AMST 246: Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner
|Transcript||Audio||Low Bandwidth Video||High Bandwidth Video|
Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner
AMST 246 - Lecture 10 - Hemingway's To Have and Have Not
Chapter 1. Hemingway in Havana [00:00:00]
Professor Wai Chee Dimock: We’re moving on to To Have and Have Not. This novel was written in a fairly haphazard fashion. It was written between 1935 and 1937. Basically, it was written when Hemingway was taking a break from his coverage of the Spanish Civil War. He would be in Spain for the Spanish Civil War, and then he would come back to the United States, but actually also to the Bahamas to write To Have and Have Not.
You guys know that we’ll be reading For Whom the Bell Tolls later in the semester. For Whom the Bell Tolls and To Have and Have Not are interlocking in multiple ways, because one is about the Spanish Civil War, and this one’s written when Hemingway was covering the Spanish Civil War. We can think of those as in dialogue in really interesting ways.
A hotel that Hemingway stayed at when he was writing To Have and Have Not was in the Bahamas. It’s in Bimini. It’s the Compleat Angler Hotel. Actually, the hotel burnt down, so it’s no longer there, but this was a picture taken before that. That’s really lucky that there was this picture. And inside there, there’s a plaque saying that this was the home of Ernest Hemingway. He was there for two years. He probably wrote To Have and Have Not in various different places, but this was one of the main places that he stayed at when he wrote the novel.
As we also know, Cuba was very important to Hemingway. This is his house still standing, the Finca Vigia, which is now the Museo Ernest Hemingway in Havana. And this is a picture of Hemingway writing. He wrote The Old Man and the Sea when he was in Cuba in this very house, and all his books were there. But this picture was probably taken a little later, in the 1950s.
I found some old pictures of Havana in the 1930s. This is the waterfront. This is the El Malecon with the seawall. You can see there’s some really very magnificent buildings on the waterfront. And this is the main avenue, the Avenida de los Presidentes, a very impressive-looking avenue. Cuba was actually called the Paris of the Western Hemisphere in the first half of the 20th century. And we can see why. It really was a very magnificent place.
And this is downtown Havana, still in the ’30s. And this is a bar that Hemingway went to quite a lot. It’s the Sloppy Joe’s Bar. And here’s a picture of him and the British playwright Noel Coward at the Sloppy Joe’s Bar. So really interesting historic pictures.
Other than drinking, Hemingway also went fishing a lot. As we can see, he has a very intimate knowledge of fishing. And the fish that especially preoccupied him was the marlin. So this is a description from To Have and Have Not of what a marlin looked like. And I just happen to have found this picture. This doesn’t correspond exactly to that. “The sword, the eye, and open lower jaw, and huge purple-black head of a black marlin.”
From this picture, we can’t really see how big it is. This is a picture of Hemingway on the boat Anita– this was just before he wrote To Have and Have Not– with his friends. And the next picture is taken in Bimini with his second wife, Pauline, and his three sons, Gregory, John, and Patrick, 1935. And we can see just how huge the marlin is. It could weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
So this picture I downloaded online, thanks to the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the JFK Library in Boston. So this is just to acknowledge a very important collection. If you guys want to do future work on Hemingway, that’s the place to go.
Chapter 2. Publication History of To Have and Have Not [00:04:59]
It’s helpful in thinking about To Have and Have Not to think a little bit about the publication history of this novel. It was published as two short stories. “One Trip Across” was published in the Cosmopolitan, 1934. And then “The Trader’s Return” published in Esquire magazine, 1936. And then To Have and Have Not was published by Scribner’s in 1937.
Because of the way it came out initially as short stories, I think once again we have to think about the narrative structure of the novel. And there’s a lot to think about, because it turns out that this is an incredibly complicated switching back and forth between the first person and the third person.
Part one is told in the first person. It seems very straightforward. It’s told from Harry Morgan’s point of view. It’s also the spring, the section called “Spring.” So it is in many ways the spring in Harry Morgan’s life.
And then part two is told in the third person. And this is actually quite jolting. All of a sudden, we see Harry Morgan from the outside as if we knew nothing about him. He’s re-introduced to us as “he” and even as “the man,” a very alienating perspective in part two. And that’s the section called the “Fall.”
