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Sanders, J'aim L.
The art of existentialism :
b F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer and the American existential tradition
h [electronic resource] /
by J'aim L. Sanders.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: The purpose of my research is to examine the philosophic influences on three literary works: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Ernest Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon, and Norman Mailer's An American Dream. Through an investigation of biographical, historical, cultural, and textual evidence, I will argue for the influence of several European philosophers---Friedrich Nietzsche, Sren Kierkegaard, and Martin Heidegger---on these authors and on the structures and messages of their works. I will discuss how the specific works I have selected not only reveal each author's apt understanding of the existential-philosophical crises facing the individual in the twentieth century, but also reveal these authors' attempt to disseminate philosophic instruction on the "art of living" to their post-war American readers. I will argue that Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer address what they see as the universal philosophical crises of their generations in the form of literary art by appropriating and translating the existential concerns of existence to American interests and concerns. I will argue that Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer's emphasis on the individual's personal responsibility to first become self-aware and then to strive to see the world more clearly and truly reflects their own sense of responsibility as authors and artists of their generations, a point of view that repositions these authors as prophets, seers, healers, so to speak, of their times. Finally, I will discuss how, in An American Dream, Mailer builds on the Americanized existential foundations laid by Fitzgerald and Hemingway through his explicit invocation of and subtle references to the art and ideas of his literary-philosophic predecessors---Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2007.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
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Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 196 pages.
Adviser: Lawrence Broer, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
The Art of Existentialism: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer and the American Existential Tradition by JÂ’aim L. Sanders A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Lawrence Broer, Ph.D. Kirk Curnutt, Ph.D. James Meredith, Ph.D. Charles Guignon, Ph.D. Philip Sipiora, Ph.D. Date of Approval: September 28, 2007 Keywords: Nietzsche, Kier kegaard, Heidegger, Philo sophy, Existential Psychology Copyright 2007, JÂ’aim L. Sanders
Dedication In dedication to my mother, Joyce, fo r a lifetime of friendship, support, and encouragement, and to my father and brother, John and Jason, for thei r silent pride.
Acknowledgements I would like to extend a special thanks to Lawrence Broer for his mentoring, his friendship, and for his continual encouragemen t of my work. Thanks to The Hemingway and Fitzgerald Societies and to Jim Meredith and Kirk Curnutt for supporting my current and future research. Thanks to Laura Runge fo r helping me to plant my roots and find my path through the maze that is academia. Thanks to Charles and Sally Guignon for opening their home to me. To Charlie, thank you for your patience, your brilliance, and your kindness. Thanks to Dr. Stone Shiflet for years of successful re search trips and for always being available to give me feedb ack on my work. And finally, thanks to Ron Roberts, to Blakely, Jessica, and Cassidy Masters, to Greg Roe, Pam Middleton, and Tiffany Jones for your friendship and s upport and for providing me with the needed distractions and breaks from my work.
i Table of Contents List of Figures iii Abstract iv Chapter One: Introduction: The Foundations of Existentialism in America 1 Friedrich Nietzsche: Th e Philosopher-Critic and Prophet in American Discourse 5 Sren Kierkegaard: Th e Philosopher-Critic and Prophet in American Discourse 11 Martin Heidegger: Th e Philosopher-Critic and Prophet in American Discourse 17 Fitzgerald, Hemingway, a nd MailerÂ’s Cultural Moments and the Â“Art of LivingÂ” Existentially 22 Chapter Two: FitzgeraldÂ’s Eckleburgian Vision: Advertising Corrective Lenses for the Modern Individual 25 Doctor EckleburgÂ’s Â“Ret inasÂ” and The Dilemmas of Modern Vision 31 Nick as an Aspiring Nietzschean 35 NietzscheÂ’s Three Caste Syst em and NickÂ’s Vision of Jazz Age New York 44 The Blind Masses in the Valley of Ashes 45 The East Egg Â“Legal AristocracyÂ” 47 West Egg and the Â“True AristocracyÂ” 51 FitzgeraldÂ’s Ecklebur gian Vision for the Modern Individual 64 Chapter Three: Life, Death, and Art: The E(a)rnest Thought of Death and HemingwayÂ’s Death in the Afternoon a Manifesto on the Art of Living Earnestly 66 The Study of Death via the Spanish Bullfight 75 HemingwayÂ’s Epistemology; or Â“Hemingway as KierkegaardÂ” 77 HemingwayÂ’s Perspectivism: The Â“I ndividualÂ” Experience of Death in the Bullring 80 The Matador-Artist and Artistic Failures: Pundonor and Cowardice in the Face of Death 83 The Â“feeling of life and death and mortality and immortalityÂ” and Â“the moment of truthÂ” in the Spanish Bullfight 97 The Ritual and Repetition of the Bullfight 102 HemingwayÂ’s Manifesto on the Â“Art of LivingÂ” Earnestly 104
ii Chapter Four: A Â“ProfessorÂ” of Existe ntial Psychology: MailerÂ’s Existential Psycho-Therapist and the Am erican Existential Experience 108 The Philosophy and the Psychology: An American Dream and the Basis of MailerÂ’s Vision 113 The Philosophic Foundations for Existential Psychology 114 MailerÂ’s Appropriation of the Psyc hology and the Philosophy: Â“FallingÂ” into the Myth of The American Dream 121 RojackÂ’s Â“Failure,Â” His Â“Fall,Â” and His Â“FreedomÂ”: An American Existential Perspective 122 RojackÂ’s Romance with the Moon: Â“Being-towards-deathÂ” and Â“BecomingÂ” Whole 126 Existential and Physical Vi olence: RojackÂ’s Struggle for Freedom 134 Authentic American Freedom: MailerÂ’s View 138 Exposing the Myth of AmericaÂ’s Vision of Itself 140 RojackÂ’s Â“FallÂ” and the Â“FallÂ” of Adam: Temptation, Evil, and the Allure of The Dream 141 MailerÂ’s Vision of an American Existentialism of and for America 145 The American Existential Experience and Ma ilerÂ’s Vision of America 146 Chapter Five: The American Existential Tradition: Tracing the Influence of Fitzgerald and Hemingway on MailerÂ’s Philosophy and Art 150 FitzgeraldÂ’s Philosophi c Vision of America 152 HemingwayÂ’s Philosophic Vision of America 163 Fitzgerald and Hemingway: Am erican Existentialists 170 Mailer and the Fitzgerald-Hemingway Tradition 174 The Â“Art of LivingÂ” Existentially: Fi tzgerald, Hemingway, and MailerÂ’s Call for an Authentic American Experience 181 References 184 Bibliography 194 About the Author END PAGE
