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DOI: 10.21070/acopen.9.2024.8127

Exploring Hemingway's Depiction of War Violence: Psychological and Societal Impacts in Selected Novels

Ministroy of Education, The General Directorate of Education in Diyala, Open Educational College.

(*) Corresponding Author

War Violence Hemingway Novels Psychological Impacts Societal Consequences Qualitative Analysis


This study delves into the portrayal of war violence in four seminal novels by Ernest Hemingway, namely, "A Farewell to Arms," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "The Sun Also Rises," and "To Have and Have Not." Employing a qualitative analysis, this research categorizes instances of war violence based on thematic implications, narrative techniques, and character responses, while considering contextual information from Hemingway's own wartime experiences. The analysis unveils that Hemingway's exploration of war violence transcends the physical battlefield, emphasizing the profound psychological traumas, moral quandaries, and societal scars it inflicts. Characters within these narratives grapple with disillusionment, existential anguish, and a sense of alienation, reflecting the multifaceted impacts of war on individuals and society. Hemingway's personal involvement in World War I and the Spanish Civil War greatly influences his portrayal of war violence, presenting it as not only an external conflict but an internal struggle that challenges ideologies, identities, and human resilience. The thematic recurrence across these novels underscores Hemingway's persistent examination of the enduring consequences of war. In essence, Hemingway's depiction of war violence serves as a lens through which to contemplate the profound psychological and societal repercussions of conflict, offering an enduring reflection on the devastating nature of war.

Highlights :

  • Qualitative analysis of Hemingway's war narratives.
  • Psychological and moral dilemmas in war literature.
  • Hemingway's personal experiences and their literary influence.

Keywords : War Violence, Hemingway Novels, Psychological Impacts, Societal Consequences, Qualitative Analysis


This article declares the way un which Ernest Hemingway depicted war brutality. It is noted that war appears in many portraits and in the various forms of death, devastation, impotence, and rape. Similarly, the majority of the characters are subjected to physical, emotional, and sexual assault as a result of the war. The study of Hemingway's most famous thoughts backed up his novels' nonviolent message. Message that ran across his greatest works. Similarly, after reading Hemingway's most famous writings, Similarly, after reading Hemingway's most renowned works, it is assumed that he truly wishes to warn people not to spend their lives by adhering to the stringent limits set by society. He preferred to urge individuals to go outside and forge their own paths. It demonstrates that everyone has his or her own way of building his or her own life according to his or her desires, creating a valuable lesson for his life in order to be the one that he or she truly desires to become. This might explain the cause that several of Hemingway's personas seek insight from the nature.

Ernest Hemingway was determined to send a nonviolent message to society, and in doing so, critical issues dealing with pertinent moral principles were raised. These values consider courage in adversity, honor, and the avoidance of pusillanimity which Hemingway himself regarded one of the most unpleasant attitudes a man could have, such as the sense of comradeship in WWI, through which he encourages us not to think of ourselves in egotistical terms, but to discover a meaningful meaning to our lives in the community. Furthermore, Acosta Rodriguez (2015) stated that this author promotes the link between nature and the human, particularly to the one who feels that his life is worthless. People should not kill for enjoyment but for survival. Bullfighting is brutal towards animals and are considered this cruelty as holy rites, though this may assist readers to gain more comprehensive grasp of Hemingway's works.

This is especially significant because the overall goal is to not only evaluate Hemingway's writings to determine what values genuinely inform his texts, but also to demonstrate what readers can hope to gain from this great twentieth-century novelist[1]. The following findings are the outcome of an examination of the primary themes according to the second aim.

Literature Review

Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms is regarded as the best military work. Brilliance of this novel stems from the fact that it paints a realistic image of battle scenes and because the author, Ernest Hemingway, participated in and suffered during the First World battle. He was injured in the battlefield and wrote this story based on his real-life experiences. According to[2], a considerable part of Hemingway's writings are undoubtedly based on his actual experience and firsthand involvement in all of his life's major wars, demonstrating that Hemingway goes beyond the realist representation of war. He provides what may be described as "war fiction," which he created with his mind and inspired by his personal experiences. A battle experience serves as a stimulant for the imagination as well as a piece of reality to be recounted via the reporter's eyes.