Part three is called the “Winter.” And here, it’s even more complicated than that. It’s mixed narration. It begins with someone who’s not even an important character, someone called Albert who tells the story in Chapter 9. And then it switches back to Harry in Chapter 10, and then we get third-person narration for a good part of part three. And then the very final chapter, Chapter 26, it switches back to the first-person narration, but it’s told by Marie, Harry’s wife.
At the very least, we can say that Hemingway is experimenting with all kinds of narrative points of views. And so the most fundamental question has to do with pronouns. Who is attached to which pronoun? Why does Hemingway choose to use certain pronouns? Why does he choose to use certain points of views for that section?
Chapter 3. Interconnections among the Novels [00:07:40]
This is also a good moment to start thinking about the interconnections among the novels. I know that you guys just turned in your first paper, but it’s not too early to start thinking about the next big project. And the interconnections among the novels would be a very good approach. Think about that larger project.
Two things are very clear in terms of the prior publication as short stories. To Have and Have Not obviously looks back to In Our Time. Hemingway’s habit is to publish parts as short stories–actually, it’s very common–publish parts as short stories, and then to have a larger entity. Whether or not the two are related in terms of this prior publication history is a good question.
But To Have and Have Not is also linked to The Sound and the Fury because of the multiple narrative voices. In The Sound and the Fury, we know that there are just four. So the three brothers each gets one section, and then the omniscient narration in section four.
In To Have and Have Not, it’s much less clear-cut than that. As I just mentioned, someone who’s quite marginal to the story, like Albert, gets to have a section to himself. Albert obviously doesn’t have the centrality that Benjy or Quentin or Jason–the three brothers–do in The Sound and the Fury. Why does someone like Albert get to tell the story? Even though the two novels share a common ground in terms of multiple narrative voices, the actual configuration of those voices are two different configurations in the two novels.
And finally, something new is also emerging in To Have and Have Not that we haven’t seen so far or that hasn’t been in the foreground up to this point. And I’d like to call your attention to it, which is characters as generic types. It has to do with classification, with taxonomy of social types. We see it in the very title of the novel. It’s divided into two, the haves and the have-nots. Two social types. It’s very much an organizing principle in this novel, but it also looks forward to Fitzgerald’s stories that we’ll be reading next week. A story like “The Rich Boy” is very much about this classifiable, generic type.
I want to think about the difference between the two novels in terms of another novel that Hemingway is famous for, which is The Old Man and the Sea. And they’re both set in Cuba. They’re both about Cuba to some extent, but they’re not centrally about Cuba, but set in Cuba.
Chapter 4. Taxonomic Groups (“Types”) in To Have and Have Not [00:11:00]
But in many ways, they represent two different sides of the spectrum. To Have and Have Not, as we can see from the title, is a divided canvas. It’s populated by two taxonomic groups. So it’s very much about classifiability. Not only is it giving us two taxonomic groups, but it’s also about the phenomenon of classifiability. Are human beings classified? Can they be put under various generic labels? That is a big question in this novel.
The Old Man and the Sea is in many ways on the other side of the spectrum. As we can see and as you guys know, the story, the novel, is about a solitary Cuban fisherman, Santiago, and his decision to go out alone. And he did get this huge marlin– once again, that fish– and he’s trying to save that marlin from being eaten up by sharks. So the novel is really about his struggle against the sharks, and he loses out. The marlin is completely cleaned out by the sharks by the end of the novel.
But in spite of that ending, it is really about a heroic struggle of a man against elemental forces. So most of us know Hemingway actually as the Hemingway of The Old Man and the Sea. And it’s helpful to keep that in mind. But Hemingway is also very interested in the other side of the equation, which is not so much about individuals as about individuals who can be understood or can be encompassed or accounted for in terms of social types.
So we see it not only in the main characters in the novel, but also in very marginal characters, people who appear just once. They’re also presented to us as social types. In the opening of the novel, Harry Morgan is approached by three young Cubans who want to pay him a lot of money to be taken to the United States. And this is how they are described.
“They were good-looking young fellows, wore good clothes. None of them wore hats, and they looked like they had plenty of money. They talked plenty of money, anyway, and they spoke the kind of English Cubans with money speak.”
