On Hemingway’s iceberg theory 52 distinct image with the succinct and direct writing, the feeling and thought of the writer himself are hidden in the image to the largest extent. Thus, the emotion is plentiful, though included but not exposed; the thought is profound, though deeply concealed but not obscure. On account of this, the sensibility and perceptibility of literature are combined skillfully, leaving the readers to explore the emotion and thought of the work through the feeling of these distinct images.
Succinct words, distinct images, plentiful emotion and profound thought are the four fundamental elements of iceberg theory for further study, that is, the words and images are the so-called “1/8”while the emotion and thought are the so-called “7/8”. The formers are specific and visual while the latter are implied in the former. The words portray the images; the emotion is embodied in the images; the thought is embodied in the emotion. In the following part, the main features of the iceberg theory are to be analyzed in detail.
The main features of the iceberg theory 2. 1 Succinct words According to Hemingway’s aesthetic view, the real beauty should be the organic combination of the natural beauty and artistic beauty. Good works should not be the accumulation of rhetoric, but of one’s own particularity. He is object to the ornate diction which is flashy and without substance; he is also object to the meticulous descriptions of the character and complicated and delicate analysis of the mentality, because in this case, the readers can take in everything at a glance.
He advocates that the writer should express the most complicated meaning by the most succinct words while avoiding the useless circuitousness. And this view is embodied in the following aspects. (1) Describing scenery On the dimension of describing scenery, Hemingway, according to naturalism, never describes everything indiscriminatively. Instead, he refines and prunes the material so that anything that may be the obstacle is omitted. Thus, the writer provides readers with pictures which are objective and real.
Comparing Hemingway with Fitzgerald, a famous writer of his time, we can find that what Fitzgerald hands down was the tradition of Henry James within British and American literature; he emphasizes on the complicated and delicate depiction; On the contrary, Hemingway brandishes his plank ax to chop down all the “disorderly hair” which depends on James’ style of writing completely, so that the distance between the writer (narrator) and the reader (receiver) is contracted to the lowest degree. Fitzgerald is an expert who excels in describing scenery.
At the beginning of the long piece of fiction, he always emphasizes on a great deal of outdoor scenes and does not introduce the protagonist directly. Such depiction of the scenery is poetic and picturesque and the writer’s remarkable imagination, special writing style and marvelous artistic talent are shining between the lines of his works. Unavoidably, readers would feel pity for the writer spending so much writing on the scenery. Hemingway is different from him. He does not describe scene just for the scene, but expresses his emotions through the scene; the scene and emotions are not isolated, they are combined.
For example, in The old man and the sea, there is such a paragraph of scene description: He could not see the green of the shore now but only the tops of the blue hills that showed white as though they were snow -capped and the clouds that looked like high snow mountains above them. The sea was very dark and the light made prisms in the water. The myriad flecks of the plankton were annulled now by the high sun and it was only the great deep prisms in the blue water that the old man saw now with his lines going straight down into the water that was a mile deep (Hemingway, 1999, p. 30).
Hemingway’s description of the sea is simple and clear. Snow white tops of the blue hills, snow white clouds, the dark sea and prism light, all these simple things consist of a beautiful picture of nature. However, the old man’s On Hemingway’s iceberg theory 53 line is not natural. The appearance of the line is just like the appearance of the leading role in a play. Hemingway, with succinct words, draws the readers’ attention to the point directly. The beautiful scene is the background and the whole story happens in this background. And the lines which are going straight down into the water provide readers a great space for imagination.
Why are the lines straight down? What would happen with them? (2) Portraying figure On the dimension of portraying the figure, Hemingway’s art style is extraordinarily simple and direct. Among his works, The old man and the sea is most convincing of this point. According to Hemingway, this 30 thousand-word medium-length novel could be written as long as one thousand pages or more, including the introduction of catching fish at sea, the life and working of the people in the fishing village, the portrait of some secondary figures, etc. Nevertheless, Hemingway wrote in another way.
He omitted all those less important details; instead, he made this novel an allegory, which could be read and comprehended in many different ways, which was of immortal value. The old man and the sea is the most successful practice of his iceberg theory. Hemingway also advocated that the character of the figure should be reflected through the image itself. The talks of the figure could reflect all the things while there is no need for the writer to talk too much about the figure. Only those incompetent writers, who do not believe in the readers’ ability of comprehension, will have to explain everything by his words.