The events of The Sun Also Rises took place after the Great War. It is a work in which the protagonist's wartime wound triggers memory. The work emphasizes alienation and rootlessness in a way that represents the mental state of a generation of disillusioned American writers living in Paris in the 1920s, notably the physical and mental drama of a former soldier whose sterility is psychological more than physical. Despite being a war novel, it did not directly depict the war, but the shadow of battle was evident. It illustrates post-war scenarios and their impact on individuals, groups, and society in general, as well as their effects on the pre-war value and norm system. There is a depiction of the hero's impotence as a result of a military injury that rendered him sexually and emotionally unable of communicating with his girlfriend[3].

The Sun Also Rises depicted the lives of the Lost Generation, a group whose early adulthood was shattered by World War I. The heinous struggle of World War I established new standards for death and the abnormality of war. It shattered many people's faith in conventional ideals such as love, faith, and manhood. Members of the generation who worked and fought in the war experienced a great deal of moral and psychological aimlessness. The Sun Also Rises was shaped by the futile search for meaning in the aftermath of World War I. However, the characters make few clear references to the conflict [4]

The attitudes of the characters in Hemingway's novels have influenced the globe. The Sun Also Rises has done a lot to promote feminism and get the rest of the world acquainted with the phrase[5]. The death of love in World War I was the most recurring theme of the 1920s. The protagonists of The Sun Also Rises are allegoric: Jake Barnes and Brett Ashley are two lovers desexed by the war; Robert Cohn is the lying warrior who defies their desperation; and Romero represents the good life that will survive their failure[6].

Hemingway's writing reflects much of his inner turmoil; in almost all of his works of fiction, he discusses the loss of love, depression, and true death. He developed a distinct and distinctive writing style in which he writes using the iceberg principle. He does not convey his views directly, but he conceals them to give them a double meaning.

The author described war and the fights that take place on the battlefields using two techniques. The first way is symbolic, whereas the second is actual, with machine guns, tanks, mutual fire, and images of dead people, screams of the wounded, and blood on a daily basis. Though his vocabulary is scant in metaphor, it is clear that his depictions of combat rely significantly on symbolic imagery, including various recurring motifs such as mud, rain, snow, winter, dust, the plain, and the mountain. The dust from vehicles' advance covers the foliage of the trees, while the soldiers' march represents destruction and chaos.

The rain that fell during the battle signifies the blood, while cholera portrays the death inflicted by this war. But it was checked, and in the end, just seven thousand soldiers died as a result of it [7]. Rain and cholera represent death in various forms. The graphic depiction of the war exemplifies Hemingway's inventiveness. The quick grey fog approaching the mountains indicates a bleak conflict, while the heavy fall down snow represents shells dropping on the battlefield.

A Farewell to Arms featured World War I, popularly known as the Great War since it was a war of unprecedented scale in contemporary history. The battle lasted four years and claimed the lives of twenty-two million people. Because of the quantity of new inventions launched, it was the most technologically advanced war: chemical weapons, mortars, bombers, tanks, upgraded artillery, machine guns, and barbed wires [8].

The work covers a wide range of topics, including the failure of the American dream, the violence of World War I, and the destruction of home, which pushes Frederic to insecurity and isolation. As a representative, Frederic comments on the historical events depicted in the narrative. "Frederic must have mourned the loss of Catherine and refrained from loving women who cannot share his nihilism," Takeuchi adds. [9]

According to [10], what is important to observe is the extent to which conflict has afflicted everyone. Throughout the event, most of the characters respond differently to conflict. Frederic is already a part of the military job when the narrative begins. Frederick is now serving in the Italian army. At first, Frederic, like his author, represented all those American men who were enticed by war because it promised them something chivalrous. His participation in the conflict should be examined in terms of the service he provides on the battlefield and the relationship he has with his teammates. He keeps his courageous, strong principles even when he returns to the front lines to complete his duty. In contrast to Frederic, Ettore (another war hero) joins the American army solely for personal gain.

