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Many of the narrative strategies Hemingway applied to his war stories in In Our Time he had already practiced or applied in earlier stories not concerned specifically with the war. One such is "Up In Michigan", which Hemingway had originally intended as the first story of In Our Time, but had to exclude because of its controversial presentation of sexual relationships. From his mother to his sisters to his four wives, Hemingway could not help being influenced by the strong, cultured women who surrounded him all his life.
We notice, right from the beginning of his life, that Ernest Hemingway was confronted to two opposite ways of thinking, the Manly way, and the Woman way. This will be an important point in his writing and in his personal life, he will show a great interest in this opposition of thinking. In this short story, Hemingway uses simple words, which turn out to become a complex analysis of the male and female minds. With this style of writing, he will show us how different the two sexes’ minds work, by confronting them to each other in a way that we can easily capture their different ways of working. The scene in which the characters are set in is simple, and by the use of the simplicity of the words and of the setting, he is able to put us in-front of this dilemma, he will put us in front of a situation, and we will see it in both sexes point of view, which will lead us to the fundamental question, why are our minds so different?
Hemingway can be seen as a women's man, he was attracted to women, and marriage did not prevent him from having affairs. Whatever his life was, one of the main themes in his writing remained his determination to understand the difference between the two genders. This difference always mattered in his texts, as we will see in this short story, written by Hemingway, “Up In Michigan”. In this story, Hemingway tries to tell the story in the way he thinks a woman would see and live it, during the story, he will alternate the two point of views, the man’s (Jim), and the woman’s (Liz), and he will end the story on Liz’s view.
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In this text, Hemingway plays with the narratological scheme, the narrator inserts himself into the mind of the character he wants to make speak. In such a way we can read what the person is thinking, without the omnipresence of the narrator during the story. The first paragraph of the story provides us with a description of Jim Gilmore's arrival in town. By the way it is expressed, by the words used, we can guess that the person giving the description is a person from a village, it is not the usual narrator's speech. The lexical register of the language is not part of a literary discourse, the words used are not literary, but more of a spoken language. As we have a repetition of common words, often mono-syllabics, and by the use of the parataxis structure, of a simple syntax, without any subordinates, we get the oral language search by Hemingway, so that the characters speak as they would do in real life.
Jim Gilmore came to Horton's Bay from Canada. He bought the blacksmith shop from old man Horton. Jim was short and dark with big mustaches and big hands. He was a good horseshoer and did not look much like a blacksmith even with his leather apron on. He lived upstairs above the blacksmith shop and took his meals at D. J. Smith's.
By using "came ", Hemingway gives us a hint that the person speaking is from the village, and is still there when Jim arrives. This because he uses the word come, which means Jim is coming towards something, there is a movement coming from somewhere towards the village. By writing that he bought the blacksmith shop from ”old man Horton”, Hemmingway expresses a familiar way of speaking, it is an oral discourse, which implies that the person speaking knows the man quite well, and we are also spoken to as if we know this old man. As the text progresses, we get to know progressively the different characters present in the story. As in the second paragraph, Liz is presented to us by the narrator who reports what each character thinks about her, starting with Mrs. Smith and Jim. We get a masculine description of Liz, he, as a male, gives us his description, and speaks about what is for him important and most characteristics about Liz.
Liz Coates worked for Smith’s. Mrs. Smith, who was a very large clean woman, said Liz Coates was the neatest girl she’d ever seen. Liz had good legs and always wore clean gingham aprons and Jim noticed that her hair was always neat behind. He liked her face because it was so jolly but he never thought about her.
Jim starts his description of Liz by saying that she has “good legs”! As if we could reduce her to only a pair of “good legs”! Such a statement indicates that Jim is first of all attracted by Liz’s physical features, the statement has no emotions involved, his description stays superficial, and he could be defined as being “macho”. The hypothesis that Jim’s vision of the world is male dominated will be confirmed in subsequent parts of the story. It is also noticeable that he never ‘thinks’ about her. After this sexist description of Liz, we get to the part of the text where it is Jim’s turn to be looked at.
