University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Weaknesses that Wealth Creates According to the Stories of Ernest Hemingway
Financial abundance is perhaps the most sought-after purpose of modern men. We spend a significant part of our lifetime doing jobs and chasing profits even if it is against our own will. In the context of the money driven world, we even have a notion that money would endow us a certain sense of strength—a resounding name in literature contests that notion. Ernest Hemingway, a household name for those who appreciate literature, had written several stories that depict material wealth as a source of weakness for humanity.
Moreover, in Hemingway’s multiple depictions of wealth, multiple types of weaknesses had also surfaced. To be more specific, the stories that would be used to support this argument will be coming from the collection of short stories titled “Snows of Kilimanjaro. ” The three stories would be “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, “Fifty Grand”, and a story of the same title as the collection, “Snows of Kilimanjaro. ” The short story “The Short Life of Francis Macomber” is basically centrifugal to the relationship of Francis Macomber and his wife Margaret, who is also referred to as Margot.
Francis Macomber was a wealthy man who is able to take his wife to a big-game hunt. Hemmingway had satisfyingly described the marriage of the characters “Margot was too beautiful for Macomber to divorce and Macomber had too much money for Margot. ” From the previous sentence alone, the type of weakness that wealth had generated is already surfaced. Hemmingway is seemingly suggesting that wealth could leave materially rich people poor—poor in terms of love. The situation of the main characters shows us that money could even corrupt a supposedly sacred concept such as marriage.
In addition to that, this kind of wealth-inflicted weakness is inline with the popular notion that money can never buy love. In “Fifty Grand,” the title immediately talks about money giving the readers a hint as to what the story will be about money. The plot was revolved around the life of an aging boxer who is preparing for his last fight. The aging boxer is aware that there is no chance for him to win against his opponent who is seemingly on his prime. He had acknowledged his own weakness and attempted to turn the tables around.
Interestingly, he had placed a bet for his own opponent. He was almost sure that through losing he would end up winning “I’m through after this fight…I got to take a beating why shouldn’t I make money on it? ” Hemmingway complicates the plot by placing two shrewd gamblers as antagonists. The antagonists had come up with a brilliant plan of making the opponent of the protagonist to hit him below the belt, making him lose his fifty grand. In this particular story, the type of weakness that wealth could give an individual is a welcomed weakness.
All the characters were willing to give up their pride, conscience, and even self-worth just to gain material wealth. In some respect, wealth could strip us the things we could never buy. The characters in “Fifty Grand” were all seemingly devoid of any self-worth, especially the protagonist. In addition to that, the protagonist sees doubling his life-savings as the only way he could live a happy pot-boxing life. In one of Hemingway’s best works, “Snows of Kilimanjaro”, he had written about how wealth could ruin a writer.
Through this theme, readers would easily jump to the assumption that this particular story is quasi-autobiographical. The plot talks about a writer browsing through his memories while on a safari in Africa. He was infected through a wound that he got from a thorn. The protagonist collects his memories as he was awaiting a slow and seemingly inevitable death. He had realized that his life was full of wonderful memories. However, the tragedy was he was unable to write about those wonderful memories. Instead, he had focused much on the misery that his wealthy wife had inflicted to him.
The weakness that “Snows of Kilimanjaro” had talked about is that wealth could kill an individual’s passion. The protagonist’s passion for writing was gradually killed by his adaptation to the lifestyle of his wealthy wife. The protagonist had become dependent to the wealth of his wife. He refers to his wife’s wealth as “…your damned money is my armour. ” Unfortunately, his passion for writing was sacrificed—he had failed to write about the important things, instead he had spent most of time mingling with wealthy yet uninteresting people.
All in all, these three stories reveal to us Hemingway’s distaste for material wealth. It is common in the three stories that things of priceless value like self-worth and passion are being neglected when pursuing wealth. Perhaps what Hemmingway may have wanted for us to realize is that material wealth should not be pursued at all. Instead, we should give more value to the things that could never be bought. And he is seemingly suggesting that being materially wealthy just means that we had lived our lives poorly.