Date of Award

5-1981

Document Type

Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Mrs. Betty McCommas

Second Advisor

Dr. Johnny Wink

Third Advisor

Mr. Lavell Cole

Abstract

It is difficult to define the precise nature of this study. Strictly speaking, it is not a literary study, for the questions which it asks and the topics which it addresses go beyond the traditional boundaries of literary criticism. Likewise, it is not a philosophical study, for it transcends that discipline as well. Neither is it an eclectic combination of the two. This paper is a part of a deeply personal self-examination which I have undergone over the last three years. As I have tried to determine the ways in which Hemingway characters find meaning in life, I have also had to come to grips with that question in my own life. The roots of this study lie deep within me, and its branches reach out in all directions.

The search for meaning in life is a very painful process through which all must pass if they are ever to distill anything solid, genuine and valid from their lives. Each of us sets out on this search in one way or another. When we awaken in the morning and demand of ourselves a justification for getting out of bed, we are searching for meaning in life. When we pause momentarily in the midst of our daily chaos and confusion to ask "Why?," then, too, we are questing after meaning. When we gaze painfully into the gray boredom of our lives, when we face the naked oblivion of the night and try to give some real significance to the sound and fury of our day, then our search is at its height.

Matthew Arnold, in his essay "Literature and Science," concluded that the reason literature, in its broadest sense, deserves a high place in modern education is that it helps man to relate his sense of knowledge and his sense of beauty to his sense of conduct--that literature helps man to live his life more fully and more richly. Grounding my work on this premise, I have chosen to examine the ways in which some of the characters of Ernest Hemingway's writings try to meaning in life. Perhaps as much as any other twentieth century American author, Hemingway was concerned with the quest after meaning. His characters are involved in the same painful struggles which we face. The questions which they ask, the conflicts which they face, the behavior patterns which they act out--all these are strangely and perhaps disturbingly familiar to us. Hemingway does, indeed, know the heart and soul of modern man.

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