Liz liked Jim very much. She liked it the way he walked over from the shop and often went to the kitchen door to watch for him to start down the road. She liked it about his moustache. She liked it about how white his teeth were when he smiled. She liked it very much that he didn’t look like a blacksmith. She liked it how much D. J. Smith and Mrs. Smith liked Jim. One day she found that she liked it the way the hair was black on his arms and how white they were above the tanned line when he washed up in the washbasin outside the house. Liking that made her feel funny.
This is a softer description, a more feminine point of view, she initiates it with a long distance description and then comes ‘closer to the person’. She speaks about his way of walking “he walked over from the shop “, she then gets to his face and says she likes “his moustache”, and “how white his teeth were when he smiled “. To talk about the mouth could seem erotic, but by the way it is said, it rather suggests that her discourse is more a child’s discourse. By the choice of the words used, she appears innocent. The continually reoccurring of words such as “She liked it” seems to insist on her childish way of thinking. She pursues by saying that she likes the way “D. J. Smith and Mrs. Smith liked Jim. “ Just as a child would say, always comparing and trying to prove that what he thinks is right, because somebody else thinks it too. However, this could also be a façade behind which her true desires are hidden. As she goes on with her description, and goes up close this time, she could have made a more sensual description, however, she ‘goes the other way’, and says “liked it the way the hair was black on his arms and how white they were above the tanned line when he washed up in the washbasin outside the house “, which is not at all appealing, on the contrary! She makes an up close description, and finishes by a childish like sentence, which shows her un-experience “. Liking that made her feel funny”. In a childish sort of way, her sexual desires can be guessed, she looks at him, observes him, watches every detail of his anatomy, she is starting to grow up and her body his feeling emotions she might not be aware yet, and that might be the reason for which she is scared to really explain her sensations. This attitude can be linked to her education. In the past, women were not to have fantasies, and think about sex as a way of pleasure, sex was there to create children, and women were there to attend to their husband’s desires.
To come back to the text, we can observe Liz’s abusive use of like, it seems obsessional, and is in opposition with Jim who uses it only once. We can see by comparing the two descriptions that a man’s, and a woman’s way of thinking are characteristically different. Her point of view is less sex-based, and much more innocent, her emotions are involved in her perception of him. The two descriptions are given in parallel, but they are radically opposite.
The story shows that Liz sets her eyes on Jim a long time before he did on her. However, she was never able to make a move, she did not want anybody to notice her emerging feelings for this man. First of all, this might be due, once again, to her education, and her up-bringing, not only were women not to be attracted by sex, it was only seen as a marital duty they had to produce to give children to their husbands, and not at all there to give them pleasure . To give even more power to men, women were supposed not to show their attraction to a man, that was the man’s prerogative. On the other hand, she might also want to be sure of his feelings towards her before daring to engage herself in showing her feelings. She might be scared, shy, for her to love a man, implies necessarily marriage.
The text seems to try to show us the basic differences between a man and a woman. The man’s role, then, was to really be a man, and act like one. He should do male things, such as hunting, drinking whiskey, and being un-sensitive, not really caring about women’s feelings. As for the women, who here take on the role of housewives, who say nothing, stay at home, cook dinner, think and in a way have no lives at all! The men in the story take the women for granted, but because of their education and imposed roles, the women do not react, and don’t seem to mind all the chores imposed on them, un-directly by men, they accept it all, without revolting themselves, because it all seems natural to them as it concurs with their upbringing principles. As time goes by, after their day in the woods, as the men come home, Jim at last notices Liz, after a couple of drinks.
She was thinking about him hard and then Jim came out. His eyes were shining and his hair was a little rumpled. Liz looked down at her book. Jim came over back of her chair and stood there and she could feel him breathing and then he put his arms around her. Her breasts felt plump and firm and the nipples were erect under his hands. Liz was terribly frightened, no one had ever touched her, but she thought, “He’s come to me finally. He’s really come.”
