Ernest Hemingway’s literary footprint in Idaho

Photo by Niamh Brennan

Ernest Hemingway, a Nobel Peace Prize winning author, has influenced a century of writers with his books that reflect his years reporting on the Spanish Civil War, expat writers in Paris and the frontlines of World War I— all conveyed through the lens of historical fiction. 

Hemingway’s novels have been enjoyed by millions and appreciated for his writing style that doesn’t just focus on monumental events in the 20th Century, but highlights the emotion and motivations of his characters amidst imperative eras in history.

In 1939, Hemingway fell in love with Sun Valley, Idaho after being introduced to the city through a resort promotion with the Union Pacific Railway. Boise State has recognized Hemingway’s contribution to literature and residency in Idaho by naming the Creative Writing Center the Hemingway Center in 1986

It was in Sun Valley where Hemingway began working on portions of his most notorious novel “For Whom the Bells Toll”. After the breakout of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Hemingway left for Spain to cover the stories of the fighters he would meet. 

The book starts off with an American teacher Robert Jordan high up in the mountains around Segovia, Spain, connecting with the anti-fascist Loyalist guerillas. Jordan is the only foreigner in the band of guerillas and isn’t trusted as the explosive technician set to blow up a nearby Nationalist bridge in the coming days. 

While living with the band of guerillas, Jordan meets Maria, a young women traumatized by rape who was rescued a few days earlier from Naionalist soliders. The book follows Jordan and Maria on a 72-hour love affair where the looming future of the coming efforts to blow up an enemy bridge forces the two to hang onto every second they have together. 

Jordan and Maria live in a cave and are commanded by a foolish and drunken guerilla leader Pablo, and his wife Pillar who is forced to take charge of the band. Through trials and tribulations Jordan, Pillar and Pablo watch enemy troop movement along the nearby bridge, waiting for the orders to destroy it and make way for a loyalist counter offensive to end the war. 

Jordan’s love for Maria grows with every passing second and the two day dream of leaving the war to settle down. The closer the two become the closer the time comes to destroy the bridge — the one obstacle stopping them from forever being together. 

“How little we know of what there is to know.”

Another one of Hemingway’s notable novels is “The Sun Also Rises”. This novel captures the forgotten generations of expat writers along with their delusional way of life, moods, and attitudes after the end of the First World War. 

On a drunken night out in the dance halls of Paris, Jake Barnes runs into his former lover Brett, the two ride around in a taxi talking until they eventually meet Barnes’ friend Robert Cohn at a bar. After seeing her for the first time in years Cohn admits he is in love with Brett. Barnes warns Cohn not to get involved with Brett, who has a history of affairs and is currently engaged to the World War Iveteran Mike Campbell. 

Barnes and Cohn agree to take a trip to northern Spain and meet Brett and her fiance in Pamplona, Spain and witness the “Running of the Bulls”. The group stays at a bullfighter enthusiast hotel and amongst the first days there Brett confessed to Barnes that she and Cohn had just spent a week together in another part of Spain that her fiance is unaware of. This confession eventually leads Barnes, Cohn and Campbell to spend the trip butting heads and fighting over Brett.  

While the men clash for Brett, she meets a young bullfighter named Romero and runs away with him to Madrid. Once the trip ends, Brett writes Barnes asking him to come to Madrid and save her from corrupting the young bullfighter Romero. After meeting Brett the book begins to close the same way Brett and Barnes meet. The two ride around Madrid in a taxi and Brett tells Barnes about how much fun they could have if they were together. As the book closes Barnes replies to Brett, “Yes isn’t it pretty to think so.”

The book captures the empty and meaningless lives of the group of expat writers that fill their time with drunken parties, and their desire for women. The parties and trips distract the expats from their haunting memories of World War I. 

Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” opens on the Italian front during the First World War where we meet Frederic Henry, an American serving as an Italian ambulance driver. Through a fellow soldier Henry is introduced to a nurse from England named Catherine, and the two begin a romantic relationship while Catherine continues to grieve her husband who was killed earlier in the war.

While serving on the front Henry is wounded from a motor blast and sent to a hospital in Milan where Catherine cares for him. Henry falls in love with Catherine and impregnates her. Shortly after Henry is punished for drinking alcohol and forced to return to the Italian front. 

Henry makes an attempt to desert the front and travels through northern Italy to reunite with Catherine. The two escape through Switzerland, a neutral country during the war. Catherine is happy to be with Henry but predicts that many bad things will happen to them. Time ticks on as Catherine’s delivery dates approach and the foreshadow of terrible things draws nearer. As the book tries to explain tragedy, the reader can reminisce with the quote, “There isn’t always an explanation for everything.”

Hemingway’s books take his audience through life, death, hate and euphoria as lessons of life and the triumphs and tribulations of past generations are portrayed through detailed first person descriptions of the main catcher’s thoughts. Although Hemingway passed away in 1961, his works continue to inspire writers and readers everywhere.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Josh LaPine

    I greatly enjoyed writing this and hope other students can learn about Ernest Hemingway and his novels.

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