Hemingway’s explanation for the iceberg theory is: “If a writer of the prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. ” (3) Describing psychology In order to fully reflect the beauty of iceberg theory, Hemingway employs the means of “stream of consciousness”. Meanwhile, he creates a kind of “telegraphic” language style which is rather succinct. Hemingway is good at portraying the character’s psychology.
In A farewell to arms, when Catherine was in the delivery room, her husband Henry worried a lot: “And what if she should die? She won’t die… She won’t die… She can’t… She can’t die why would she die? …But what if she die?… She can’t die… But what if she should die… What if she should die? ” (Hemingway, 1999, pp. 320-321). The author uses very simple words to show that Henry was feeling upset and anxious, but also, he was longing for good news. In addition, Henry’s psychology is shown apparently when he was busy running between the hospital and the tavern. In the half way, he came across a dog. “… a dog was nosing at one of the cans. What do you want? ’ I asked and looked in the can to see if there was anything I could pull out for him. There was nothing on top but coffee-grounds, dust and some dead flowers… ‘there isn’t anything, dog. ’ I said… ” (Hemingway, 1999, p. 315). Hemingway strengthens the authenticity of the story by using the first-person speech. In this way, readers are connected tightly with the characters in the story. 2. 2 Symbolism There is no doubt that terseness of writing is extraordinary, the beauty of symbolism is also a dazzling feature of Hemingway’s “iceberg theory”. No wonder some critics called him writer of symbolism.
But the author want to point out that Hemingway did not abuse symbolism but used it moderately according to the need of the works. (1) Vocabulary According to Hemingway, good literary writing should be able to make readers feel the emotion of the characters directly and the best way to produce the effect is to set down exactly every particular kind of feeling without any authorial comments, without conventionally emotive language, and with a bare minimum of adjectives and adverbs. Seemingly simple and natural, Hemingway’s style is actually polished and tightly controlled, but highly suggestive and connotative.
The story Hills like white elephants describes a young man’s On Hemingway’s iceberg theory 54 complex psychology before taking his girlfriend to the abortion operation. But the author does not mention any word about it; instead, he enables readers to detect it through the talk between the young man and her girlfriend. “White elephant” is used in the title of this story. In English, this phrase means heavy burden. Here, although the girl’s pregnancy signifies the love between the two, it may bring “heavy burden” to life in the future (especially the girl’s life).
Also, in A farewell to arms, “arms” not only means “weapon”, but also means “hug”. It symbolizes that love is gone with the war. (2) Coda This is outstanding in For whom the bell tolls. Below are the beginning and ending of this novel: He lay flat on the brown, pine-needled floor of the forest, his chin on his folded arms, and high overhead the wind blew in the tops of the pine trees. (Hemingway, 1999, p. 1) …He was waiting until the officer reached the sunlit place where the first trees of the pine forest joined the green slope of the meadow. He could feel his heart beating against the pine needle floor of the forest. Hemingway, 1999, p. 471) The number of words in the beginning and end is limited, but “pine trees” is mentioned several times. Undoubtedly, here “pine trees” has a connotative meaning: firstly, Jordan undertook an immoral task— blowing the bridge; secondly, he devoted himself to the war of justice. His contribution is lofty and solemn, which is just like the pine trees— eternal and everlasting. (3) Christian symbolism In The old man and the sea, during Santiago’s struggle with the fish, his back is beaten raw by the lines; he spits blood; he gets a piercing headache; his hands are filled with pain.
At the moment when he sees the second and third scavenger-sharks attacking, he salutes them with a despairing “Ay,” and Hemingway comments that “there is no translation for this word and perhaps it is just such a noise as a man might make involuntarily, feeling the nail go through his hand and into the wood” (Cunliffe, 1995). When he returns to the shore, the old man carries his mast up the hill and hex to rest several times in his exhaustion and agony— a parallel to the via dolorosa or Holy Way of Christ’s Passion.