She has thought about him during the whole day. As he comes, she seems scared, or maybe intimidated, “Liz looked down at her book”. This whole paragraph is filled with sensuality and lust, “Jim came over back of her chair”, then goes on with “she could feel him breathing and then he put his arms around her.” First she sees him, the she feels his breath, then his touch, and all this frightens her, as she has never been touched. She’s feeling things she has never felt before (or has never been aware of), which might be why she feels so scared. The description goes on and gets ‘closer’, this time, to Liz and her body, “Her breasts felt plump and firm and the nipples were erect under his hand”, the sexual connotation become more direct. Jim wants to go out for a walk, and he has got something at the back if his mind, whereas Liz thinks he feels the same candid way about her that she feels about him, but she will soon understand the difference, or at least she will be put in a situation were we, the readers can see the difference, but maybe does nor notice it, nor understand it.
They sat down in the shelter of the warehouse and Jim pulled Liz close to him. She was frightened. One of Jim’s hands went inside her dress and stroked over her breast and the other hand was in her lap. She was very frightened and didn’t know how he was going to go about things but she snuggled close to him. Then the hand that felt so big in her lap went away and was on her leg and started to move up it.
When they finally arrive at the shelter, Jim takes things in hand, while Liz still is nervous and scared. But does Jim notice this? Does he try to comfort her in any way? No, he seems unaware of Liz’s state of mind and follows his own lust. He makes a move, “One of Jim’s hands went inside her dress and stroked over her breast”, while the other hand was “in her lap”. In her lap, and not on, probably means that he is putting his fingers in her private parts, while Liz is apparently scared. Yes, she had dreamed of him noticing her, yes she wanted romance, but romance implies sharing, mutual affection, whereas he only takes. He is using her as if she was an object. However if his mind does not work as hers, he may not realise that he is hurting her (physically and mentally). She wanted him to care for him, more than having sex with him. ‘Unfortunately’ her body betrays her until, after a while, the rational part gets the upper hand and she asks him to stop because she is scared. She is bewildered, she does not really know herself what she wants.
“Don’t, Jim,” Liz said. Jim slid the hand further up.
“You mustn’t, Jim. You mustn’t.”
Neither Jim nor Jim’s big hand paid any attention to her. The boards were hard. Jim had her dress up and was trying to do something to her. She was frightened but she wanted it. She had to have it but it frightened her.
“You mustn’t do it, Jim. You mustn’t.”
“I got to. I’m going to. You know we got to.”
“No we haven’t, Jim. We ain’t got to. Oh, it isn’t right. Oh, it’s so big and it hurts so. You can’t. Oh, Jim. Jim. Oh.”
This split between ‘mind’ and ‘physical reactions’ is also underlined in the description of Jim “Neither Jim nor Jim’s big hand paid any attention to her.” There is Jim and there is Jim’s big hand. The difference between Jim and Liz is that Jim and Jim’s hand act in concert. Her first reaction is to ask him to stop, she does not understand what he is doing, maybe she would rather have wanted him to talk to her, to be understanding, gentle, but instead he is pushing himself onto her, without her approval. “Don’t Jim”, she says while he “Jim slid the hand further up.” He does not care or notice what she says, he is thinking about his own personal pleasure and, in doing so, not afraid (or unaware?) of hurting her feelings. “Neither Jim nor Jim’s big hand paid any attention to her”. After a while she does not know what she wants any longer.” She was frightened but she wanted it”.
Hemingway uses, here, a schismatic repetition, as in many other places in the text (liking that made her feel funny), by using the word it, which implies that the reader goes back in the text, to see to what noun it refers to. He will deliberately omit details that he feels the reader will be able to infer if the narrative is written skilfully enough.