iii List of Figures Figure 1. Anatomy of the Eye 33 Figure 2. Blind Spot Test 33
iv The Art of Existentialism: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemi ngway, Norman Mailer, and the American Existential Tradition JÂ’aim L. Sanders ABSTRACT The purpose of my research is to exam ine the philosophic influences on three literary works: F. Scott FitzgeraldÂ’s The Great Gatsby Ernest HemingwayÂ’s Death in the Afternoon and Norman MailerÂ’s An American Dream Through an investigation of biographical, historical, cultura l, and textual evidence, I wi ll argue for the influence of several European philo sophersÂ—Friedrich Nietzsche, S ren Kierkegaard, and Martin HeideggerÂ—on these authors and on the structures and messages of their works. I will discuss how the specific wo rks I have selected not only reveal each authorÂ’s apt understanding of the existential-philosophical cr ises facing the indivi dual in the twentieth century, but also reveal these authorsÂ’ attemp t to disseminate philosophic instruction on the Â“art of livingÂ” to thei r post-war American readers. I will argue that Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer address what they see as the universal philosophical crises of their generations in the form of literary art by appropriating and translating the existential concerns of existence to American interest s and concerns. I will argue that Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and MailerÂ’s emphasis on the indivi dualÂ’s personal responsibility to first become self-aware and then to strive to see the world more clearly and truly reflects their own sense of responsibility as authors and artist s of their generations, a point of view that
v repositions these authors as prophe ts, seers, healers, so to sp eak, of their times. Finally, I will discuss how, in An American Dream Mailer builds on the Americanized existential foundations laid by Fitzgerald and Heming way through his explic it invocation of and subtle references to the art and ideas of hi s literary-philosophic pr edecessorsÂ—Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
1 Chapter 1 Introduction: The Foundations of Existentialism in America Because F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest He mingway, and Norman Mailer are writers who contributed to the shape of our national identity and our national consciousness, their American literary and philosophic roots, as well as the American cult ural currents of their times, have been extensively explored in thei r literary art. A point of agreement among scholars is that Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and MailerÂ’s contributions to American culture reach far beyond their roles as American litera ry artistsÂ—they are not only considered vociferous social critics of twentieth-century Am erica, but articulate interpreters of their American cultural milieu. Literary works such as The Great Gatsby Death in the Afternoon and An American Dream stand as testaments to these authorsÂ’ engagement with and apt understanding of their cultural mo ments, yet these works also reveal that their art takes shape as a vi sion inspired by the intellectua l and philosophic currents of their time. Scholars have variously argue d that the philosophic voices that reverberate in the American consciousnessÂ—and in the works of Fitzgerald and HemingwayÂ—can be attributed to American philosophers su ch as William James, John Dewey, George Santayana, Paul Tillich, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.1 As a result of research focused on 1 See critical works by Ronald Berman and Wright Morris for discussions of American philosophers influence on FitzgeraldÂ’s ideas and works.
2 claiming the Â“AmericannessÂ” of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, the influence of the European existentialists on the American cons ciousness and on the works of Fitzgerald and Hemingway has received much less cri tical attention. MailerÂ’s appropriation of European existentialisms, on the other hand, has been the focus of many book-length studies, interviews, and articles in the year s since Mailer himself claimed that he was developing his own brand of ex istentialism (Adams 4). Yet, what is significant about these three authors taken togeth er is not merely the influenc e of European existentialisms on their canon of works, but the depth of the cu ltural moments they capture in their art in works such as The Great Gatsby Death in the Afternoon and An American Dream moments that reflect the growing influence of European existentialisms in American culture. For Fitzgerald, th e historic moment of Gatsby Â—the postwar Jazz AgeÂ—reflects the dominant strain of cultural discourse, wh ich focused on the applicability of Friedrich NietzscheÂ’s philosophies of modern civiliza tion and the modern individual to American interests and concerns. In He mingwayÂ’s bullfight manifesto Death in the Afternoon HemingwayÂ’s study of death via the Spanish bu llfight reflects the philosophic discourse of Sren Kierkegaard, a philosopher whose im portance to twentieth century thought was being recognized in the 1920s and 1930s. In Mail erÂ’s cultural milieu, the applicability of Martin HeideggerÂ’s notions of the individualÂ’s struggle for authenticity and the growing discourse on the viabil ity of existential psychology as an alternative to psychoanalytic approaches to mental health become the subjec t of MailerÂ’s analytic of American culture in An American Dream It is through the uniqueness of these authorsÂ’ adaptations, interpretations, and translations of existe ntial philosophies to American interests and