Classifiability is front and center in this passage. The very syntax– “they talked plenty of money”– is an expression that we use, and it certainly is the kind of labeling that goes on behind that kind of syntax. So the outward appearance, the clothes, the speech patterns of these people easily classify them. We don’t really need to know much else about them, and Hemingway is not interested in telling us much else about them. They are just there as representatives of Cubans with money who need to get out of Cuba at that moment.
But because classifiability seems so central to the novel, the question arises as to whether or not Harry Morgan himself is classifiable. He is a hero, he’s a protagonist, who inhabits a novel that is populated by lots of social types. Whether or not he belongs, whether or not he fits completely into that landscape is the open question. Is he able to break away occasionally from that landscape? Does he manage to stand out and be an individual that we would recognize and that will stick in our memories as one individual rather than as one social type? That is the question that we have to think about.
And I’d like to break that down a little bit in terms of four interconnected clusters of issues. One is to what extent is Harry Morgan a racist? Is he a racist, or is he not a racist? The other question– and that’s something that we’ve already seen in Faulkner, the play of pronouns, and that is highlighted, dramatized, by Hemingway’s choice of narrative technique– is whether he is an “I” or whether he is a “he.”
And the choice of those pronouns obviously has narrative implications. If he is an “I,” very likely we’re going to see the inside of him. It’s going to be an interior view of Harry. If he’s going to be a “he,” very likely, it’s going to be an external view of Harry. Just as in Faulkner, there’s an external view and not very pretty view of Dilsey in the fourth section of The Sound and the Fury.
And finally, going back to the title of the novel, whether he is a have or have-not. Does he exit the novel empty-handed? Can you say that he has achieved something, that something is in his possession, that he has something, he owns something? He owns a boat in the beginning. Whether he still owns anything at all at the end of the novel, that is an open question.
Chapter 5. Racism in To Have and Have Not [00:16:46]
I raised the question of racism, because that is the question raised by Toni Morrison. Toni Morrison, known primarily as an author of novels. We associate her with novels like Beloved. But she is also someone who gives a lot of talks, and she also turned some of those talks into essays.
Playing in the Dark is a collection of essays published by Toni Morrison. And she devotes a long section to Hemingway and To Have and Have Not. It’s very interesting that this is not the best-known novel by Hemingway, but this is the novel that Morrison singles out, though she’s singling it out not to praise it, but to point to some troubling aspects of To Have and Have Not. And this is what Morrison says.
“Harry includes a nigger in his crew, a man who throughout all of part one has no name. His appearance is signaled by the sentence, ‘Just then, the nigger we had getting bait comes down to the dock.’ The black man is not only nameless for five chapters, he’s not even hired. Just someone we had getting bait, a kind of trained response, not an agent possessing a job.”
And then she goes on to say, “The spatial and conceptual difference is marked by the shortcut that the term ‘nigger’ allows, with all of its color and caste implications. The term occupies a territory between man and animal.”
Very, very strong objections to the novel. In response, I would like just not to defend Hemingway completely, but just to point out that the word “nigger” is used by Faulkner, as we’ve just seen. It is also used by Mark Twain, because that’s the word that those characters would have used. Huck Finn would have used the “nigger” in the nineteenth century. It would have been very odd for Mark Twain not to use that word in his novel. Someone like Quentin, certainly Jason, would have used the word “nigger” if they were living people.
It would have been very odd for Faulkner not to use that word, because that’s the basic speech pattern of his characters. And Morrison also concedes that it’s only in part one that this black man doesn’t have a name. He does have a name in part two. Let’s look at that moment of transition when the black man acquires a name. All of a sudden, we find out what he’s called.
But before we get to part two, I just want to call attention to a passage where the word “nigger” is used, but not to describe the black man that Morrison has in mind. This is an earlier appearance of that word “nigger,” and this is actually coming right after Harry’s conversation with those three rich Cubans. All of a sudden, there’s this fighting breaking out and shooting. And it turns out that the key player in that shooting is a black character.