To interpret these lines, one can maybe think that she wants him to stop, because she feels that she is herself unable to stop. Maybe she now wants it, wants to have him inside of her. Maybe she is ‘only’ afraid of letting go, and letting her body decide. When he is done, Jim falls asleep, leaving Liz on her own. She tries to wake him up, but no use. She was only the last of a long list of activities a man has to do before sleeping: hunting, drinking, and then SEX. It appears to me that hunting represents to Jim more than only food providing. It is also a hunt for a trophy, a way of proving to himself that he is a man (which was what his father thought him), maybe the hunting is for Jim even more important than a woman, or to go even further, it might be even more important than actually having sex with a woman.
In the end, Liz leaves him sleeping. However, before leaving “Liz took off her coat and leaned over and covered him with it. She tucked it around him neatly and carefully”. Even after all she has gone through that night, she takes the time to tuck him in as one would do to a child, which shows her maternal instinct or upbringing, the woman should care for the man. And then she will walk away, all by herself through the woods, and return home. We have the two confronting worlds, on one side we have Jim, oblivious to Liz’s needs and emotions, and on the other, Liz, embracing pain, and trying to make, to the extent possible, her world conform to her romantic notion. We are faced with the irreconcilable differences between the two genders, born into the same world, but who seems not to be part of the same world.
No one can contradict that Jim’s actions are un-correct, both from a man’s point of view, and a woman’s. Jim has had an unacceptable behaviour, not caring about Liz, just taking her as an object of desire, only there to satisfy him. Liz’s reaction during the act, and when she leaves, could be considered as normal from the point of view of the society at that time. Women were not taught nor allowed neither to have opinions, nor to contradict a man when, even when they knew he was wrong. Men and women did not have the same rights, the same possibilities, and the same status.
This is a challenging text, which touches on many different themes. Hemingway shows us quite clearly the difference between a man’s mind and a woman’s (although there are a range of minds amongst men and amongst women). It is shown by their different expectations, their longings, and their way of acting. She loves him, so she therefore desires him. She thinks that if he desires her, it means he loves her, but that is where she goes wrong. She does not understand that for Jim it is different. A man does not function or act as a woman, and that is what she needs to understand. A man can act as Jim does in the text, without having as a goal to hurt the girl, neither morally or physically. These differences between the two genders are, in part, due to education. Girls and boys were not brought up in the same way, and did not have the same goals to achieve. This way of thinking has followed an evolution in time, but even today women are, in many countries, still not equal to men in all aspects of life (but there are considerable variations between countries and continents, cultural, political and racial differences). Men have always had a higher status, at least in most European civilisations (in opposition to some South-American civilisations where the woman has a high status, as she has the gift of giving birth). However, women’s rights are slowly approaching men’s rights, even if in some countries, women are still treated as men’s ‘slaves’, without even having the right to say or to do what they want, nor marry to whom they want.
Hemingway has an interesting way of showing these gender differences, even if it sometimes seems a bit too sarcastic and ‘pushed to the limit’. It is, however, important to remember that there is no clear-cut ‘man’s mind, neither a clear-cut ‘woman’s mind. Human beings are individuals, with no completely identical personalities, with the faculty of remembering, learning from mistakes. There are large variations amongst women and men in their way of acting, thinking, expecting, believing, and handling their relation with the opposite sex. Therefore it is fair to say that there is also an 'important moral difference' amongst human beings, determined by rationality, self-consciousness and intellect,as to what is ‚acceptablebehaviour’. Similarly, it could be argued that people living in Third World countries, who are uneducated and surrounded by disease, death and famine, may feel that their lives have less moral 'worth' compared to that of another, living in a well established democracy,and therefore have a different ’code of behaviour’.
Women have two X chromosomes (XX) in each cell nucleus. Men have one X and one Y chromosome (XY). Is this difference the reason for different behavior? But there are also people with XO, XXY, XXX, XYY, XXYY, XXXY, and XXXXY chromosomes. What gender are they? How do they behave?