Literary Writing Style of Ernest Hemingway

Like every other writer, Hemingway has also demonstrated his unique style of writing or unique writing style. This style comprises various specific traits in terms of word choice, sentence structure, use of the literary devices or figures of speech, rhythm, rhetoric and thematic strands. These traits are as follows.

Ernest Hemingway’s Word Choice

Hemingway is very specific and particular about his choice of words. His words are very simple, direct, clear and fresh. They do not have huge and flowery adjectives or excessive use of adverbs. Most of the diction is concrete and plain. That is why it is mostly conversational as his short stories “The Killers” and “The Hills like White Elephant show.” This short passage from his novel, The Old Man and the Sea, shows his directness and freshness of his word choice.

“The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles in the back of his neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks. The blotches ran well down the sides of his face and his hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of these scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert.”

Ernest Hemingway’s  Sentence Structure and Syntax

Hemingway is notoriously famous for using very simple sentences with repeated rhythms. Yet, this simplicity shows the profound thoughts packed in them. The reason is such simplicity is suggestive as well as connotative. It connotes various shades of meaning. Sometimes, he even uses bare sentences devoid of adjectives and adverbs. Regarding grammar, his emphasis is on verbs and nouns. Also, he prefers abstract and active sentences instead of concrete and passive. This passage from his story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” shows this amply.

“So now it was all over, he thought. So now he would never have a chance to finish it. So this was the way it ended, in a bickering over a drink. Since the gangrene started in his right leg he had no pain and with the pain the horror had gone and all he felt now was a great tiredness and anger that this was the end of it. For this, that now was coming, he had very little uriosity. For years it had obsessed him; but now it meant nothing in itself. It was strange how easy being tired enough made it.”

Ernest Hemingway’s  Figurative Language

Hemingway relies on several literary devices to make his language figurative. For example, his imagery is very clear and striking in his short story “The Snows of Kilimajaro” in which he uses flashback technique. In “The Killers” he uses surprise, suspense as well as a conversational style. His repetition also becomes effective as used in his novel, The Old Man and the Sea. He has also used it in “The Killers” where the characters repeat killing a person. Regarding symbols, metaphors, and personifications, his novel, The Sun Also Rises, shows it amply. This passage from the story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” shows these devices as well.

“It was morning and had been morning for some time and he heard the plane. It showed very tiny and then made a wide circle and the boys ran out and lit the fires, using kerosene, and piled on grass so there were two big smudges at each end of the level place and the morning breeze blew them toward the camp and the plane circled twice more, low this time, and then glided downand levelled off and landed smoothly and, coming walking toward him, was old Compton in slacks, a tweed jacket and a brown felt hat.”

Ernest Hemingway’s  Rhythm and Component Sounds

As Hemingway uses very short sentences or sentences having medium lengths, he becomes musical due to the usage of sound devices. Not only he used consonants and vowels sparingly in his syllables, but most of the words have a maximum of two to three syllables. This creates a sort of musical rhythm in his prose as this passage from his novel, The Old Man and the Sea, shows it amply.

When the wind was in the east a smell came across the harbour from the shark factory; but today there was only the faint edge of the odour because the wind had backed into the north and then dropped off and it was pleasant and sunny on the Terrace.
“Santiago,” the boy said.
“Yes,” the old man said. He was holding his glass and thinking of many years ago.

Ernest Hemingway’s  Rhetorical Patterns

Hemingway is a perfectionist in his writings. His narration shows his commitment and his description shows his observation. In this connection, he creates logos and pathos to win the hearts of his readers. Regarding repetition and rhetorical questions, he has shown his mastery in “The Killers” and “The Hills like White Elephant” as well as his novel, A Farewell to Arms. This passage from the novel shows it.

“Who would imagine they would have whiskey up here, he thought. But La Granja was the most likely place in Spain to find it when you thought it over. Imagine Sordo getting a bottle for the visiting dynamiter and then remembering to bring it down and leave it. It wasn’t just manners that they had. Manners would have been producing the bottle and having a formal drink. That was what the French would have done and then they would have saved what was left for another occasion.”

Ernest Hemingway’s  Themes

Hemingway is diverse in themes like his word choice. He has depicted every other modern theme in his novels and short stories that he has observed in his life. Heroic fatalism, code heroism, anti-war stance, pacifism, resilience, human courage as in The Old Man and the Sea, the will to live as in The Sun Also Rises, and pacifism as in The Farewell to Arms. His short stories, too, serve the same purpose.