing that made Ernest Hemingway famous. He published this collection of short stories for the first time in 1925, to much praise. The collection revealed Hemingway's writing style, which was completely different from the florid, extravagant style of writing than preceded him. In Our Time, like all of Hemingway's writing, uses simple, declarative sentences with little or no description of emotion. Yet, through this spare style, Hemingway was able to weave powerful and moving stories. This new use of language counted as one of the major developments in modernist literature. The modern period of literature began just after World War I and continued, many would argue, up to and even through the second World War (1941-45 for America). Modernism incorporated many different things, one of which was exploration and innovation in language. Hemingway's change of language was simple, but powerful. Many critics have even called his writing more masculine than nineteenth-century prose, like that of Henry James. In fact, one critic, Ann Douglas, argues that writers such as Hemingway helped create a more masculine literary scene and society after World War I.
While In Our Time introduced Hemingway's revolutionary writing style, its content also made it famous. Many authors attempted to write about World War I, but until In Our Time, few had succeeded. Critics hailed this book as the first true analysis and depiction of the war. Hemingway's language helped the stories ring true, as did his powerful scenes and his often confusing narrative flow. The themes that Hemingway highlighted finally captured the spirit of the Great War. In the collection, he writes about masculinity (often in connection with battling and sport), relationships between men and women, bonding between members of the same sex, love, development and adaptation, maturity, and responsibility. The way that he weaves the themes together creates a portrait of Americans before, during, and after the war with which people seemed to identify. The stories about Nick Adams send him through a rite of passage. He learns as a young child about birth and death (in "Indian Camp"). Then his interactions with friends such as Bill and girlfriends such as Marjorie teach him about relationships. In "The Battler," Nick is on the road for the first time and encounters more information from an old fighter and his companion. Nothing prepares Nick for the war, though. That experience brings him back home in "Big Two-Hearted River" a more mature, grateful, and masculine man.
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).