A Comparison of Hemingway’s Novels

Earnest Hemingway is a great writer known for such books as The Old and the Sea and The Sun Also Rises. These two novels were written at different points in Hemingway’s career; The Sun Also Rises early in his career and The Old Man and the Sea at the end of his career. Both novels show what a great writer Hemingway was. Both novels do contain similar elements within them that signify Hemingway’s style of writing. There are also elements in both novels that set them apart from each other.

The first comparison between The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea is the time the novels were written. The Sun Also Rises was written after World War I. Hemingway was a volunteer ambulance driver for the Italian Red Cross during the War and suffered a serious injury from fragments of an exploding mortar shell on the Italian front. When he worked for the Toronto Daily Star and moved to Paris with his first wife, Hadley Richardson in 1921, he became friends with the poet Ezra Pound, writer Gertrude Stein, artists Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso and other individuals who belonged to prominent writers and artists living in postwar Paris. The Sun Also Rises was published in 1926 and established Hemingway as one of the preeminent writers of his day. In this novel he writes about the lives of the members of the so-called Lost Generation, the group of men and women whose early adulthood was consumed by World War I. He also talks about these characters search for meaning in the wake of World War I and how it shattered many people’s beliefs in the traditional values of love, faith, and manhood.

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The Old Man and the Sea, however, was written later in Hemingway’s career. This novel was inspired by Hemingway’s vast knowledge of the fisherman’s craft and the scenery he had in the 1930s. Hemingway lived in Key West, Florida then moved to Cuba. This novel helped regenerate Hemingway’s career and has received both positive and negative criticism. He strays away from his usual writing style and focuses more on biblical themes as well as baseball.

A similarity between these two books is the detail that he goes into. In The Old Man and the Sea Hemingway goes into much detail about fishing. Hemingway was a fisherman. He tells us, in The Old Man and the Sea, about how straight Santiago’s lines were, how the bait was hug, and how each hook was positioned in the water. In The Sun Also Rises, however, the detail is all about Pedro Romero and the bullfights.

“Out in the centre of the ring Romero profiled in front of the bull, drew the sword out from the folds of the muleta, rose on his toes, and sighted along the blade. The bull charged as Romero charged. Romero’s left hand dropped the muleta over the bull’s muzzle to blind him, his left shoulder went forward between the horns as the sword went in, and for just and instant he and the bull were one, Romero way out over the bull, the right arm extended high up to where the hilt of the sword had gone in between the bull’s shoulders. Then the figure was broken. There was a little jolt as Romero came clear, and then he was standing, one hand up, facing the bull, his shirt ripped out from under his sleeve, the white blowing in the wind, and the bull, the red sword hilt tight between his shoulders, his head going down and his legs setting.” (Hemingway, XVIII,222)

This is the part of the bullfight in which Pedro kills the bull. From this passage we see how Pedro works with the bull at the end of the fight and how he kills the bull. Hemingway goes into more detail after the killing of the bull. Afterwards the crowd applauds Romero for his work and he bows before the president. Pedro’s older brother, after the second bullfight, cuts off its ear and Pedro gives it to Brett.

Another similarity between The Old Man and the Sea and The Sun Also Rises is the injuries the main characters receive, or have already received, during the course of the novel. Santiago, the main character in The Old Man and the Sea, cuts up his hands on the fishing lines while he tries to pull in the giant marlin. In The Sun Also Rises we, at first, don’t realize what injury Jake has. We learn however, during the course of the novel, that the injury he received during the war has caused him to never have sex again. Santiago receives his injury during the novel unlike Jake, who was injured before the novel. The injuries, however, play a factor in both novels. In Santiago’s case he has trouble pulling in the marlin due to his cut up hands. Jake, however, feels like he has lost his masculinity due to his injury and the fact that Brett, the love of his life, doesn’t want to start a relationship with him compounds the problem.

Love is another element shared in both stories. The love interests in each novel, however, are different. In The Old Man and the Sea Santiago has a love for the sea and its inhabitants. He calls the marlin his friend and even says that he is sorry that he has to kill his brother. Whatever situation Santiago found himself in, whether it was pulling in the marlin, killing the mako shark or the dolphin, he feels or calls his opponent or what he catches his friend. Jake, in The Sun Also Rises, has a love interest in Brett. He has always loved her and would do anything for her but, due to his injury, he can’t. Brett seems to be the love interest of many men in this novel. She has many men that she sleeps with and this seems to upset Jake.

Sports are something that these two novels have in common. In The Old Man and the Sea Santiago is a baseball fan. He and Manolin, the young boy, talk about who is the best baseball player ever. They also discuss the baseball scores in the newspapers. Santiago even goes as far as to compare himself to the great Joe DiMaggio later in the novel. He does this by comparing DiMaggio’s bone spur to his cut up hands when he tried to pull in the great marlin. Santiago hopes that when he comes home he will be the most talked about man, much like DiMaggio, who “was the most talked about man in American during World War II.”

Jake is a fan of bullfighting. He, as well as his friends, go to Spain to party in the fiesta and go see the bullfights. Jake has to explain to Brett about what goes on during the fight. Jake is a passionate fan of bullfighting. Montoya even calls Jake an aficionado of bullfighting.

“Aficion means passion. An aficionado is one who is passionate about the bull-fights. All the good bull-fighters stayed at Montoya’s hotel; that is, those with aficion stayed there. The commercial bull-fighters stayed once, perhaps, and then did not come back.” (Hemingway, XIII, 136)

These two talked about the bullfights as well as the bull fighters themselves, much like how Manolin and Santiago talked about baseball and whom they thought the greatest baseball player of all time is. However Jake and Montoya never discuss who they think the best bullfighter is. Montoya, however, keeps the bull fighters without aficion in a drawer in his desk, much like how the old man had a picture of his wife on his wall but the picture made him sad and lonely.

“They often had the most flattering inscriptions. But they did not mean anything. One day Montoya took them all out and dropped them in the waste-basket. He did not want them around.” (Hemingway, XIII, 136)

This shows how Montoya, who isn’t a main character is somewhat like Santiago. Both of these characters are affectionate about something; Santiago is religious and Montoya is affectionate about the bullfighters he believed in. We see Santiago say ten Hail Maries when he is trying to pull in the Marlin. Montoya let only the bull-fighters that have aficion and are good stay at his hotel. He also could forgive anything that a bullfighter does or says who has aficion. This is how much Montoya loves this sport.

Hemingway also writes about death in both novels. Santiago, in The Old Man and the Sea, kills a dolphin for food as well as sharks that eat the meat of the marlin. The death scene with the marlin is like a dance between Santiago and the marlin. Both are evenly matched but one has to give in order to move the novel along. When the marlin dies it jumps up out of the water and Santiago gets a look at his opponent and watches him die. All the killings in this novel are detailed killings; for example, how Santiago kills the mako shark with the harpoon. In The Sun Also Rises Hemingway writes about how Pedro Romero kills the bull at the end of the bullfight; how he and the bull are positioned, how the sword goes into the bull’s back and how the bull falls to the ground. Death was a common element in Hemingway’s novels.

Hemingway, as you can see, both varied his writing style and kept some elements the same in The Old Man and the Sea and The Sun Also Rises. Some of these elements are similar, but different in their respective novels, were love and death. The sports that Hemingway talks about in these novels are different but we get a feel for what they are like in both novels. Hemingway knew so much about these sports because he himself was a fisherman as well and a lover of bull fights. Hemingway put himself as well as his friends in the novels he wrote. These two are no exceptions. He always put his own style and experience into his novels, showing us why he is one of the greatest and influential writers of his time.