Finally, when he reaches his hut, he lies down “with his hands straight out and the palms of his hands up”— in short, in the position of the Cross. And when the boy comes to see Santiago, he looks at his bloody hands, at the signs of noble agony on Santiago, and Manolin— the disciple— weeps. The pattern of Christian symbolism is obvious enough. The fact that Santiago redeems his own mortality through pain, endurance, and will, and that he is in a sense his own sacrifice, creates a “meaning” which goes far beyond Santiago as a fisherman, and elevates the old man to a symbol of that power so uniquely a part of the human spirit.
The elaborate pattern of Christian symbolism throughout the book serves to reinforce this meaning, or rather this status of Santiago as more than he appears to be on the narrative surface alone. He is a fisherman, of course— and remembers that the Great Fishman was Jesus himself, and that the fish had been perhaps the earliest symbol of Christianity. Santiago is also a teacher, and his relationship to the boy is that of master to disciple: he teaches values as well as skills, and gives the boy that pride-in-humility which is necessary for manhood. Furthermore, it is not a coincident that the image of lion runs through the whole story.
The old man dreamed of the lion frequently. Before putting to sea, he dreamed of the lions on the beaches in Africa, “they played like young cats in the dusk”. After catching the marlin, he dreamed of “a vast school of porpoises that stretched for eight or ten miles and it was in the time of their mating and they would leap high into the air and return into the same hole they had made in the water and they leap”. At the end of the novel, in his shack, “the old man was dreaming about the lions”. The lion is the symbol of his power. During the course of struggling, he was always trying, never giving up.
On Hemingway’s iceberg theory 55 Although he failed at last, he was not reconciled to it. He still dreamed of lion even after his failure. Once Hemingway made such a wonderful argument, “The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. ” So what is underneath the water? What is the 7/8? It seems that things are just like what Hemingway said: “I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. ” But in fact, the images in The old man and the sea are of sweeping generalization and have metaphoric meanings.
Marlin, sharks and lions are the symbols of the strong in nature; the sea is the symbol of the fatality; Santiago represents the “manhood” of human beings while his misfortune is a miniature of human’s failure— all these can be well explained by Hemingway’s sentence: “But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things”. In addition, from the standpoint of structure, The old man and the sea is extremely simple. First, there is alternation of dream and action (that is, Santiago’s mental reminiscing or dialogues with the creatures of sea, set against the immediate demands for precise response to challenge).
There is also a time-sequence which plays on “sacred numbers” common both to Christianity and pre-Christian religions: the struggle with the marlin lasts three days; Santiago falls seven times bearing the mast; he kills seven sharks; he fishes alone for forty days unsuccessfully (and the number 40 is, of course, very important in Biblical numerology). 3. Conclusion In the first part, the author has mentioned the negative attitude towards the iceberg theory. In my opinion, the first viewpoint is radical because he has prejudice against Hemingway’s technique of symbolism. He isn’t aware of the 7/8 under “the iceberg”.
Hemingway once said, “Great works all have some mysteries, but this kind of mystery cannot be separated. It continues to exist, with vitality forever; whenever you reread it, you’ll get something new. ” The latter viewpoint focuses merely on its surface; actually that is where Hemingway’s writing style lies in. English novel writer H. E. Bates once said: “Hemingway is the person with a broad-axe in hand. Before his appearance, there were several generations during which writing style became increasingly ostentatious, full of useless words. Fortunately, it’s the time to say goodbye to those words. That is Hemingway’s writing style: seemingly simple words are containing deep wisdom; the magnificent sight is similar to the motion of an iceberg in the sea— the dignity of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. The iceberg theory of Hemingway is not only a craft of simplification and abstraction, but also, courage to omit the expression of personal passion and the revelation of theme. This paper reveals the characteristics of stressing on the display of procedure of events, omitting the development of characters’ feeling connections and hiding the theme of his works with analyzing Hemingway’s short novels.
The contribution of Hemingway to the novel creation is shown in it. Iceberg theory not only makes Hemingway’s writing rich in hidden thoughts, deep emotions, and more powerful and effective; but also shows the writer’s belief of art and a lofty realm of art. Therefore, succinct words, deeply implied expression and symbolic technique perfectly epitomize Hemingway’s iceberg theory. Hemingway shows us an eternal artistic world of his own unique style. Through his works, we can not only feel the charm of his words, but also understand the deep connotations of his works.
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