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Essay Example: Hemingway and Spain

4 pages
1017 words
University of California, Santa Barbara
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Ernest Hemingway lived in many places which he considered his adopted home; for instance, Italy, Kenya, mountains of the American West, and Spain. However, he spent more time in Spain than the other adopted homes combined and this is what highly influenced his writings. Most of the things he wrote about were experiences he experienced while in Europe and specifically in Spain. Most of the themes in his short stories and novels revolve around soldiers and bullfighting, all which he experienced while in Europe, specifically in Spain in Madrid and other places. Hemingways interaction with the people in Spain influenced his writings in many ways. He has depicted different human qualities in his short stories which are all based on the experience of the people he interacted with in Spain. In both A Clean, Well-Lighted Place and The Capital of the World Hemingway depicts the human despair through different characters and how they struggle to deal with it but without success. This paper is going to examine how Hemingway has depicted the human quality or value in the above short-stories in relation to Spain.

Hemingways adopted homes acted as places of imagination in which he explored the world through fantasy. As Eby and Cirino explain Hemingway believed that a writer can make a country from the way he described it. The authors argue that Hemingways writings were mainly influenced by the perceptions and beliefs regarding the human heart, human mind, and the presence or absence of human soul (Eby & Mark 3). The author's further state that in order to build the imaginative country, Hemingway adopted his life experience and what they call his self (Eby & Mark 3). In The Capital of the World Hemingway depicts a potential young boy who dies before he could achieve his goals. Paco, an idealistic and young boy, is an inexperienced bullfighter but decides to try it anyway. The story is full of despair, disillusionment, and emptiness which are depicted through the character Paco. Many scholars and critics have claimed that these feelings reflected Hemingways experience in the World War I in Europe. Hemingway depicts Pacos malleability and idealism as his weaknesses that also lead to his death. Even though Hemingway describes Pacos overconfidence that results in his death, but he also empathizes with him for having not achieved his goals. For instance, in the second paragraph, he writes that he died, as Spanish phrase has it, full of illusions; he had not had time in his life to lose of any of them, nor even, at the end, to complete an act of contrition (Hemingway 44).

In A Clean, Well-Lighted Place Hemingway describes the human despair in the old man and the older waiter. The old man struggles with his despair and every way that he thinks may help him only subdues it but unable to cure it. He has money but still unable to help himself with the despair. Hemingway writes that hes got plenty of money but lives in despair, emptiness, and loneliness that sometimes makes him stay all night awake (Hemingway 2). In his attempt to quell the impacts of despair and loneliness, the old man has tried to commit suicide which has been unsuccessful. The old man has to wait at the cafe where he believes he gets some peace. Hemingway refutes religion as a way to deal with the human despair. This can be depicted from the life of the old man who thinks that his solutions can be found in cafes and specific once. He liked cafes that are clean, well-lighted but not bars and bodegas (Hemingway 3).

The descriptions that Hemingway uses in both short stories depict his taste and experience in Spain, especially during the war. He depicts his love and passion for the life in Spain through the characters like Paco. However, his despair and emptiness that is expressed in the characters like the old man in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. The descriptions of the drinking and bullfighting in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place and The Capital of the World respectively depict the prominent parts of his life. Hemingway describes commitment and struggle that pervade A Clean, Well-Lighted Place in which the old man finds it a solution to his despair problem. In The Capital of the World Hemingway describes how Paco dies while trying to be a bullfighter. Through the above descriptions, Hemingway manages to create a belief that life can be meaningless and people must find a way to create their own value systems to enable their lives to seem meaningful and worthwhile. This can be seen through the life of Paco in The Capital of the World as he dies trying to achieve what he believed in instead of letting his dream get crushed by imaginations and real experiences.

In conclusion, Hemingway has depicted the value or human quality in the lives of the two protagonists in the short stories A Clean, Well-Lighted Place and The Capital of the World. The two short stories that are based on Spanish culture and life depict how characters try to deal with the despair, emptiness, and loneliness in their lives. Hemingway sympathizes and empathizes with the character like Paco who dies before he could realize his dream of becoming a bullfighter. He also sympathizes with the old man who had money but could not find peace at night which forced him to sit for long hours at the cafe. Through the above evidence presented and discussed, Hemingway has depicted the value of humanity in the two short stories in respect to life in Spain.


Works Cited

Eby, Carl P., and Mark Cirino. "Hemingways Spain: Imagining the Spanish World." Kent State University Press, (2016). Accessed on December 14, 2017 from

Hemingway, Ernest. "A clean, well-lighted place." The short stories of Ernest Hemingway (1933). Accessed on December 14, 2017 from

Hemingway, Ernest. The complete short stories of Ernest Hemingway. New Canadian Library, 2014.Accessed on December 14, 2017 from


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