[11] findings were consistent with Herndl's (2001) concept of "Invalid Masculinity: Silence, Hospitals, and Anesthesia in A Farewell to Arms, which debates Henry's time waiting," where he adds most troops realized that the war meant waiting in a trench to be shelled, despite being persuaded by patriotic fervor to accept military duty as a road to male feats of valor. The fact that Frederic Henry does not fight in trenches does not negate this argument; most of his wartime experience consists of waiting—waiting for bad weather to pass, waiting for bombardment to commence so that he can drive his ambulance, or waiting in the hospital to recover. In fact, he is wounded while waiting (p. 8).

One of Hemingway's most powerful images of the conflict was the execution of nationalist villagers by Spanish loyalists, which Pilar reports on, and the cruelty that Hemingway portrays in the rape of Maria and the murder of her republican father by the fascists. In this context, Pilar's report on the Nazi locals' executions in Ronda seem to recognize the circumstances that create Pablo's sadness. At the point when the workers utilize their thrashes and grasscutters to execute fundamentalists, Pablo takes on an administrative role and by executes citizens by shooting them in the head [12].

This symbolic struggle for domination, the civilizational and technological triumph over the natural, instinctual animal, can be better appreciated through the second sort of fighting, namely the bullfight. It is a ritualized act performed in civilized settings, such as arenas. Pilar, Robert Jordan's supporting companion, offers various nostalgic memories about matadors in For Whom the Bell Tolls. Pilar plays an important role in preserving the heroic story, and she always looks to bullfighters for inspiration.

She used to be a fan of matadors, and the world of bullfighting has always inspired guerillas in the difficult and desperate conditions of civil war. Bullfighting is associated with life, death, politics, and sexuality, and so has a long history in human culture. This is not a combat between equals because the matador's victory is predetermined. Matador is a Spanish term that means "killer." It is required due of its symbolic value. The bull signifies intrinsic, instinctive fear, wildness, while the matador represents civilization's intelligence, which allows him to conquer the inner animal. Aside from the symbolism, the allure of these events stems from the actuality of the fighting. Furthermore, this is the primary reason for the popularity of bullfights.

It has a metaphorical level as well as genuine danger, death, blood, and agony. As a result, artists cannot rise up and smile after the performance; instead, audiences can project their inner fears and celebrate the solution together. The crowd does not appreciate the bull's death, but rather seeks catharsis through conflicts and tragedies. Furthermore, this is why bullfighting and matadors can serve as role models for bravery, masculinity, and honesty. These are the values of fighting heroes, as well as the heroes of Hemingway's novel. Death is shown in numerous ways in Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea", including love’s death, Idealism, morals, and animals in a bullring. Jake's unsettling feeling of death is captured in the story as a result of his wartime experience. He is terrified of death because of his sense of estrangement. This sense is vividly demonstrated in the following exchange between Robert Cohn and Jake.

Jake's emotional reaction to Cohn's remark of mortality indicates his sense of loneliness and being haunted by the prospect of death. Various characters in the narrative are dominated by this sense and resort to various drastic measures. For example, Mike turns to drinking and sex, whereas Cohn seeks refuge in romantic settings and romantic books. To make a difference, Jake leaves to another nation, but he eventually tells Cohn that "you can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another" [13].

Cohn spends his life based on what he reads and ignores reality. Cohn insists on following her around after Brett rejects her. Cohn is certain of his feelings for Brett and follows her around at all times. He refuses to recognize that his feelings for Brett are meaningless, despite Brett's repeated assertions that she does not want him around. He conveys his conviction that he is at the start of the narrative [14] His attempts to survive, however, finally failed [15]. Brett's love's death during the war leaves an emotional gap in her life. Clearly, even repeated sexual encounters have not satisfied such a void. She drifts aimlessly from guy to man, like she does from bar to bar. She knows that the connection she would have had with Jake is unreachable because he is impotent. As a result, she, too, is a victim of the war's death of love.