“The nigger with the Tommy gun got his face almost into the street and gave the back of the wagon a burst from underneath, and sure enough, one came down, falling toward the sidewalk with his head above the curb. At 10 feet, the nigger shot him in the belly with the Tommy gun, with what must have been the last shot in it, because I saw him throw it down. And old Pancho sat down hard and went over forwards. He was trying to come up, still holding onto the Luger, only he couldn’t get his head up when the nigger took the shotgun that was lying against the wheel of the car by the chauffeur and blew the side of his head off. Some nigger.”
So we might object to the violence of the scene, but what is clear in this passage is the tremendous admiration that Hemingway has for this black character. He’s meant to kill. His job is to kill the three rich Cubans, and he accomplishes that task magnificently.
Hemingway is using every bit of his writerly skill to convey to us, even those of us who really know nothing about guns and nothing about the art of shooting, to highlight for us what an art this is, to be able to get your face almost down to the street and to be able to get someone, to get the shotgun when there’s nothing left in your own Tommy gun and to be able to finish off the last of the three Cubans. One against three. It’s just the performance of it. So there’s nothing but admiration in this description of the black man.
And we can almost get a capsule summary of the intense admiration from the two-word phrase that concludes the passage, “some nigger.” Hemingway is still using the word “nigger,” but the expression “some nigger” almost completely undermines that word. Yes, he’s a nigger. He’s a classifiable type. But he’s a magnificent specimen. He’s an amazing specimen of that type. So much so that he’s stretching that type to its limit. So much so that he’s almost making that type non-functional. He’s such an amazing character that it is almost– you can call him a nigger, but it doesn’t really mean anything. He’s “some nigger.”
Chapter 6. Harry Mogan’s Verbal Tic, “Some” [00:23:22]
It turns out that that construction – “some” followed by what appears to be a derogatory term – is a kind of a verbal tic for Harry Morgan. He uses that phrase over and over again for other characters as well. So we can go and look at some other instances when he uses that construction.
And it turns out that he also uses it for the man who owes him $825, and he’s able to clear out without paying a cent. This is the very rich Mr. Johnson who charters the boat for fishing, manages to lose all the works on the boat, manages to do real damage to Harry’s boat because of his ineptness as a fisherman. And so he owes $825. And this Mr. Johnson, even though he is quite inept as a fisherman, he nonetheless is very skilled in one thing, and this is what this passage pays tribute to.
“ ‘He went on the plane,” Frankie said. All right. There it was. The consulate was closed. I had $0.40, and anyhow, the plane was in Miami by now. I couldn’t even send a wire. Some Mr. Johnson, all right. It was my fault. I should have known better. Hell, I didn’t even have enough money to put in gas. It was a hell of a note, all right. Some Mr. Johnson.”
It is not the same kind of performance as the shooting, but it gets from Harry the same involuntary admiration, even though he’s obviously the victim of that magnificent performance on the part of Mr. Johnson. It takes nerve. It takes whatever, ruthlessness. We can attach any number of adjectives to Mr. Johnson. But Hemingway, in his much more economic style of writing, uses only one phrase, and that is enough. That is completely adequate for Mr. Johnson. There’s no need for any string of adjectives to be attached to Mr. Johnson. “Some Mr. Johnson,” that does it all.
We can see right away that this is Hemingway’s way of both paying tribute to a generic type–in this case, a rich man– even his name is generic, Mr. Johnson. He’s a generic type. He’s a generic rich man who manages to get to be where he is by what he does, by doing certain numbers of things. And he’s very good at that. So once again, this is a specimen of a generic type that is so good at what he’s doing that he stretches the limit of that type.
One other example. This one is much more analogous to the expression “some nigger.” We know that actually even in Cuba, there’s a very significant– even in Havana now, there’s a very important Chinese population. And it turns out that there is a Chinese character in To Have and Have Not. He’s a very smooth-talking, smooth-looking Chinaman. He wears a white suit and a silk shirt with a black tie and a $125 Panama hat.
He also talks like this, and Hemingway gives us a specimen of the speech pattern of this very classifiable type. He talks like an Englishman.
“ ‘Quite so,’ Mr. Sing said. ‘How many of my unfortunate compatriots could you both accommodate?’ ‘You mean carry?’ He stood up, and I watched him go out. Frankie smiled at him as he went. Mr. Sing didn’t look at him. He was a smooth-looking chink, all right. Some chink.”