3 concerns that Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer not onl y capture their specific American cultural moments and crises and put their cultural moments in motion in the form of literary art, but they add depth and dimensions to their art through their engagement with and espousal of the existent ial discourses that were gaining currency in their cultural moments. FitzgeraldÂ’s The Great Gatsby HemingwayÂ’s Death in the Afternoon and MailerÂ’s An American Dream were each written during a time when the foundations were being laid for the study of existential philo sophy in America via Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger respectively. In FitzgeraldÂ’s postwar 1920s, American cultural critics and intellectuals focused in on NietzscheÂ’s philo sophies of morality a nd perspectivism and attempted to apply NietzscheÂ’s philosophies on modern subjectivity to modern American culture, something Fitzgerald himself addresses in The Great Gatsby In HemingwayÂ’s Death in the Afternoon although it was written and published just prior to the explosion of Kierkegaard translations on the American scene in the early to mid 1930s, Hemingway engages with the growing discourse on Kier kegaardÂ’s philosophies of life and death, discourses which correlate to postwar American concernsÂ—i.e., how to live in the face of literal and existential death. In MailerÂ’s pos twar era, Nietzschean and Kierkegaardian existentialisms remained a part of AmericaÂ’ s growing discourse on the applicability of existentialism to American culture, yet Mailer writes An American Dream at the moment existential psychology is replacing the tradit ional Freudian and Jungian approaches to psychoanalysis in America, a moment wh en Heideggerian philosophy and psychology flooded American discourse, a moment Mailer captures in An American Dream Yet
4 although the specific cultural moments and the specific philosophi es each of these authors engage with vary, they find common ground in their shared existential vision of the dilemmas of and remedies for the m odern individual and the modern, Â“civilizedÂ” world. Like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer, Â“The ExistentialistsÂ” share a similar vision of the complications of existence a nd of living in modern times. Specifically, existentialists focus in on the implications of our inherent subjectivity and thus our inability to ever achieve a truly objective viewpoint; they focus on the difficulty of making choices, decisions, and commitments in the absence of absolute Â“TruthsÂ” and objective guides; they focus on our existence as meaning-seeking and self-creating beings who must find meaning and value for our lives in spite of the fact that the world in which we have been Â“thrownÂ” is irrational, meaningless, and absurd. Significantly, existentialists both build on and answer Natura lism: yes, the world is comprised of brute forces beyond our controlÂ—political, soci al, economic, and naturalÂ—yet existing individuals are not merely animals swept along by urges, impulses, and the basic, biological struggle to survive. Existing individuals ha ve the ability to and must strive to transcend these forces and cr eate genuine meaning and content for their own lives. In short, the existing individual is responsible for developing his/her essence, and although there are undeniable biological and social forces that shape th e individual, existing individuals have the ability to become awar e of these forces and choose how they will respond to them, or let them shape them, in their everyday lives. Achieving the proper perspective through which the individual co mes to see self and world more clearly,
5 embracing our freedom to choose what our lives will amount to, and taking responsibility for our lives, these are the subj ects of Fitzgerald, Hemingway and MailerÂ’s critiques of and remedies for the modern individual a nd the modern world. Ye t, although Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and MailerÂ’s visions are undeniably existential in nature, the specifics of their philosophic visions, like t hose of their existential-phi losophic predecessors, greatly vary. Thus, it is necessary to trace the r eception of Nietzschean, Kierkegaardian, and Heideggerian philosophies in America and thus show the specific philosophy and the specific philosophic-cultural moments Fitzge rald, Hemingway and Mailer engage with, Americanize, and make accessible to their Amer ican readers in the form of literary art. Friedrich Nietzsche: The Philosopher-Critic and Prophe t in American Discourse Friedrich NietzscheÂ’s introduction to th e American scene was marred by early misconceptions of and misinterpretations of Nietzsche and his works. The first work to appear in English on Nietzsche was Max NordauÂ’s Entartung published in English as Degeneration in 1895, a best-seller but a Â“highly contaminated sourceÂ” of Nietzschean thought (Ptz 3). 2 NordauÂ’s work Â“summarily claimed NietzscheÂ’s writings as prime exhibits for the diagnosis of rapidly sp reading madness and degeneracyÂ” in modern European culture (Ptz 3). Although American readers could identify with what Nordau presented as NietzscheÂ’s view of modern ci vilization as in decline, NordauÂ’s Â“raving 2 See William James 1895 Â“Review of Max Nordau Â’s Â‘EntartungÂ’Â” and Alfred HakeÂ’s 1896 work Degeneration: A Reply to Max Nordau for analyses of Max NordauÂ’s inte rpretation of Nietzschean thought.
6 denunciation of all modern art, literature, and thought as indi cationsÂ” of the corruption of modern European culture is not, as Nordeau claims, a Nietzschean-based sentiment (Ptz 3). In addition to NordeauÂ’s distortion of Nietzschean thought, the first English translations of NietzscheÂ’s works that follo wed were some of the last works Nietzsche wrote and published. In 1896 Thus Spake Zarathustra was the first of NietzscheÂ’s works to be translated into English, followed by the 1896 publication of The Case of Wagner, Nietzsche Contra Wagner, Th e Twilight of the Idols, and The Anti-Christ. The result was that the English-speaking worldÂ’s pictur e of Nietzsche and Nietzschean thought was Â“distorted beyond recognitionÂ” (Ptz 3). Between 1899 and 1908, several studies on Ni etzsche aimed to present a more accurate picture of Nietzsche and Nietzschean philosophy and addressed the applicability of Nietzschean thought to American intere sts. In 1899, Grace Neal DolsonÂ’s Cornell University doctoral dissertati on, which was published in 1901 as The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche turned attention to NietzscheÂ’s moral system and his views on the moral relativity inherent in modern civi lizations. This early focus on Nietzschean morality was in part due to the cultural climate in America, a climate in which Victorian values and standards were being reevaluate d, questioned, and critic ized. Hayes Steilberg notes that The turmoil of change that overshadows the beginning of the twentieth century brought forth an almo st panic-stricken insecurity about the validity of all accepted values (which was paradoxically accompanied by a manic hopefulness regarding the possi bility of achieving new values).
