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Research Report by Shaane Syed

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Research Report: Hemingway's Struggle


By Shaane Syed, Storyboard Project




1. Abstract


“Hemingway and the Beasts” is an essay by Jens Bjorneboe, a Norwegian writer whose writing period began in 1955 and continued until his death in 1976.  This particular piece was written in 1955 and is centered not around Hemingway’s short story, “Indian Camp,” but on Hemingway’s psyche and his observations of the deeper symbols and meanings in life, death, and the pain one must go through in both.  In his essay, Bjorneboe explores numerous struggles Hemingway endures, as revealed in some of his non-fiction books such as in Green Hills of Africa.  He concludes by noting the importance of subtle symbols in The Old Man and the Sea, then relating the significance back to Hemingway’s thoughts and inner-workings.




2. Description


In “Hemingway and the Beasts,” Bjorneboe explores the notion that the combination of Ernest Hemingway’s works constructs a full, or nearly-complete, autobiography.  He finds direct, relevant quotations from Hemingway’s novels and short stories as his evidence, utilizing them as proof of the author’s own realities.  For example, he uses “Indian Camp” to show “how it feels to be human,” when young Nick experiences death for the first time when he sees that a young Indian man had committed suicide.  Bjorneboe also notes that after the boy witnesses death, he asks essential questions (which are falsely answered by his father) such as, “Does it hurt to die?” Bjorneboe uses the questions as an excuse to connect Nick Adams directly to Hemingway and his writing, stating that all of his work revolves around three subjects and themes: death, life, and pain.  By asking if it hurts to die, those three subjects are addressed.  According to the Norwegian writer, admitting that death exists means admitting life does as well, since the two come as a pair: one cannot be without the other.


In the very first portion of his essay, Bjorneboe stresses that the hero of all Hemingway’s narratives is “wounded.”  Already, he implies that pain is a major theme to Hemingway’s work; he even goes as far as to state that “It bids fair to become [Hemingway’s] only theme.”  He, however, continues his argument by adding that although cruelty and violence play key roles in those stories, Hemingway ultimately moves on to admit his main purpose in writing is to discover what one does to survive, and what one must go through to achieve survival.  Bjorneboe claims that dying slowly—living a long life—“is Hemingway’s worst complaint about life” itself.  The reality of life is weighted upon the timeliness of death, and according to Bjorneboe, Hemingway finds prolonged death to be the cruelest part of life.


As the essay continues, Bjorneboe lays his focus upon Hemingway’s connection to his work, noting both fiction and non-fiction.  He addresses the cowardice Hemingway saw in his father’s suicide, and he explores the author’s use of symbolism.  Bjorneboe concludes on a spiritual note, commenting upon Hemingway’s desire to find “peace and soul” in writing, and that “consciously and unconsciously Hemingway trusts that reality itself is built up of symbols which possess sustaining power,” and how he may have used fishing and the wilderness as his gateway to religious symbolism.  Though Hemingway (with his characters) hunts both game and fish in his stories, Bjorneboe shows that he clearly identifies predator and the prey, the hunter and the hunted, the man and the animal; but, “He feels himself one with them both.”




3. Commentary


This essay will prove to be both beneficial and detrimental when creating a storyboard, or a presentation of the like.  The faint details to which he draws attention open doors to a myriad of questions about Hemingway and his works.  Those questions, in turn, can be closely examined and answered, providing in-depth analysis to his novels and short stories, including “Indian Camp.”  For example, it is often stated that the majority of Hemingway’s themes are dark and sorrowful; however, Bjorneboe argues that what he really writes is not on the subject of death and cowardice, but of the strength and agility it may take to survive and potentially enjoy one’s life.


According to the Norwegian writer, Hemingway wants so badly to “escape” from his own unkind life.  He claims that the picture which Hemingway paints of his homeland, America, consists of “lynching Negroes, violence and murder,” and that references to Ancient Rome and isolation in the wilderness are his calm.  Bjorneboe then draws from a quotation within Hemingway’s Green Hills of Africa, in which Hemingway asks why he hunted so much, and why he killed, after which Bjorneboe adds, “It was probably not right for him always to be killing animals.  But, [Hemingway] says, if I hadn’t killed so many animals I might have killed myself.”  Instead of committing suicide, like his own father, Hemingway fought through his struggles, and pushed through all the pain which he inevitably felt throughout his journey of life.  Bjorneboe’s analysis pertains to that of “Indian Camp” because of the links between the struggles of Nick Adams and those of Hemingway himself.  


For a storyboard, background information and deeper exploration of the meanings of phrases or events within a story are helpful and beneficial to a reader, a filmmaker, or even another author.  The material shows specific insight into analysis of Hemingway’s words and motives to create more significance to those words.  In his essay, Bjorneboe mentions Hemingway’s novel, The Old Man and the Sea, and states that those words, “man,” or “sea” have multiple meanings and connotations to them, which can be dissected and examined to produce a complicated and beautiful symbol.  Bjorneboe notes that Hemingway chose every word carefully and never wrote anything without thinking clearly and intensely, as he states even the simplest story of a fish can amount to an infinite number of possibilities.  One such significance, pointed out by Bjorneboe, includes the Christian antiquity, adding that the Greek word for “fish” is “ichthos,” the “I” and the “Ch” in which represent the initials of Jesus Christ.  He goes on to note the purity, calm, and other explanations to the, seemingly, smallest of symbols, a fish. 


The in-depth psychoanalysis Jens Bjorneboe provides in his essay, “Hemingway and the Beasts,” can benefit a storyboard by providing fine details which can, in turn, be used for both visual analysis and also further examination into deeper symbols and subtleties in Hemingway’s work, including those in “Indian Camp.”



4. Additional Resources



Bjorneboe, Jens.  "Hemingway and the Beasts." 1955. 13 February 2008. 




"Jens Bjorneboe" Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 17 February 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 20 February 2008.



“Nick Adams” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 11 January 2008. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 20 February 2008.



Mürer, Esther Greenleaf. Bjorneboe in English. May 2005. Online Archive. 20 February 2008.




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