1954 Nobel Laureate, Ernest Hemingway, 1899-1961, has been an icon of the literary world for over seventy years. He has been called the greatest American author of the twentieth century and his novels and short stories are among the best American classics ever written. After his death, several of Hemingway's works have been published, such as "A Moveable Feast" and "The Garden of Eden." While some have been disappointed by his later works, many feel Hemingway was "becoming unrestrained in a new way...these works reveal and stress a complexity that may cause bewilderment or relief, depending on what perspective one adopts" (Hallengren pg). Nevertheless, most agree that none reflect the author's life more than "Islands in the Stream," posthumously published in 1970 (Hallengren pg).
In "Papa: A Personal Memoir," Gregory, Hemingway's third son, writes of his early life in the Florida Keys and the summers spent with his father and two brothers, Patrick and Jack (Miller pg). Hailed as one of the best and most honest books every written on Ernest Hemingway, "Gregory's memoir chronicles a close and in later years troubled father/son relationship...portrays Papa as 'kind, gentle, elemental in his vastness...tormented beyond endurance'" (Miller pg). Gregory begins his memoir with a passage from "Islands in the Stream" that shows the physical and psychological similarities between the novel's character Thomas Hudson and his youngest son Andrew, modeled after Gregory:
The young boy Andrew had 'a humorous face' and a 'devilish' nature, and he 'was a copy of Thomas Hudson, physically, reduced in scale and widened and shortened.' This boy also had dark side to him that nobody except Thomas
Hudson could ever understand. Neither of them thought about this except that they recognized it in each other' and they 'were very close to each other.' (Miller pg).
Islands in the Stream" consists of three parts or episodes of Thomas Hudson, the protagonist of the novel, "a painter with three sons by two marriages, both of which have ended in divorce" (Cowley pg). The first episode portrays Hudson life on the island of Bimini in a house that "had lasted through three hurricanes...and was built solid as a ship...built into the island as through it was a part of it" (Hemingway 9,10). And Hudson always thought of the house "as 'her' exactly a he would have thought of a ship" (Hemingway 11). The life of Thomas Hudson is very similar to Hemingway himself. The years he spent in Cuba and the Florida Keys are reflective of Hudson's lifestyle on the island. The house Hemingway describes seems symbolic of how he and his character Hudson thought of themselves. Both weathered individuals who had endured the storms of wars and marriages, much like the house had survived the hurricanes. Moreover, by referring to the house as a 'her,' reflects the symbolic nature of his attachment to it and possible substitute for a permanent woman in his life, much like an old sea captain whose only familiar is his ship. The house is not only symbolic of Hudson himself, strong and weathered, but also of a familiar, a family to come home to.
Hemingway describes how much Hudson enjoys the house during the winter months, nestled inside against the elements, snug by the open flames of the fireplace. He writes a rather lengthy passage about the fireplace wood stacked outside the house. Hemingway writes, pile of driftwood...whitened by the sun and sand-scoured by the wind and he would become fond of different pieces so that he would hate to burn them. But there was always more driftwood along the beach after the big storms and he found it was fun to burn even the pieces he was fond of.
He knew the sea would sculpt more...But burning driftwood did something to him that he could not define. He thought it was probably wrong to burn it when he was so fond of it; but he felt no guilt about it" (Hemingway 11).
This passage is very symbolic of how Hudson, and Hemingway, felt about the women in their lives. Hudson wonders why he ever left his wife, particularly his first wife, the mother of Tom, his oldest son, but then reflects that he had to and also admits that he was still in love with the first woman he had ever been with although he had loved many since (Hemingway 13). The driftwood seems symbolic of the women who had come in and out of Hudson's life. Women had come to stay for a while with him on the island, he needed them and welcomed them. Hemingway writes that Hudson, "liked having them there, sometimes for quite a long time. But in the end he was always glad when they were gone, even when he was very fond of them" (Hemingway 14). It can be no coincidence that Hemingway used the word 'fond' to describe both the driftwood and the women in Hudson's life. Like the driftwood, he enjoyed the look of a woman, like the driftwood stacked for burning, and however fond he was of her, felt no guilt from the spark, the passion, when she left, for like the sea sculpting more driftwood, he knew a different woman would enter his life, one that he would be just as fond of, or perhaps more. There was always more driftwood and always more women to be fond of.
Hudson reflects that everything in his life he has been able to replace, except his children and that they and his painting were all he cared about, all that mattered. The children were not mere pieces of driftwood to be fond of, and they were not the women who eased in and out of his life without guilt. He looked forward to their visits in the summer months and regarded them as a part of him being, like the house was part of the island. As Malcolm Cowley writes, they were "his closest tie with life" (Cowley pg). His sons gave him a purpose, like his painting, perhaps because like the progress his painting he could mark the progress of their maturity from one summer to the next. In the first episode, Hudson receives word that his two younger sons and their mother have died in an accident and in the second episode learns that his oldest son has also been killed in a Spitfire crash during the war. Losing the only three souls who connect Hudson to life is very symbolic and sets the stage for the final episode where honor and heroics replaces what has been lost. However, as Hudson "stands on the bridge, a fair target, and does his duty to the end" it seems more a death wish than an act of heroics charged with fierce emotions such as Hemingway's Robert Jordan in "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Cowley pg).
In his earlier works, Hemingway always made effective use of his subconscious mind, saying, "Things have to happen there before they happen on paper" (Cowley pg). Cowley points out that this enabled him to produce "simple works that have an amazing resonance...as he descended to a level of feeling, call it primitive or prehistoric, at which natural objects become symbols without ceasing to be solidly real, and events become archetypes of human experience" (Cowley pg). The Hemingway hero, whether Jake Barnes or Robert Jordan, "became the hero of ancient myths... marked for admiration and envy," (Cowley pg).
However, Hudson is not mythical hero, rather he is based on the author himself, a character that is wise from age, brave, competent, with feelings of despair. Yet as Cowley suggests, "the reader is likely to feel that the despair is of longer standing, based as it seems to be on the same feeling in the author, and that the…