7 We need not be surprised that this affected the readings of a philosopher who envisioned the modern era as on e of a decisive Â“transvaluation.Â” (258-259) NietzscheÂ’s push for Â“a transvaluation of valu esÂ” in the modern world, a concept tied to the epistemological shift to modern subjectivity and the rejection of the absolutism of Victorian morality and perception, is eviden t in the early focus on NietzscheÂ’s moral system and the moral relativity he claims pers ists in all modern civilizations (Mencken 62, 125). Since the modern world required Â“a transvaluation of valuesÂ” and a new approach to thinking about morality, the em ergence of a new, modern individual who could live authentically, so to speak, in the mi dst of moral, personal, and social relativity, was not only a concern of NietzscheÂ’s, but an concern of Americans who no longer identified with the old, bureaucratic valu es of the nation. As Hays Steilberg notes: The dominant strains in the Â‘first waveÂ’ of philosophical Nietzsche reception in American were, undoubtedl y, political and moral: phrased as the questions of power and new values This befits the era. The age of modernism responded to the fin de si cleÂ’s paralytic obsession with the double burden of hypertrophic histori cal consciousness and exhausted culture by producing a cult of the ne w man who mustÂ…find completely new values in order to redefine the human as the superhuman. (259) This focus on Nietzschean morality was perpetuated by the first American monograph on Nietzsche: H.L. MenckenÂ’s 1908 The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche Touted by Hays Steilberg as a Â“remarkable studyÂ” and by Edwin Slosson as the Â“most complete
8 exposition of Nietzschean philosophy,Â” MenckenÂ’s monograph became a seminal work in Nietzsche studies that ha d not been matched by 1913 or by 1917, the years in which Mencken published subsequent editions of this work (Steilberg 20; Slosson 697). Manfred Ptz notes that the popularity of Me nckenÂ’s monograph was due to the fact that MenckenÂ’s Â“dealings with Nietzsche were rath er borderline cases of an intricate mixture of literary, philosophical, and popular concerns which finally made Mencken one of the most vociferous Nietzsche-inspired cultura l critics of his timeÂ” (Putz 6). MenckenÂ’s goals, according to Steilberg, were to make NietzscheÂ’s philosophy accessible, show that his philosophy was logical, and show that Â“Nietzsche had a definite importance for current events in AmericaÂ” (243). Manfred Ptz explains: Of course, some of the drastically foregrounded issues of the first major wave of Nietzsche reception in America bore the stamp of genuinely American concerns. One of them aggressively addressed the question of NietzscheÂ’s Â“Americanness, Â” an issue that pointed to the problematics of whether the philosopherÂ’s ideas could either be seen as compatible or as totally incompatible with the whole framework of principles, tenets, and suppositions that supplied the basis for a genuinely Â“American creedÂ” constitutive of the encompassing cultural and political practices of American so ciety as such. (Ptz 5) Because MenckenÂ’s monograph included Menc kenÂ’s own explication of Nietzschean ideology in terms of Â“genuinely American concerns,Â” The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche stands as Â“a landmark of the receptio n, interpretation, and propagation of
9 Nietzschean ideas in Americ a,Â” and Mencken stands as Â“the best-known American propagator, if not disciple, of the German philosopher at the beginning of the twentieth centuryÂ” (Ptz 5-6). Aside from MenckenÂ’s apt, though not fl awless, explication of Nietzschean thought, NietzscheÂ’s sister, Elis abeth Forster-Nietzsche, at tempted to present a more accurate picture of Nietzsche to the world when she published a two volume biography of her brother called Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsches in 1895. Although Forster-NietzscheÂ’s biographical volumes were not translated into English until 1912 and 1915, her volumes were cited in newspapers and journal artic les well-before the English translations appeared (Steilberg 21). Forster-Nietzsche also contributed an Â“IntroductionÂ” to Thomas CommonÂ’s English translation of Thus Spake Zarathustra in 1909 in which she traces Â“How Zarathustra Came into Being.Â” Alt hough her narrative focused on clearing away misconceptions of NietzscheÂ’s concept of the Superman, for example, and focused on positioning her brother not merely as a philosoph er and a social critic but as a poet as well, her work has been highly criticized fo r creating an inaccurate picture of Nietzsche and his philosophy (Steilberg 21-22). Although MenckenÂ’s and Forster-Nietzsch eÂ’s works were flawed, both went a long way toward presenting a more comprehens ive picture of Nietzsche and his works in many respects. Yet, due to the persistence of inadequate English translations of Nietzschean thought as well as misinterpretations of Nietzsche, the man, and Nietzschean philosophy as a whole, Nietzsch e remained a Â“hotly debatedÂ” topic throughout the first half of the twentieth century (Ptz 6). According to Hays St eilbergÂ’s assessment of early
10 English studies of Nietzsche, wo rks such as Paul Elmer MoreÂ’s Nietzsche (1912), William August HuassmannÂ’s collection The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche: The First Complete and Authorized English Translation (completed in 1913), Paul CarusÂ’ Nietzsche and Other Ex ponents of Individualism (1914), George SantayanaÂ’s Egotism in German Philosophy (1915), and William SalterÂ’s Nietzsche the Thinker (1917), were all individually flawed either in translation or explicati on, but their existence provides insight into NietzscheÂ’s popularity in the beginning of the tw entieth century. In fact, as early as 1913, Paul Elmore Mo re concludes that Â“if the num ber of books written about a subject is any proof of intere st in it, Nietzsche must have become the most popular of authors among Englishmen and AmericansÂ” (qtd. in Ptz 12-13). In the beginning of the twentieth century Nietzschean thought was being advanced not only through philoso phers, theologians, and soci al critics, but also through American literary artists. Writers such as Theodore Dreiser, Jack London, Eugene OÂ’Neill, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot, for inst ance, have been studied for their intimate knowledge of and espousal of Nietzschean philosophy in their works.3 Manfred Ptz notes that Dreiser and London in particular were demonstrably interested in and influenced by Nietzsche, but they never played a noticeable role in th e raging public debates as sketched above. Instead, they turned what intr igued them in NietzscheÂ’s philosophy (of which they had anything but a comp lete picture) into literature by 3 See Manfred Ptz Nietzsche in American Literature and Thought Sidney FinkelsteinÂ’s Existentialism and Alienation in American Literature and John KillingerÂ’s Hemingway and the Dead Gods for comprehensive studies of NietzscheÂ’s influence on modern and postmodern American literary artisits.