So once again, this is a man who outperforms the type by a wide margin. The novel is about what kind of performance can be expected within a generic type and the extent of that outperformance. Even as a smooth talking chink, Mr. Sing is very, very memorable.
And we see it– even when Mr. Sing is dead, he’s still memorable and still more than just a specimen. You guys probably know that Mr. Sing is killed by Harry, because he wants Harry basically to kill off 12 Chinese passengers that he has no intention of shipping to where they thought they were going. So he wants Harry to kill those 12 Chinese passengers. And instead of killing those 12 Chinese passengers, Harry kills Mr. Sing, but not without a lot of resistance, very heroic resistance, magnificent resistance, from Mr. Sing.
And this is the outcome. He’s dead, he’s killed by Harry, but he’s left a mark on Harry. And this is actually the beginning of the bodily injuries sustained by Harry. This is actually one of the structural principles in the novel is the things that eat into Harry’s body. And that is part of the catalog of things that we can put on the have-not column. Harry starts with everything intact – he’s an able-bodied person. He’s complete. He has all his body parts, and he gradually loses some parts of his body, or parts of his body will get damaged.
This is the first instance of something that happens to his body, and it’s coming to him because of Mr. Sing. “I held the wheel with my knee and opened up my shirt and saw where Mr. Sing bit me. It was quite a bite, and I put iodine on it. And then I sat there steering and wondering whether a bite from a Chinaman was poisonous. Hell, no, that bite wasn’t poisonous. A man like that Mr. Sing probably scrubbed his teeth two or three times a day. Some Mr. Sing.”
This is Hemingway writing and not Faulkner, but we see the same mixture of tragedy and comedy right here in full display. It is not a great experience to be bitten by anyone, and this seems to be a very bad bite. But the bite is also an occasion on what a generic, smooth-looking chink would do. He’s going to be brushing his teeth three or four times a day, and you can count on his hygiene to save you from getting any infection from his bite.
This one consoling fact– if you have to be bitten, it’s better to be bitten by the likes of Mr. Sing than to be by someone else– this is the dark comedy that is emerging in To Have and Have Not. But it also is a meditation really on all those derogatory labels. And the question to us as to whether or not we should consider them allowable, whether or not we should say, this is an instance where it is completely legitimate to use those words, or whether we still think that some other word would have been preferred. I encourage you to talk about this issue in section.
Chapter 7. Harry Morgan as a Type [00:31:42]
But now I’d like to switch to part two of To Have and Have Not and to the possibility that Harry Morgan himself might also be portrayed as a type, as dramatized and reinforced by Hemingway’s narrative technique. So we’re switching to the third-person narration and a very jolting outside view of Harry Morgan. And this is also the moment when the black character suddenly acquires a name.
“ ‘I’m sorry, Wesley,’ the man said, ‘but I got to steer.’ ‘You treat a man no better than a dog,’ the nigger said. He was getting ugly now, But the man was still sorry for him. ‘I’m going to make you comfortable, Wesley,’ he said. ‘You just lay quiet.’ ‘You ain’t going to fix me up,’ the nigger said. The man, whose name was Harry Morgan, said nothing then, because he liked the nigger, and there was nothing to do now but hit him, but he couldn’t hit him.”
It almost seems an act of deliberate hostility against his own character, after so many pages when we’re inside the head and inside the skin of Harry Morgan, to encounter that phrase, “the man, whose name was Harry Morgan.” It can’t be more externalizing than that. It can’t be more objectifying than that.
What is interesting is that that objectifying description is actually used for a white protagonist in the same moment when the black character is acquiring a name. This double dynamics suggests that this is a very, very important moment. The black character acquires a name, and the white character also acquires a name, but in a bad way. When he had been telling the story, he doesn’t refer to himself as Harry Morgan. For the white character to acquire a name and to be referred to as “the man, whose name was Harry Morgan” puts him in almost exactly the same structural position as the black man, Wesley. Each of them acquires a name, except that for the black character to acquire a name is a good thing, whereas for the white character, acquiring a name is about the worst thing that can happen to him at that moment.