In The Sun Also Rises, Romero stands alone in the sunlit bullring, facing the bull, the bearer of death; this scene becomes poignantly allegorical. His confrontation with death is at the center of the celebration of life, but the episode of the man who is gored by the bull on his way to the bull-ring and dies is charged with symbolic meaning. After the injured man was left without help, it was a signal that the whole value system was crumbling. The world, like the throng, marches on without these outmoded beliefs, oblivious to their absence.

Finally, The Sun also Rises depicts the existences of the purported Lost Age, a gathering of people whose early adulthood was absorbed by The first Great War. This heinous struggle, known as the Incomparable Conflict, established new records for wartime mortality and corruption. It destroyed people's belives in customary temperances like as affection, confidence, and masculinity.a sense of moral and psychological aimlessness in the absence of these long-held beliefs. The Sun Also Rises is shaped by the unsuccessful look for significance in the aftermath of World War I. Although the characters rarely discuss the conflict openly, its consequences pervade everything they do and say.


The methodology for this research aims to analyze the portrayal of war violence in selected novels written by Ernest Hemingway. This study seeks to uncover the author's perspectives on war and violence, exploring how these themes are depicted, their impact on characters and plot, and their reflection of Hemingway's own experiences. This research will employ a qualitative approach, using content analysis as the primary method to delve into the textual representation of war violence in Hemingway's novels. The selected novels for analysis include "A Farewell to Arms," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," and "The Sun Also Rises." These novels are chosen due to their significant focus on war and violence, offering rich material for in-depth exploration.

The data collection process involves gathering textual excerpts from the selected novels that pertain to war violence. These excerpts will include descriptions of battles, physical injuries, emotional trauma, and the aftermath of war. A comprehensive selection process will ensure the representation of different types of violence and the contexts in which they occur. The research's scope is limited to the selected novels and may not encompass the entirety of Hemingway's views on war violence. The interpretation of the text is subjective and may vary between researchers. This methodology will enable a comprehensive analysis of how war violence is depicted in selected novels by Ernest Hemingway. Through rigorous content analysis, the research aims to provide insights into the author's perspectives on war, violence, and their lasting effects on characters and society.

Result and Discussion

Hemingway depicts the idea of human life being destroyed in this global by showing subjects of death, savagery, estrangement, and the Malcolm situation of human life. He depicts his characters as estranged, destroyed, and separated persons who seek to overcome life's ills with endurance, bravery, and determination. A large portion of his characters, who are fighting a lost war in this world of irrational demolition, are depicted in terms of the courage and isolation code. Most of his protagonists, particularly Jake, describe Hemingway's own rising intellect of separation, both from his companions and from his own self-caused forlornness, and are extremely helpful in understanding the novel's difficulty of Jake's isolation.

The Concept of Destruction

Henry enters the fight with an idealistic view of warfare. Words like glory, honor, and courage inspired Frederic to fight. You had to endure hearing a lot of words until they ultimately no longer heard and only the names of places had respected. The only things you could say and have them indicate anything were the names of places, as well as certain dates and numbers. Abstract terms like grandeur, honor, valor, and hallow were demeaning in comparison to genuine geographical names, route numbers, river names, regimental numbers, and dates [7].

Henry went to fight out of a teenage exuberance, a sense of adventure, and a nebulous idea. However, the harsh reality of battle demonstrates the hollowness of such platitudes. The conflict has ruined the idealism that Henry brought with him. The novel's sad dimension stems from the individual's sense of living in an uncertain world, a world to which he belongs but no longer has a place. When asked why he entered the war, Frederic Henry either avoids the question or delivers an evasive response. On one such occasion, Frederic tells Catherine Barkley, When a bartender subsequently asks him why he went to battle, Frederic answers, "I don't know." "I was a moron." [7]

Whatever romantic or idealistic ideas Frederic Henry had about the war were swiftly crushed by the realities of the battle. When Frederic abandons the line, flees through the river, and joins Catherine in the Hotel, he despises reading the newspaper since it covers the conflict. He didn't want to hear anything about the disasters. It becomes clear that Henry lacks belief and dedication to the conflict. Where there is no man-to-man conflict, modern warfare is mechanical. The weaponry utilized in such confrontations have the ability to destroy everything and anything. Following the war, Henry is convinced of the shallowness of the war slogans. He sees mass slaughter and destruction of buildings, nature, and everything it encounters, not battle. This confrontation with the realities of war is repulsive.