11 weaving their reflections on certain Niet zschean ideas that fascinated them into the very texture of their novels. (Ptz 6) Additionally, scholars such as David Ullrich argue for NietzscheÂ’s influence on FitzgeraldÂ’s formation of his own Â“complex philosophy of culture,Â” a philosophy Ullrich traces to the influence of Nietzschean philosophy on FitzgeraldÂ’s early short stories and novels (Â“MemorialsÂ” 2). In Existentialism and Alienati on in American Literature Sidney Finkelstein explicates the Nietzschean in fluence on FitzgeraldÂ’s short story Â“The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,Â” and both Ronald BermanÂ’s The Great Gatsby and FitzgeraldÂ’s World of Ideas and Olaf HansenÂ’s Â“Stanley Cavell Reading Nietzsche Reading EmersonÂ” note differing aspects of The Great Gatsby they see as influenced by Nietzschean thought (Finkelstein 293; Berm an 9; Hansen 293-294). Although scholarship that traces the influence of Nietzsche on F itzgeraldÂ’s canon of works is certainly not lacking, studies of The Great Gatsby as a Nietzschean-inspired vision of the philosophic dilemmas of American culture and American identity remains to be examined. Sren Kierkegaard: The Philosopher-Critic and Pr ophet in American Discourse Although Sren KierkegaardÂ’s influen ce in America took hold well after Nietzsche had been a Â“hotly debatedÂ” topic for decades in American culture, discourse on Kierkegaard and Kierkegaardian thought began in American theological and philosophical societies in the early twentieth -century (Ptz 6). According to Kierkegaard
12 scholars Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, KierkegaardÂ’s theological and philosophical importance was recognized first by the Swedes and the Germans as early as the middle of the nineteenth-century, and th en by the French before the turn of the twentieth century.4 The Hong and Hong Kierkegaard Li brary at St. OlafÂ’s Lutheran College houses the first critical articles and tr anslations of KierkegaardÂ’s work in English dating as far back as Adolf HultÂ’s 1906 study Sren Kierkegaard in His Life and Literature and Francis FulfordÂ’s 1911 study Sren Aabye Kierkegaard: A Study By 1916 David F. Swenson, who later became one of th e most notable Kierkegaard scholars of the early twentieth century, had presented a nd published Â“The AntiIntellectualism of KierkegaardÂ” in which he praised the accessibility of KierkegaardÂ’s writing and illustrations and provided a brief explication of KierkegaardÂ’s views on the formation of the personality. But, the first selections of KierkegaardÂ’s writings that were translated into English did not appear until 1923 when L.M. Hollander, an adjunct professor of Germanic languages at the University of Texa s, published his translations under the title Selections from the Writings of Kierkegaard HollanderÂ’s translated selections were from KierkegaardÂ’s Fear and Trembling Â“DiapsalmataÂ” (from Either-Or Part I), Â“The BanquetÂ” (from Stages on Life's Road Part I), Preparation for a Christian Life and The Present Moment Since HollanderÂ’s translations of Ki erkegaard were part of HollanderÂ’s study of Scandinavian litera ture, he introduced Kierkeg aard to the English-speaking world as a literary figure instead of a philos opher and provided very l ittle explication of Kierkegaardian thought in hi s Â“IntroductionÂ” to his Selections David Swenson, on the other hand, was actively invest igating the philosophical and theological implications of 4 See Victor DeleuranÂ’s 1897 dissertation Â“Esquisse d'une tude sur Soeren Kierkegaard.Â”
13 KierkegaardÂ’s writings throughout the first quarter of the twentie th-century, and he continued to translate, explic ate, and give lectures on Ki erkegaard and Kierkegaardian thought until his death in 1940.5 Yet it was not until the 1930s with the explosion of translations of KierkegaardÂ’s writings into E nglish that Kierkegaard began to be viewed by the English-speaking world as one of the premier existentialists of the nineteenthcentury and began to gain more wide-spread at tention as an important voice in twentieth century philosophy and religious studies. From the foundations laid by German and French translations of KierkegaardÂ’s writings before the turn of the century and the early discourse in English on Kierkegaard and Kierkegaardian thought, by the 1930s the demand for translations of KierkegaardÂ’s writings in English-speaking world began to be satisfied. Interest in Kierkegaard is evident in the sheer number of and types of studies publishe d in the 1930s. E.L. AllenÂ’s semi-biographical study titled Kierkegaard: His Life and Thought appeared in 1930 Studies such as John BainÂ’s Sren Kierkegaard, His Life and Religious Teaching (1935), Theodor Haecker and Alexander DruÂ’s study Sren Kierkegaard (1937), Walter LowrieÂ’s study Kierkegaard (1938), and Melville Chaning-PearceÂ’s study The Terrible Crystal: Studies in Kierkegaard and Modern Christianity (1941) engaged with the existing discourse on KierkegaardÂ’s lif e and writings and offered new insights into his writing and thought. Eduard GeismarÂ’s collection of 1936 lectures on Kierkegaard entitled Lectures on the Religious Thought of Sren Kierkegaard appeared in print in 1937 with an 5 David SwensonÂ’s lectures and addresses on Kierkegaard, collected and published posthumously by his wife Lillian Swenson, spanned the years 1927 through 1936. See Something about Kierkegaard (1941) and Kierkegaardian Philosophy in the Faith of a Scholar (1949), which are collections of Swenson's philosophical talks on KierkegaardÂ’s writings.
