Tag Archives: hemingway

Use of repetitions : a stylistic pattern from the modernist era

In Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway, “he could not feel” (86), “he could not feel” (87), “he could not feel” (87), “but he could not taste, he could not feel” (88), “he could not feel” (88), “he felt nothing” (90).

In Gertrude Stein, Melanctha, “Rose Johnson was a real black (…) negress. She laughed when she was happy” (47), “Rose Johnson was a real black negress” (47), “Rose laughed when she was happy” (47).

In William Faulkner, As I lay dying, “It wont balance. If you want it to tote and ride on a balance, we will have” (96), “it wont tote and it wont ride on a balance unless” (96), “it wont balance. If they want it to tote and ride on a balance, they will have” (96).

In Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time, “the burned-over country” (133), “burned off the ground” (133), “at the burned-over stretch of hillside” (133), “watched the trout” (133), “he watched them” (133), “Nick watched them” (133), “He watched them” (133), “as he watched” (133).

In these four works Three Lives, (1909), In Our Time (1924), Mrs Dalloway (1925), As I lay dying (1930), the authors use a common pattern of repetition. The examples chosen above are representative of this stylistic use so typical of modernist writers. It seems to reflect obsessions that characters embody, whether it be the absence of feeling for Septimus Warren Smith in Mrs Dalloway, the negro race identity in Melanctha, the coffin and its technical features for Cash in As I lay dying or the sense of sight for Nick and the destroyed land after the war in In Our Time. We can notice that Gertrude Stein was using this repetitive device in 1909, that is to say before WWI and that Faulkner, in a very modernist perspective, kept using it in 1930, in the interwar period. This stylistic pattern allows the reader to enter the character’s mind and to share his/her obsessions and fears.

Manhood Vs. Death

They hanged Sam Cardinella at six o’clock in the morning in the corridor of the county jail. The corridor was high and narrow with tiers of cells on either side. All the cells were occupied. The men had been brought in for the hanging. Five men sentenced to be hanged were in the five top cells. Three of the men to be hanged were negroes. They were very frightened. One of the white men sat on his cot with his head in his hands. The other lay flat on his cot with a blanket wrapped around his head.
The came out onto the gallows through a door in the wall. There were seven of them including two priests. They were carrying Sam Cardinella. He had been like that since about four o’clock in the morning.
While they were strapping his legs together two guards held him up and the two priests were whispering to him. “Be a man, my son”, said one priest. When they came toward him with the cap to go over his head Sam Cardinella lost control of his sphincter muscle. The guards who had been holding him up both dropped him. They were both disgusted. “How about a chair, Will?” asked one of the the guards. “Better get one,” said a man in a derby hat.
When they all stepped back on the scaffolding back of the drop, which was very heavy, built of oak and steel and swung on ball bearings, Sam Cardinella was left sitting there strapped tight, the younger of the two priests kneeling beside the chair. The priest stepped back onto the scaffolding just before the drop fell.

Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time, Scribner Editions, 2003, Chapter XV (143)

Notes : Interchapters turn out to be the very best of Hemingway’s collection of short stories. Most of the vignettes deal with war concerns, bullfighting and murder and the characters are often confronted to death. This interchapter XV is relevant for its way of featuring manhood and fear, two significant topics for the author. In 1952, Ernest Hemingway will write in The Old Man and the Sea : ” A man is not made for defeat… a man can be destroyed but not defeated”.

Nick the Invincible

“They were seated in the boat, Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over the hills. A bass jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand in the water. It felt warm in the sharp chill of the morning… In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing, he felt quite sure that he would never die.”

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner, 2003. Print.

Notes: diction is very factual, movement (rowing, sunrise, ripples in water), feels unstoppable, constantly moving never motionless,  death=weakness


Are they important?

“‘Oh, Daddy, can’t you give her something to make her stop screaming?’ asked Nick.
‘No. I haven’t any anaesthetic,’ his father said. ‘But her screams are not important. I don’t hear them because they are not important.'” (Hemingway 97).

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner, 2003. Web.

Notes: characterization, concept of humanity and empathy, touches on a medical/surgical techniques to get a job done


“It wasn’t any good. He couldn’t tell her, he couldn’t make her see it. It was silly to have said it. He had only hurt her. He went over and took hold of her arm. She was crying with her head in her hands” (Hemingway 76).

Notes: Ignorance and sadness are shown at the same time.

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. “Soldier’s Home.” New York: Scribner, 2003. Print. 69-77.

Expected, Unexpectedly

“She was sorry, and she knew he would probably not be able to understand, but  might some day forgive her, and be grateful to her, and she expected , absolutely  unexpectedly, to be married in the spring”. (pg. 66)


Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York, NY: Scribner, 2003.

Notes- play on words, usage of excessive commas, run-on sentence, use of diction by author, regret, apology,


In Our Time

“The strange thing was, he said, how they screamed every night at midnight. I do not know why they screamed at that time.” (1)

Notes — vague, delayed specification of referents (who is he? who are they?), beginning the story en media res

“They shot the six cabinet ministers at half-past six in the morning against the wall of a hospital. There were pools of water in the courtyard.” (51)

Notes — detachment, simplicity of diction and syntax, no insight into the mind of the narrator, stating distressing events as simple facts, lack of emotion

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York, NY: Scribner, 2003.

When the Truth becomes Lies

“His lies were quite unimportant lies and consisted in attributing to himself things other men had seen, done or heard of, and stating facts certain apocryphal incidents familiar to all soldiers (70).”

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner, 1925. Print

Notes: That once people hear the truth so many time, they don’t want to listen anymore. Lies can make people listen.  A lie can take the form of the truth if the basic ideas and information are correct.

“We shot them”

“We were in a garden at Mons. Young Buckley came in with his patrol from across the river. The first German I saw climbed up over the garden wall. We waited till he got one leg over and then potted him. He had so much equipment on and looked awfully surprised and fell down into the garden. then three more came over further down the wall. We shot them. They all came just like that” (Hemingway 29).

Hemingway, Ernest. In Our Time. New York: Scribner, 2003.

Notes: The descriptions and actions in the passages are very direct. The German was described as having “so much equipment” and that he “looked awfully surprised.” The German “climbed” and they “waited” then “potted” him. The passage is also devoid of any emotion. The sentence “We shot them” is jarring in a way that something so powerful can be described in three words.

Emotionless in depicting gruesome images

“He pulled back the blanket from the Indian’s head. His hand came away wet. He mounted on the edge of the lower bunk with the lamp in one hand and looked in. The Indian lay with his face toward the wall. His throat had been cut from ear to ear. The blood had flowed down into a pool where his body sagged the bunk. His head rested on his left arm. The open razor lay, edge up, in the blankets.

[…] ‘I’m terribly sorry I brought you along, Nickie,'” said his father, all his post-operative exhilaration gone. ‘It was an awful mess to put you through.'” (18)

Notes: emotional restraint – complete emotionless from narrator, limited emotional perspective from characters