According to Debnath and Vill-Thiknikata [16], the sad tale begins with the protagonist's memories as the narrative. The protagonist and several army troops reside in a village whose beauty is marred by wartime meddling. In August, the narrator and the unit relocate to Gorizia, a magnificent town that has been partially destroyed by the war.

When Henry comes to describe the oak tree forest, the trunks and stumps are destroyed and the earth is ripped up. A shell wounds Henry in the knee, and subsequently the Italian combat police nearly murdered him. Shellfire had hit the street and a couple more houses were destroyed. People's mental states changed dramatically in the years following World War I. Traditional morality, ideals, and religious beliefs started to crumble. A group of young adults followed their own desires and instincts, seeking an unusual and uncontrolled life. Ernest Hemingway picked his own civilization as the theme of his works. The Sun Also Rises depicts the decadence of the 1920s and portrays issues of disillusionment, corruption, and failure, all of which are viewed as various elements of destruction. It also includes a lot of biographical information. Furthermore, analyzing this novel can provide a comprehensive grasp of the Lost Generation's literary history as well as the society of the time.

The Concept of Rape

Ernest Hemingway examines sexual violence in war as an instrument in his work For Whom the Bell Tolls to highlight By demonstrating how many characters in the novel provide evidence that women's contributions to war go much beyond those of the victims, opportunities for recreating the impact of rape. It is assumed that women who have experienced rape during conflict are devastated because they believe it to be a destiny worse than death, at least in part due to the humiliation they feel. believe it causes [17].

Maria, a little child scarred by the civil war, has been used to represent rape as a concept. Fascists had murdered her parents, raped her, and shaved her hair. Maria is the Republican mayor's daughter. Before being liberated by the guerillas, she was abused and raped by the Fascists. Maria is a war survivor who has been gang raped by the Fascists, making her more vulnerable. Furthermore, because she is young and infantile, she requires protection and guidance. Pilar looks after her. Jordan and Maria love each other and have an warm relationship. Jordan assists her in regaining her drive to life. The rape is an act of extreme violence; only Jordan's genuine affection save him.

Mara's character is a metaphor of numerous ideals, including victimhood, frivolous womanhood, and virginity, making her character extremely complicated and ambiguous. She was raped, yet she believes she is still a virgin. She is innocent, but she may be provocative and have aggressive impulses, and she is not just naive, but her puerility is often noticeable. Women who have been raped during conflict are ruined because rape is a horrifying outcome, in some measure to a limited extent due to the mischief of disgrace that is presumed, and this shame is often compounded when committed in the midst of mass rape [17].

The Concept of Heroism

According to Bharadwaj and Bhuyan [19], man's character is shown in difficult situations. Santiago's heroic qualities are present in the manner he resolves to stand the agony and manage it; he is alone in the sea, with only a thin supply of water and hope, "he had little hope"[20]. Santiago's brave defiance of death endows his character with heroic qualities. As a result, Santiago's character has been interpreted as an exercise in praising a man's ability to overcome the powers of deadly misery. Manolin is enthralled by the old man's deep-sea fishing ability and narration of past heroic deeds, as well as his information of American Baseball and its modern hero, Joe Di Maggio.