14 introduction by translator David Swenson. SwensonÂ’s own addresses and lectures on Kierkegaardian thought dating from 1927 to 1936 were published posthumously by his wife in 1941 and 1949 under the titles Something About Kierkegaard and Kierkegaardian Philosophy in the Faith of a Scholar As for the influx of English translations of KierkegaardÂ’s works, translations of Diary of a Seducer and Philosophical Fragments; or a Fragment of Philosophy by Johannes Climacus were published in 1932 and 1936 respectively. Posthumously published tran slations by Swenson, again edited and compiled by his wife, such as Thoughts on Crucial Situations in Human Life, Three Discourses of Imagined Occasions and Concluding Unscientific Postscript appeared in 1941, the same year Walter Lowrie published his translation of Repetition under the title Repetition: An Essay in Experimental Psychology 6 Otto Kraushaar notes that the influx of English language translations by David F. Swenson, Walter Lowrie, and Alexander Dru in the 1930s and early 1940s Â“marks a phi losophical and literary event of the first magnitudeÂ” and marks a shift from Kierkegaar dÂ’s influence in theological, philosophical, intellectual, academic and literar y circles to his instatement in American universities and as an emerging subject in American cu ltural discourse (563). Although German theologians, philosophers, and academics had b een touting Kierkegaard as Â“one of the seminal minds of the nineteenth centuryÂ” for decades, in America, England, France, and Spain KierkegaardÂ’s importance was just beginn ing to be recognized in the first quarter 6 Three Discourses on Imagined Occasions contains the selection Â“At the Side of a Grave,Â” which is a discourse on the earnest thought of oneÂ’s own death. Although this English-language translation did not appear until 1941, since it was posthumously edited and published by SwensonÂ’s wife Lillian, it is unclear when Swenson began translating this work. It is important here to note that the Germans enjoyed translations of KierkegaardÂ’s Â“Disco ursesÂ” as early as 1922. Since mu ch of the early discourse in the English-speaking world relied on German translations of Kierkegaard (including SwensonÂ’s early readings of Kierkegaard), Theodor HaeckerÂ’s transl ation of KierkegaardÂ’s discourses entitled Religise Reden is worth mentioning.
15 of the twentieth century (Kraushaar 5 62). Aside from the cultural discourse on Kierkegaard in French and Spanish, The Diary of a Seducer ( Le Journal du Seducteur ) and The Sickness unto Death ( Traite du Dsespoir ( La Maladie Mortelle )) were translated into French in 1929 and 1932 respectively, and in Spain The Concept of Dread ( El Concepto de la Angustia ) and Â“DisplamataÂ” (from Either/Or Part I) appeared in translation in 1930 and 1931. Although the Englis h, French, and Spanish speaking worlds only had a few of their own translations of KierkegaardÂ’s writings by 1932, a handful of seminal book-length studies, masterÂ’s theses, PhD dissertations, and ar ticles appearing in journals provides evidence that their wa s already significant lit erary, cultural, and academic discourse on Kierkegaard world-wide7. In part due to AmericaÂ’s consuming interest in Nietzsche in the first quarter of the twentieth century, and in pa rt due to the limited amount of English-speaking scholars qualified to translate Danis h, Kierkegaard did not Â“inundate the fields of philosophy, theology, and criticism,Â” as Otto F. Kraushaar notes, until the 1930s and 1940s. Kraushaar writes: bolstered by the influence of Jaspers and Barth, as well as the enthusiasm of torch-bearing American students retu rning from German universities in the Â‘twenties and early Â‘thirties, and the recent influx into American and English universities of German refug ee scholars, the name of Kierkegaard 7 The mention of the reception of KierkegaardÂ’s works in France and Spain is pertinent to this study due to HemingwayÂ’s fluency in both French and Spanish. Si nce the French, as Hong and Hong correctly note, recognized the importance of KierkegaardÂ’s writing much earlier than the English-speaking world, early studies of Kierkegaard in France deserve mention. See in particular Victor DeleuranÂ’s dissertation Esquisse d'une tude sur Soren Kierkegaard (1897), Raoul HoffmannÂ’s Kierkegaard et la Certitude Religieuse: Esquissse Biographique et Critique (1907), Maurice BlondelÂ’s tudes sur Pascal (1923), and Eduard GeismarÂ’s La Victoire sur le Doute Chez Sren Kierkegaard (1926).
16 was given some currency in the conv ersations and writings of American philosophers. In the meantime, KierkegaardÂ’s thoughts were being introduced into the literary world by Franz Kaffka and W. H. Auden and contributors to some of the advanced literary reviews. (Kraushaar 562) Like Nietzsche, KierkegaardÂ’s writings and thought attracted the attention of literary artists world-wide. As early as 1900, KierkegaardÂ’s literarine ss as well as his influence on the literary world was recognized. Early academic endeavors include Clyde Charles HollerÂ’s Boston University Dissertation Kierkegaard's Concept of Tragedy in the Context of his Pseudonymous Works (1900) and Einar Wulfsberg Anderson MasterÂ’s thesis The Influence of Kierkegaard's Philo sophy on the Works of Henrik Ibsen (1926). In addition, articles such as Edwin MuirÂ’s "A Note on Franz Kafka" (1931), which focuses on the spiritual qualities of Kafka's work as Kierkegaardian, began to appear in the pages of literary journals. In respect to KierkegaardÂ’s influenc e on the writing and thought of Ernest Hemingway, critical studies on this influence did not begin in the English-speaking world until the 1960s. The most notable of these st udies, although it does not focus exclusively on Kierkegaardian philosophy, is John KillingerÂ’s Hemingway and the Dead Gods (1960). Yet, just as the importance of Ki erkegaard was recognized by the Englishspeaking world more than fifty years af ter Germans began studying Kierkegaard, scholarship tracing the influence of Kierke gaard on modern American and English writers was almost fifty year s behind as well. Works by German scholars such as Wayne Kvam not only trace the critical reception of HemingwayÂ’s works in Germany after
17 World War I, but he and other scholars at tribute some of HemingwayÂ’s early popularity in Germany to his articulation of existentia lisms, Kierkegaardianism included. Although I have yet to find direct evidence in Hemi ngwayÂ’s letters, manuscripts, or reading collection that proves Kierkega ardÂ’s influence on Hemingwa y, the cultural discourse on Kierkegaard in the years leading up to HemingwayÂ’s publication of Death in the Afternoon as well as the text itself, te lls an entirely different story.8 Martin Heidegger: The Philosopher-Critic and Prophe t in American Discourse Although existential psychology was not wi dely known or practiced in America until the middle and late twentieth-century, both practical and theoretical existential therapies were being developed in Europe dur ing the first half of the twentieth-century. For example, Martin HeideggerÂ’s existent ial-phenomenological approach to Â“authenticÂ” being discussed in his work Being and Time (1927) influenced a group of Swiss therapists who sought alternativ es to Freudian psychoanalytic theories and treatments for psychological concerns and disorders. Ps ychiatrist Hans Cohn notes in his book Heidegger and the Roots of Existential Therapy that Â“this was the first attempt to develop a method of psychotherapy from Â“Â‘existentia lÂ’ rootsÂ” (Cohn xviii). Swiss therapists 8 KierkegaardÂ’s influence on Hemingway may have been indirect, but it is an influence that is evident throughout HemingwayÂ’s study of death in Death in the Afternoon It is likely that if Hemingway did not personally read translations of KierkegaardÂ’s writin gs, he was introduced to Kierkegaardian philosophy through Swenson or Hollander, through the works and critical studies of Kafka and Ibsen, and/or through the dominant strain of intellectual, literary, and artis tic discourse on Kierkegaard in the 1910s, 20s, and early 30s.
