F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, though both evolved from the same literary time and place, created their works in two very dissimilar writing styles which are representative of their subject matter. The two writers were both products of the post-WWI lost generation and first gained notoriety as members of the American expatriate literary community living in Paris during the 1920’s. Despite this underlying fact which influenced much of their material, the works examined in class dramatically differ in style as well as subject matter. As far as style, Fitzgerald definitely takes the award for eloquence with his flowery descriptive language whereas Hemingway’s genius comes from his short, simple sentences. As for subject, Hemingway writes gritty, earthy material while on the other hand Fitzgerald’s writing is centered around social hierarchy and longing to be with another person. Although the works that these two literary masters are so uniquely different, one thing that they have in common are their melancholy and often tragic conclusions.
To explore the two distinct writing styles, one can begin with how the stories do. (That is, how they begin too.) The opening paragraphs of Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams” and Hemingway’s “Indian Camp” epitomize the basic difference between their writing styles. “Winter Dreams” begins, “Some of the caddies were poor as sin and lived in one-room houses with a neurasthenic cow in the front yard, but Dexter Green’s father owned the second best grocery-store in Black Bear-the best one was ‘The Hub,’ patronized by the wealthy people from Sherry Island-and Dexter caddied only for pocket-money” (1504). “Indian Camp” starts out, “At the lake shore there was another rowboat drawn up. The two Indians stood waiting” (15). The thoroughly descriptive four-line, one-sentence opening versus the two-lines consisting of two sentences demonstrates Fitzgerald’s exploitation of words as opposed to Hemingway’s less is more principle with his multiple short and simple sentences.
Another distinction between the two styles is that Fitzgerald narrated much of what the characters think and feel whereas Hemingway, for the most part with the exception of “Soldier’s Home,” let action and dialogue reveal the story’s message. “Winter Dreams” offers a complete narrative of the central characters’ thoughts from the beginning when Dexter’s winter fantasies are related to the reader to the end when his image of Judy is shattered and lost youthful passion for life is realized. “Even the grief he could have borne was left behind in the country of illusion, of youth, of the richness of life, where his winter dreams had flourished” (1519). The exact same is true about “Babylon Revisited” as in the final paragraph provides a clear view into Charlie’s mind. “He would come back some day; they couldn’t make him pay forever. But he wanted his child, and nothing was much good now, beside that fact. He wasn’t young any more, with a lot of nice thoughts and dreams to have by himself. He was absolutely sure Helen wouldn’t have wanted him to be so alone” (Norton Anthology 1511). Now to look at Hemingway, “The End of Something” reveals the characters through dialogue and it is via this medium that the reader learns most of what the story is about. ” ‘I feel as though everything was gone to hell inside of me. I don’t know, Marge. I don’t know what to say.’… ‘Isn’t love any fun?’ Marjorie said” (34). “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” lets the reader get to know the three main character’s through the dialogue between the two waiters before shifting completely to the perspective of the old waiter wherein the concepts discussed between the two are clarified. It is through their conversing that one learns of the customer’s suicide attempt along with an understanding of why he wanted to die. This understanding is made possible through the older waiter’s ability to relate to the old man. Furthermore, this dialogue conveys the younger waiter’s lack of empathy and understanding which allows one not only to grasp his psyche but also what sets him apart from the other two. “‘You have youth, confidence, and a job,’ the older waiter said. ‘You have everything.’ ‘And what do you lack?’ ‘Everything but work.'” It is also from these lines that the reader discovers that the one thing preventing the older waiter from replicating the actions of the old man is the fact that he has a job. In “Indian Camp,” everything is exposed to the reader through description and dialogue with the exception of the last paragraph which allows insight into the child’s naivet concerning his own mortality. The discovery of the Indian father’s death is an objective description and it is not until Nick talks with his father that it is confirmed a suicide and the true life and death theme of the story is fully realized.
As mentioned before, the subject matter of both writers was influenced by the time in which they wrote despite obvious differences in subject. This is evident in the representation of the decadence of the 1920’s which is thematically of great importance in The Sun Also Rises and The Great Gatsby. Furthermore, one cannot overlook the presence of WWI in many of their works. One similarity consistent throughout Fitzgerald’s above mentioned writings, “Babylon Revisited,” “Winter Dreams,” and The Great Gatsby, which sets him apart from Hemingway is that each one is about a man struggling to attain someone with whom he is enamored which in all three instances is female. Fitzgerald uses his trademark poetic style to romantically describe these objects of desire as from “Winter Dreams,” “Her arms, burned to butternut, moved sinuously among the dull platinum ripples, elbow appearing first, casting the forearm back with a cadence of falling water…” (1509-10). Descriptions such as this one are representative of the idyllic fantasy present in Fitzgerald’s work. Hemingway, on the other hand, portrays more earthy subjects that are similar to his simple writing style which lacks beauty and eloquence. One portion of his writing that exemplifies this concept is in “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” on page 421 in the second half of the lengthy paragraph in which the word nada is used 21 times. Not only does the meaning of that work connote the obvious nihilistic message, but the fact that so much is said with the repetition of one word is pure Hemingway in its use and imagery. By comparing the discussed samples from the two authors, it is obvious not only how their styles differ but also how their styles represent their two contrasting subject material.
In conclusion, despite the various differences discussed above, one similitude between the two is that their stories all end in a negative if not tragic tone. In each of the Fitzgerald stories the main character loses what he desires and dreams of obtaining. Not only does this happen to Gatsby, but he is also tragically murdered in a case of mistaken identity. Hemingway’s endings also force the reader to sympathize if not pity the characters whether it be the boy’s navely innocent belief of self-immortality, Nick’s and Marjorie’s break up, Krebs’ emotionally dead stoicism, or the loneliness of the old waiter.