Hemingway's hidden west: concealment in the Toronto Star features through A Farewell to Arms



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Texas Tech University


Ernest Hemingway never wrote the stories of the American West he knew as a young man, although the images and notions of the West were deeply ingrained in his consciousness. Just as Harry, the dying writer in The Snows of Kilimanjaro, who collected stories in his imagination "to write until he knew enough to write them well," Hemingway wrote about the Michigan woods, Parisian cafes, Spanish bullrings, and Italian hospitals rather than about the America West until late in his literary career, when he felt he knew enough about the West to set two stories in that region: "Wine of Wyoming" in the state of its namesake, and "The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio," in what seems to be Montana.

Hemingway's writing of the 1920s contains a cultural void which conceals the impact, importance, and appreciation of the American West for him, as well as hides archetypal Western notions. His protagonists are not imbued with typical Western characteristics nor do his fictional settings occur in the West. Aside from Wyoming and the Dawson Ridge in Montana, Hemingway's works are set mostly in Europe, Key West, or Africa, although the West was significant for Hemingway's understanding of America. Furthermore, Hemingway often relied upon the spirit of the West he knew and loved as a child and young man as the essential connection to pre-First World War America in order to provide meaning to his own life through his writing. Buried within his fiction, poetry, and newspaper features of the Twenties beats the heart of his symbolic American West — a landscape encompassing mountain ranges, rivers, open prairies, forests, and plateaus — a thin pulse which can hardly be discerned but nonetheless gives vitality to his work.