18 turned to HeideggerÂ’s philosophies of existe nce and created a new approach to therapy that eventually became known as Daseinsanalyse 9 Although this approach was in the process of being developed before it was dubbed Daseinsanalyse in 1941, it was not until Heidegger became personally and actively involve d in the development of this approach from 1959 to 1969 that Daseinsanalyse began to replace more tr aditional approaches to psychiatry world-wide. Cohn notes that Â“Heidegger played an active part in contributing to the first model of an existentially oriented psychotherapyÂ” by teaching psychotherapists and psychiatrist s his view of the world and Â“its potential relevance to their workÂ” (xviii, 5). The institutionalization of Heideggerian philosophy in America is marked by the explosion of cultural discourse on Heidegger and Heideggerian-based Daseinsanalysis in 1950s and 1960s America, most notably during the years that Heidegger formed friendships with founding members of Daseinsanalysis Medard Boss, Gion Condrau, and Ludwig Binswanger. Although Binswanger stopped working with Boss and Condrau in 1957, Boss and Condrau continued to develop Daseinsanalysis as an alternative therapy to Freudian and Jungian ap proaches to mental rehabilitation.10 Yet aside from BossÂ’ school of Heideggerian-inspired Daseinsanalysis and BinswangerÂ’s school, which was a mixture of Freudian, Jungian, and Heid eggerian approaches to psychology, several 9 The main distinctions between Heideggerian-based ex istential psychology and the prevailing trends in the psychology of the times are two-fold: 1) where th e traditional Freudian approach to psychology, for example, is a psycho analysis in which the psychoanalyst in an inte gral part of the process, existential psychology is a psycho therapy that emphasizes the importance of con tinual self-analysis; 2) existential psychotherapy focuses in on the individualÂ’s recognition of his/her absorption in the social world in which identity is shaped and individual expression is thwarted, where psychoanalysis promotes normalizing the patient according to what is viewed as acceptable (in terms of identity, behavior, and choices for oneÂ’s life, for example) in the ever yday social world. 10 Due to BossÂ’ publication of a critique of BinswangerÂ’s approach to existential psychology, Binswanger left the group and continued to formulate his own existential approaches to psychology.
19 other existential approaches to psychology emerged in the 1950s. For example, Viktor FranklÂ’s analysis of existence, Existenzanalyse and Jean-Paul SartreÂ’s existential psychoanalysis, psychoanalyse existentielle were also being developed and sought to institute a phenomenological approach to mental health. Thus, not only was Daseinsanalysis gaining currency world-wide as late as the 1950s, but a new field of psychologyÂ—existential psyc hologyÂ—was actively being developed and debated. American discourse on existential-phenome nological approaches to mental health began to inundate the field of psychol ogy as early as 1950. Early English language studies of the developing field of exis tential psychology include Werner WolffÂ’s booklength study Values and Personality: An Existential Psychology of Crisis (1950), Adrian Van KaamÂ’s study of the differing approaches to existential therapy in his collection The Phenomenological-Existential Trends in Psychology: A Series of Papers published in the 1950s, and Ulrich SonnemannÂ’s Existence and Therapy: An Introduction to Phenomenological Psychology and Existential Analysis (1954). Articles such as Stephan StrasserÂ’s Â“Phenomenological Trends in Eur opean Psychology,Â” which appeared in the journal of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research in 1957, and Maurice FreidmanÂ’s Â“Existential Psychotherapy and the Imag e of ManÂ” origin ally published in Commentary in 1959 and reprinted several times between 1959 and 1964, illustrate the Englishspeaking worldÂ’s growing inte rest in existential psychology. In 1958, two of the major voices in existential psychology, Rollo Ma y and Medard Boss, published book-length studies under the titles Existence: A New Dimension in Psychiatry and Psychology and The Analysis of Dreams respectively. BossÂ’ study is sign ificant in that he presented his
20 Heideggerian-based approach to dream analys is as an alternative to the Freudian and Jungian approaches that dominated th e field of psychology at this time. American interest in existential psycho logical approaches to mental health drastically increased throughout the 1950s, yet the number of English language booklength studies in the beginning years of the 1960s alone more than doubled. In 1960, Adrian Van Kaam published another study on the field of existential psychology entitled The Third Force in European Psychology: Its Expression in a Theory of Psychotherapy the same year Paul Tillich published Existentialism and Psychotherapy. In 1961, Rudolf AllerÂ’s collection of lectures Existentialism and Psych iatry: Four Lectures was published the same year Rollo May contributed to a nd edited another collec tion under the title Existential Psychology. Yet the most significant publicati on of 1961 came in the form of a periodical published by the Association of Existential Psychology and Psychiatry under the title Review of Existential Psychology & Psychiatry Thus, existential psychology was not only recognized a valid, emerging fiel d of psychology, but one important enough to dedicate a journal to. In 1962, th e most significant publications in the field came in the form of taped lectures and conferences. Ab raham Maslow and Rollo MayÂ’s joint lectures, catalogued as dialogues on existe ntial psychology, were published as audio tapes entitled Â“Existential Psychology IÂ” and Â“Existential Psychology II.Â” In addition, the Proceedings from The Sonoma State College Co nference on Existen tial Psychology and Psychotherapy were released on audio tapeÂ—eig ht tapes to be precise. In 1963, Medard BossÂ’ study entitled Psychoanalysis and Daseinsanalysis was translated into English by Ludwig Lefebre, the same year BossÂ’ estr anged colleague Ludwig BinswangerÂ’s papers
