Anderson And Hemingways Use Of The First Person

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"It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."At one point in his short story, "Big Two-Hearted River: Part II", Hemingway's character Nick speaks in the first person. Why he adopts, for one line only, the first person voice is an interesting question, without an easy answer. Sherwood Anderson does the same thing in the introduction to his work, Winesburg, Ohio. The first piece, called "The Book of the Grotesque", is told from the first person point of view. But after this introduction, Anderson chooses not to allow the first person to narrate the work. Anderson and Hemingway both wrote collections of short stories told in the third person, and the intrusion of the first person narrator in these two pieces is unsettling.

In both instances, though, the reader is left with a much more absorbing story; one in which the reader is, in fact, a main character. With the exception of "My Old Man", which is entirely in the first person , and "On the Quai at Smyrna", which is only possibly in the first person, there is just one instance in In Our Time in which a character speaks in the first person. It occurs in "Big Two-Hearted River: Part II", an intensely personal story which completely immerses the reader in the actions and thoughts of Nick Adams. Hemingway's utilization of the omniscient third person narrator allows the reader to visualize all of Nick's actions and surroundings, which would have been much more difficult to accomplish using first person narration.

Nick is seen setting up his camp in "Big Two-Hearted River: Part I" in intimate detail, from choosing the perfect place to set his tent to boiling a pot of coffee before going to sleep. The story is completely written the in third person and is full of images, sounds, and smells. In "Big Two-Hearted River: Part II" Hemingway exactly describes Nick's actions as he fishes for trout. Details of his fishing trip are told so clearly that the reader is almost an active participant in the expedition instead of someone reading a story. He carefully and expertly finds grasshoppers for bait, goes about breakfast and lunch-making, and sets off into the cold river.

By being both inside and outside Nick's thoughts, the reader can sense precisely the drama that Hemingway wishes to bring to trout fishing....

... middle of paper ... of the story. The entire book is a dialogue between narrator and reader. The effect is that the reader becomes even more involved in the stories. Both of these works are unlike others from the same time period which are told completely using first person narration. Gertrude Stein's The Autobiography of Alice B.

Toklas and Anita Loos' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes are both written wholly in the first person. But both of these read like diaries, of which the reader is just that - a reader. Neither one has a point at which the reader is so definitely brought into the story consciously by the author. By jumping abruptly into first person instead of using it all along, Hemingway and Anderson more effectively do this. Anderson's and Hemingway's sudden switches to first person narration of course could not have been mere mistakes, and their reasons may have been even more convoluted than imaginable to late twentieth century readers. What is left are two collections of short stories in which the reader plays an actual role. The intrusion of first person narration makes these stories come alive in a way that a third person narration cannot, a tribute to the skill of both of these authors.

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