Why is it that Hemingway would suddenly switch to this third-person narration and this very alienating mechanism that has been visited upon Harry Morgan? We can think of a number of issues. In part one, we sort of know what Harry does for a living. Why does this man have a boat? We have our conjectures. But in part two, all of that is being clarified for us. We know that the black man is shot. And there’s the smell of liquor all over the boat. The boat itself is referred to as the booze boat.
We know that’s what Harry does is that he smuggles liquor into the United States. He becomes just that. That’s his profession, and that’s what we know him by. That takes over the intimate, internal view that we had of him in part one. And because that is the occupation that lands him in this very tight spot with his companion, the black man, Wesley, being shot. And we also know that something else as well, that Wesley is not the only one to be shot on that occasion, as we find out in this next description.
“ ‘Who the hell’s shot worse?’ He asked him. ‘You or me?’ ‘You’re shot worse,’ the nigger said. ‘But I ain’t never been shot. I didn’t figure to get shot. I ain’t paid to get shot. I don’t want to be shot.’ ‘Take it easy, Wesley,’ the man told him. ‘It don’t do you any good to talk like that.’”
Just this one little detail that in fact both of them were shot– because they obviously had a run-in. The booze boat was discovered. And so it was a major event with casualties in both Harry and Wesley. So far, what is in the foreground in part two is the casualties that were sustained by Wesley, and that’s what he’s complaining about. He’s making everyone aware that he’s been shot.
The extent of Harry’s wound is revealed to us in this very oblique, very peripheral question – “ ‘Who the hell’s shot worse?’ he asked. ‘You or me?’ ‘You’re shot worse.’” Wesley acknowledges that the more serious wound is in fact on Harry. But we don’t actually know what the consequences might be. Because right now, the limelight is on Wesley and the fact that he’s furious for having gotten shot, for going on this trip with Harry, and Harry trying his best to appease Wesley. And then in the rest of part two, we also have this outside character, Frederick Harrison, who takes up a lot of the space in part two, wanting to report Harry to the authorities.
Part two is in many ways a part of the story in which we see Harry as someone who should be reported to the authorities, someone who is the recipient of complaint, of ill will, of anger, of a grudge, at the very least, from Wesley, and who’s also someone that an outsider would want to report to the authorities. He’s someone who’s doing something illegal, and he’s outside the law in many ways.
All of that suggests that it is fitting that in part two, the story should be told from outside of his point of view, that we’re no longer inside his skin. We’re just seeing him as he is seen by other people, as he’s seen by Wesley, as he’s seen by Captain Willie, who tries to protect him, as he is seen through the binoculars by Frederick Harrison, who wants to report him. He really is an object, he’s a seen object, and it is fitting that a seen object should be conveyed to us through the third-person narration.
Chapter 8. Symmetries between Harry and Other “Types” [00:39:16]
But I think that there’s also another reason why Hemingway would want to switch from first-person narration to third-person narration. It’s that already in part two, we’re beginning to see a symmetry between Harry and the black man, Wesley. We just saw that both of them acquire a name in part two. We now see in this moment that they are also linked. They are kindred in one sense. They are kindred in a narrative sense, in the same way that Benjy, Quentin, and Jason are kindred in a narrative sense in Faulkner’s novel.
These two are kindred in a narrative sense, because the same thing happens to them, being shot. That is the tie between this black character and this white character. And the only difference between them, actually, is the degree of severity of that shot. And here, actually, we know that it is the black man who has the lighter wound, that it’s actually the white protagonist who’s suffering more on this occasion. So both the commonality between the white character and the black character, but also a potential line of differentiation, in the sense that it’s the person who has the lighter wound who’s being taken care of by Harry.
Let’s then go to Chapter 9, which is in part three. And here, this is a chapter that is told by Albert, the very marginal character. So it is told from Albert’s point of view, but Harry is once again seen from the outside. He is a “he” in part three, Chapter 9. But what is also interesting about part three, Chapter 9, is that it basically is a revisiting of an earlier moment between Harry and Wesley. And now we know the consequences of that gunshot wound earlier.
“ ‘What happened to your arm?’ the lawyer asked Harry. Harry has the sleeve pinned up to the shoulder. ‘I didn’t like the look of it, so I cut it off,’ Harry told him. ‘You and who else cut it off?’ ‘Me and a doctor cut it off,’ Harry said.”