The Old Man and the Sea analysis is centered on the article of heroism and its concepts via the protagonist Santiago, this knight who won over all the most difficult challenges he faced. Ernest Hemingway developed a public persona that has made him an almost legendary man who yearns for life. Hemingway demonstrates that if a man will not risk his life for his dignity, then what is the point of living? This chapter looks for elements of heroism in the great writer Ernest Hemingway and provides a synopsis of The Old Man and the Sea. It is concerned with the novel's analysis, which is structured in descending order based on the importance of the heroic notions utilized in the study. In his work The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway created a great portrait of the protagonist Santiago, who possessed an unbreakable soul.

Santiago describes himself as an oddball. "I am a strange old man" [22]. He recognizes his challenges, which include loneliness, old age, a lack of strength, and defeat, and the only things that remain for him are hope and resolution, "The old man's head was clear and good now, and he was full of resolution" [23]. The fundamental components of Santiago's situation are those that propel him forward rather than hold him back from accomplishing something remarkable. "His hope and sureness had never left him. But suddenly they were freshening up like a wind" [24].

The conflict of natural

The Old Man and the Sea presents conflict from an entirely different perspective than the other works. It is about the conflict between man and nature. This conflict was symbolized by the phrase "man is not made for defeat". This fight was a battle for Santiago's life, and he was determined to win. His battle with the giant marlin was brutal, and he endured three days. This novel is about a fisherman named Santiago. It's about his battle with a massive marlin. He goes out to sea and hooks a massive marlin. After a hard struggle, Santiago manages to kill the fish and tie it to his boat, only to discover that on the trip home, he must fight an even more desperate battle with some frightening huge sharks, which eat away the marlin, leaving just a skeleton. The old man gets it home and falls asleep, nearly dead from tiredness. His struggle, however, earns him a lot of respect [25].

Images of slaughter, death, victory, and loss were used to depict the fight. Santiago's hand was bleeding from the hook's tightened rope as he sought to catch the fish. The second conflict occurred when sharks attacked Santiago's boat in order to consume the fish. These two photos depict two different types of wars. The first alludes to man's ludicrous battles for control and self-fulfillment, while the second is a battle against nature. It is a reasonable and legitimate battle, with the stronger surviving.

The shark's fight with the old man exemplifies natural strife. Sharks emerge when they smell the blood of the giant marlin, as they are hunting for food, as is their natural nature. Four sharks have been killed, and two more have been severely injured, but they never give up. The weapons were run out of old guy, but he still fought with his oar till the darkness time and he could hardly see his fish had been ripped up to pieces. In fact, it was said that he fights so fiercely that, It was clearly that the old man's war with the environment that he was the hunted species rather than the hunter [26].

Sandamali [27] noted in the same context that the harpoon signifies the strength of the fisherman at sea. Simply put, its demise represented Santiago's loss of authority in the midst of the sea, as well as his strength. He gets vulnerable after losing his harpoon. As a result, the loss of the harpoon represents the loss of power and strength.


The researcher covered the second research objective in chapter five of this thesis, which tries to explain how Hemingway depicted military brutality in his selected novels. The researcher discovers that the majority of Hemingway's characters were part of the war portrait that Hemingway painted in his writings. Some depictions of the war came through the characters in Hemingway's writings, such as the portrayal of death, both dead and wounded, and those suffering from impotence. Hemingway describes the atmosphere of warfare and destruction that affects people and countries involved in the conflict.

The main theme of For Whom the Bell Tolls is war violence. There is a spiritual and bodily loss of innocence as a result of the battle. The war caused several psychological traumas. The novel The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway depicts the conflict in a roundabout way. It illustrates post-war scenarios and their repercussions on individuals, groups, and society as a whole. There is an image of the hero's impotence as a result of combat injuries, which causes him to be impotent and unable to communicate with his partner sexually and emotionally.

In The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway describes a battle between man and nature. Hemingway shows two types of conflicts: the silly wars waged by man for dominance, and the rational battles that occur in nature, which are justified by the logic of survival for the strongest or struggle for survival. Santiago's fight with the huge Marlin was brutal and lasted three days. The battle was shown through pictures of violence, death, victory, and failure. There has been bloodshed from Santiago's hand, from the enormous Marlin, and from Santiago's combat with the sharks.


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