Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald

Prompt

Compare and contrast the novels of Ernest Hemingway with the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, including excerpts from the writings of each.

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Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald are two of the most acclaimed American authors of the 20th century, known for their distinct literary styles and thematic explorations. Their works reflect the complexities and changes in American society during the early to mid-20th century, but their approaches and thematic focuses have notable differences.

Ernest Hemingway

  1. Writing Style: Hemingway is famous for his concise, straightforward, and unadorned prose, often referred to as the “Iceberg Theory” or “Theory of Omission”. He believed in saying as little as possible and leaving much to the reader’s interpretation.
  2. Themes: Hemingway’s works often revolve around themes of stoicism, masculinity, and the human struggle against the natural world. His characters typically face physical or emotional trials that test their courage and moral integrity.
  3. Notable Works:
    • “The Old Man and the Sea”
    • “A Farewell to Arms”
    • “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
  4. Excerpt: From “The Old Man and the Sea” -“He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald

  1. Writing Style: Fitzgerald’s style is often more elaborate and richly descriptive compared to Hemingway’s. He is known for his lyrical, flowing prose and his ability to capture the mood of the Jazz Age.
  2. Themes: Fitzgerald’s novels commonly address themes of decadence, idealism, resistance to change, and the disillusionment of the American Dream. His works often depict the high life of the 1920s and the moral emptiness that can accompany wealth and status.
  3. Notable Works:
    • “The Great Gatsby”
    • “Tender is the Night”
    • “This Side of Paradise”
  4. Excerpt: From “The Great Gatsby” -“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Comparison

  • Writing Style: Hemingway’s minimalist, understated style contrasts sharply with Fitzgerald’s ornate and poetic approach. While Hemingway focuses on directness and simplicity, Fitzgerald employs a more decorative language to create mood and tone.
  • Themes: Both explore themes related to the human condition, but their focal points differ. Hemingway often delves into the raw aspects of human nature and survival, whereas Fitzgerald tends to focus on societal issues, particularly the moral implications of the American Dream.
  • Contextual Influence: The era they lived in greatly influenced both writers. The aftermath of World War I, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression are reflected distinctly in their works. Hemingway’s experiences as a war correspondent and ambulance driver in World War I influenced his themes of heroism and human endurance, while Fitzgerald’s portrayal of the Jazz Age reflects his fascination with wealth and celebrity.

Conclusion

Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald offer two contrasting windows into American literature. Hemingway’s terse prose and focus on existential struggles stand in contrast to Fitzgerald’s lyrical exploration of social mores and disillusionment. Both, however, remain quintessential in their portrayal of their respective eras, capturing the spirit and challenges of early 20th-century America.

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