General Question

pplufthesun's avatar

Why doesn't Ernest Hemingway use correct grammar and punctuation?

Asked by pplufthesun (607points) July 15th, 2008

Why doesn’t Ernest Hemingway use correct grammar and punctuation? I am reading A Farewell To Arms, and it seems that he refuses to use commas, or periods and frequently has run-on sentences. Aside from the fact he was a part of the greatest generation and drunk, why does he do this. I mean, all things considered, he has great content, buy his presentation feels sloppy.

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31 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

James Joyce got away with lots of odd usuage and punctuation (read Molly Bloom’s soliloquy – the last chapter of Ulysses. It is 8 sentences long and about 35 pages – but one of the most uberbatman pieces of prose extant.

Faulkner did the same thing when he wrote The Sound and Fury and started it with a stream-of consciousness sentence (that also went on for pages) by the 33 yr old retarded Benjie Compson.

Virginia Woolf also took liberties…these authors annoyed many readers when their works were first published. Then, the literati began to examine their styles analytically and critically. Still, I am a Joyce and Faulkner fan and not one of Woolf and Hemingway. And look at the lack of punctution, except the omnipresent dash, in Emily
Dickinson’s poetry. de gustibus

For those who need a new hobby, Andrew reminded us long ago that all of Dickinson’s poetry can be sung to the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” And let us not forget Flannery O’Connor.

cheebdragon's avatar

Because he’s dead?

cheebdragon's avatar

@gail- Very nice use of uberbatman!
∗High-Five∗

gailcalled's avatar

Ta very much.

marinelife's avatar

I would remind aspiring writers to remember that it is like school figures in figure skating. It is best to know the rules before deciding to break them.

scamp's avatar

I don’t understand the use of uberbatman. Would you explain it to me? Type slow because I am stupid.

chaosrob's avatar

Honestly, Hemingway’s appeal was an artifact of his time. He’s only a fair writer, and technically not very skilled. His work was famous because he went out and brought back uncommon experiences to an audience that was living a very stilted, small, economically depressed, middle and lower-class life. Today, people have rich media options that bring them the most amazing stories from all around the world in 5.1 Dolby Surround. Hemingway writing today would never have become the revered writer he became in his time because the audience he resonated with just doesn’t exist anymore.

shockvalue's avatar

Because Hemingway is a sexist pig.

marinelife's avatar

@chaosrob So true. If writers bring so many words to their sentences the sentences have to kill them, so of course they choke on their own words. The words break every one and afterward many are made strong again by the addition of punctuation. But those that will not break from the lack of punctuation the writer kills. He kills the very good punctuation the very gentle punctuation and the very strong punctuation impartially. If it is none of these you can be sure he will kill these too but there will be no hurry.

scamp's avatar

@Marina great example!

gailcalled's avatar

@Marina: did the world turn for thee?

Knotmyday's avatar

My favorite literary critique: The assignation of relevance according to contemporary audience. Dickens and Wilde can only be enjoyed by Victorians, Conrad, Forster, Joyce and Grahame by the denizens of the belle époque. The insight of Plato’s Dialogues and Holmes’ Autocrat become mere archaic aphorisms, quaint in a style befitting languages now dead, and dining habits supplanted by the TV tray and the microwave burrito. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc, O’Connor’s works are relegated to the sole attention of waterfowl, as she spent much of her time in the society of ducks (and likewise, Thoreau with geese).

Hemingway may have had a non-traditional writing style, but he is one of the literary icons of the modern age. To paraphrase Mel Brooks; Mr. Hemingway has a prolific body of work, whereas most critics have only a body.

…non est disputandum

syz's avatar

…......I feel undereducated…........

gailcalled's avatar

Knot; since we are wandering into unchartered waters, could you translate this into English, please?

“Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for “after this, therefore because (on account) of this”, is a logical fallacy (of the questionable cause variety) which states, “Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one.” It is often shortened to simply post hoc and is also sometimes referred to as false cause, coincidental correlation or correlation not causation. It is subtly different from the fallacy cum hoc ergo propter hoc, in which the chronological ordering of a correlation is insignificant.” From Wikipedia.

(not-non disputandum est?)

marinelife's avatar

@KmD and GC Rem acu tetigisti.

@galicalled No, but the bell tolled.

gailcalled's avatar

Edit: it is “earth” and not “world.”

I can’t outfox anyone tonight.

marinelife's avatar

I got what you meant.

gailcalled's avatar

@marina; you always do. “Rem acu…” is a new one for me…never heard of it before. Is it
real Latin?

marinelife's avatar

Yes. From Roman times. “You have pierced the thing (the matter) with your needle.” In other words, you have hit the nail on the head. (The Romans having no hammers to toss like our friend Harp.)

gailcalled's avatar

Not only did I find the translation, but I heard someone pronounce it. Now that I think about it, “res” is the nominative for “thing.”

gailcalled's avatar

@M: you are really cookin’ tonight.

marinelife's avatar

@gc Awww, you are sweet. That will help me lick my wounds from the brutal slashing of CaptainDog in this thread today, although some of my Fluther bros had my back.

generalspecific's avatar

well i dunno.. but i bet the dude has nothing on ee cummings punctuation.
it’s crazyyy.

gailcalled's avatar

@general; true but there are many (many) more present-day readers of Hemingway, Joyce, Woolf, Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor (in spite of her preference for ducks rather than humans – after all, she was from the south and did have lupus) than cummings. I never read a poem, voluntarily, of his in my life.

@Marina: speaking of Latin, or bad Latin, rem*is the accusative; *res is nominative, I think. (In medias res?)

Knotmyday's avatar

Latine loqui coactus sum.

Open my heart and you will see
Grav’d inside of it, “Italy.”
Such lovers old are I and she:
So it always was, so shall ever be.
Robert Browning, “De Gustibus-”

Also irrelevant to the iPod generation.~ (???)

gailcalled's avatar

Stop it, you two. I have a life to live and am trying to get out the door!

marinelife's avatar

@gc Yes, it is the accusative. Are you saying that is wrong? Here was my thinking on that:

Nominative case = subject of a sentence i.c. res
Genitive case = possessive rei
Dative = indirect object rei
Accusative = direct object rem
Ablative = object of preposition re

Ecce Signum (I hope.)

chaosrob's avatar

@Knotmyday Your argument is spurious. No one is suggesting there are no useful insights to be gained from reading Hemingway. The question was technical in scope; Hemingway was not a technically competent writer. My answer spoke to that, along with the free, bonus observation that he would have sold markedly fewer books than John Grisham had he been writing today. Regarding the relevancy of any given work to it’s audience, I’d have to say that insights are everywhere, if you’re the sort to look for them at all.

tojobaseball's avatar

This question just dumb anyone can use so called proper punctuation if they want to. He’s Hemingway and He’s not writing an ad for Wal-Mart or Microsoft etc. Literature is not for the grammarian or lexicographer and to read it as such is a genuine pity.

martilau's avatar

Well even the experts can’t seem to agree what proper grammar is…MLA rewrites their handbook almost every year. I love how English teachers get hung up on things like comma splices…when the greatest of authors use them generously. I say…“get over it.” Language is not static and its purpose is communication. Ancient rules and regulations just beg to be broken!

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