Hemingway and the textual struggle of paternity

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University of Alabama Libraries

Ernest Hemingway bears the legendary reputation of a hyper-masculine hunter, drinker, and womanizer, though much criticism has sought to complicate notions of gender in the author's life and fiction. This research project considers fatherhood in particular, one aspect of masculinity that was never easily-defined for Hemingway. Hemingway's fiction frequently has autobiographical roots, and his writing reflects his own obstacles with transferring from the role of a son to the role of a father. Writing as a way "to get rid of it," as Nick Adams does in "Fathers and Sons," Hemingway wrote again and again of his conflict with being a father and being a son, but never seemed to overcome his struggles or find his separate piece. Troubled by his father's suicide, the stunted rearing of his sons, and a tumultuous relationship with his youngest, cross-dressing son Gregory, Hemingway makes fatherhood remarkably present in several texts that span the decades of his career. He was known to his friends and even the public at large as "Papa," but this identity is constantly muddled and strained in his writing. This project pursues Papa Hemingway in four texts with particularly rich paternal content: "Fathers and Sons," major sections of Islands in the Stream, "I Guess Everything Reminds You of Something," and "Great News from the Mainland." Hemingway's real-life relationships with his father and his sons were filled with hardship, confusion, and self-doubt, but the repeated reworking of father-son relationships in these texts offers the potential for healing, even if this healing is simply fiction.

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American literature, Modern literature