I think that Hemingway really wants that shock that comes from that lack of knowledge in part two. Part two goes on for quite a while, and all the time when we’re reading about Frederick Harrison, we have no idea that the wound is serious enough that the arm would have to be amputated. And it’s the withholding of that information in part two that maximizes it in part three. It is a shock to us that that is what will have to happen to Harry. And none of that would have been conveyed to us if Harry had been telling the story. It is impossible to talk about the amputation of the arm with this kind of dramatic impersonality that Hemingway is aiming for.
If it had been told from Harry’s point of view, it would have been about his pain, but Hemingway is not especially interested in conveying the inside view of pain. That is not the phenomenal field that he chooses to enter. Some other novelists do a great job within that phenomenal field. That is not Hemingway’s chosen subject. What he wants is to give us that complete impersonal, neutral, almost joking kind of look at someone losing his arm. And that can only be achieved by looking at Harry from the outside.
The combination of the straightforward, third-person narration in part two and then Albert telling the story in part three, Chapter 9 – the combination of those maximizes the shock of realizing that Harry is well on his way to losing something precious. He’s well on his way in his trajectory towards the have-not category. He’s well on his way. Losing one’s arm is quite different from losing lots of other things, to say the least.
So we’ve just seen that Harry has something in common with Wesley, but we also see that he has something else in common with someone else as well. Because of course someone else prior to this had also lost his arm, Mr. Sing. In the fight between Harry and Mr. Sing, Harry tries to bend Mr. Sing’s arm behind him, and at one point, he just hears this funny little noise that is made when an arm is broken. And then he lets go of the arm, because the arm isn’t good to Mr. Sing anymore.
We’ve now seen two ends of a spectrum: a dramatized rendition of someone losing his arm, and then this deliberately undramatized rendition of someone losing his arm, told to us only after the fact, with Harry appearing as a man without an arm, as seen by the doctor, by a lawyer. So once again, it’s Harry who’s as a seen object. He and Mr. Sing do indeed have something in common. Mr. Sing loses his arm. He loses his life. Harry loses his arm. Whether or not he’s going to lose his life like Mr. Sing is the open question in To Have and Have Not.
Chapter 9. The Celebrated Concept of the Cojones [00:45:41]
This is a novel whose ending is very hard to predict, so I’m very happy not to tell you the ending and just leave it as an open question. To what extent is the symmetry between Harry and Mr. Sing going to extend? How far does that extend?
But just one more meditation on the question of having and not having. It seems that Harry actually is quite aware that he’s on his way to becoming a have-not. But he has his own way of classifying himself. So this is one character’s attempt to classify himself in his own fashion. And what is going to be used as the criteria for classifying the haves and the have-not? You can classify people by the amount of money they have, or you can classify them by whether or not they have arms, or you can classify them by something else. Here is Harry proposing to classify himself in his own fashion.
“ ‘The hell with my arm. You lose an arm, you lose an arm. There’s worse things than lose an arm. You’ve got two arms, and you’ve got two of something else. And a man’s still a man with one arm or with one of those. The hell with it,’ he says. ‘I don’t want to talk about it.’ Then after a minute, he says, ‘I got those other two still.’”
This is the celebrated concept of the cojones that Harry still has, a word that Hemingway is very fond of. And that’s how he would like to classify himself. Maybe the arm is the most obvious thing that people see, but the most obvious thing is not actually the thing that best classifies someone. Something that is invisible could be a better classifier.
I think that the novel entertains that question in this way: how much can you lose? Harry is going to lose a lot of things in the course of this novel. You can keep on losing a lot of things and still remain yourself. At least, that’s the hope, or maybe that’s a fantasy. We have to decide whether it is a legitimate hope, a real hope, a hope that actually has some grounding in reality, or whether it is just a fantasy, whether at a certain point when you’ve lost so much, that you really have stopped being yourself, you’re no longer what you used to be, whether that is indeed the case. We’ll come back and wrap up the novel, and think more about where we should put Harry.
[end of transcript]Back to Top
|mp3||mov [100MB]||mov [500MB]|