21 were translated by Jacob Needleman under the title Being-in-the-world; Selected Papers of Ludwig Binswanger. Also published in 1963 wa s James BugentalÂ’s study Existentialanalytic Psychotherapy followed by a 1964 translation of Maurice Merleau-PontyÂ’s The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays on Phenomenological Psychology, the Philosophy of Art, History, and Politics The influx of translations in the early 1960s provides evidence that the field of existent ial psychology was not only gaining a strong foothold in the English-speaking world, but th at researchers and practicing therapists alike were debating differing ways to approach mental health phenomenologically, i.e. existentially. Although differing schools of existential psychology began to emerge in the 1950s and 1960s, due to the translation of HeideggerÂ’s Being and Time into English in 1962 and HeideggerÂ’s direct involvemen t with formulating and fine-tuning Daseinsanalysis his version of existential psyc hology received a great amount of attention in the world of psychology.11 In literature there are no Heideggerian connections to my knowledge until decades after existential psychology inundated the fields of philosophy and ps ychology world-wide. Mailer, it seems, with his 1960s publication of An American Dream was the first literary artist to fully engage with Heideggerian philosophy and Heideggerian-bas ed existential psychol ogy in his historic moment. 12 Although HeideggerÂ’s name can be f ound alongside MailerÂ’s in numerous literary studies today, the influence of Heideggerian philosophy and psychology on 11 Simultaneously, led by French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, psychoanalyse existentielle (existential psychoanalysis) was being developed and formed another school of existential psychology at this time. 12 MailerÂ’s An American Dream was first published in serialized form in 1964 and then in novel form in 1965.
22 MailerÂ’s creation of Rojack as a professor of existential psychology and as an existing individual who is concerned with his existent ial predicament in life, has yet to be fully explored. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and MailerÂ’s Cultural Moments and the Â“Art of Li vingÂ” Existentially The postmodern focus on existential philo sophy is, in part, discussed in the context of literary theory, which, among othe r points of focus, scholars such as Bernd Magnus argue for the erasure of Â“the bounda ries between philosophy and literature,Â” a distinction that seems to me to be overdue in the case of Fitzgerald and Hemingway (qtd. in Ptz 11). Although the tradit ional distinction between ph ilosophy and art is not that they differ Â“in the depth and general quality of their thinking about life, but that they differ Â“in the form taken by the working out of this thinkingÂ” (Fi nkelstein 8). On one hand philosophy Â“offers itself in terms abstract ed from the concrete life and the social and historical conditions that ga ve birth to itÂ” (Finkelstein 8) A work of art, on the other hand, Â“offers itself as the very life it is discussingÂ” (Finkelste in 8). The Â“common groundÂ” that philosophy and art share is that bot h attempt to present th eir readers with the real world, the world that the philosopher, the artist, and the reader all share (Finkelstein 8). The worlds that Fitzgerald, Hemingway, a nd Mailer share with their readers are, in part, the worlds they inhabit and, in part, th e world they share with their readers. The worlds they inhabitÂ—the realms of height ened perception and acute self-awarenessÂ—are
23 the worlds they share with their readers, worlds of consciousness they can teach their readers about, guide them to, and help them to understand and actualize. It is in this way that their art is inseparable from the philos ophies they espouse. Thei r literary art takes the shape of their philosophic vi sions and become living illust rations, so to speak, of the existential predicaments of existence, visions that dance in the readersÂ’ imaginations as the reality of their uniquely Am erican historic and human mo ments. In fact, it is in how these authors capture their respective hist oric moments and put philosophy in motion through their art that Fitzge rald, Hemingway, and MailerÂ’s art and philosophy become inseparable. Their characters serve as more than mouthpieces for the Â“art of livingÂ” each author espouses; they serve as living illustrations of individualÂ’s faced with and attempting to work out Â“the dilemmas of philosophyÂ” (Berman, World 31). Although Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Maile rÂ’s philosophies vary, their visions are the same: they each strive to break all illu sions and present an Â“art of livingÂ” to their fellow Americans, and they present philosophi es through which their readers can learn to live more authentically. Specifically, they at tempt to inspire readers to find a more genuine, meaningful existence than the one offered by the modern and postmodern Â“American DreamÂ” consumer culture that Am erica had been cultivating throughout the twentieth-century. These authors not only a ddress what they see as the universal philosophic crises facing the in dividual American in the twen tieth century in the form of literary art, but The Great Gatsby, Death in the Afternoon, and An American Dream stand as evidence of these authorsÂ’ desire to disse minate philosophic instruction on Â“the art of livingÂ” to their postwar American readers. In fact, their concerns for their fellow
24 Americans, as a whole, are the same: they ar e concerned with their culture, which breeds, nay demands, mediocrity and conformity, and they are concerned with the direction they see American culture headingÂ—towards the d eath of the vitality and spirit of the individual and the nation. Further, th ey each emphasize the individualÂ’s personal responsibility to become more self-aware, to strive to s ee the world more clearly and truly, and to take responsibility for what their lives amount to. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer not only marry philosophy and art, bu t they do so in a way that they instruct their readers without being ove rtly didactic, pretentious, or pompous; in short, they translate their philosophic visions and show readers Â“the dilemmas of philosophyÂ” and the dilemmas of human existence by pu tting their chosen phi losophy in novelistic motion. In fact, the major symbols of The Great Gatsby, Death in the Afternoon, and An American Dream embody the philosophy these authors espouse in these works, works that reposition Fitzgerald, Hemi ngway, and Mailer as prophets, seers, and healers, so to speak, as well as ingenious ar tists of their generations.
25 Chapter 2 FitzgeraldÂ’s Eckle burgian Vision: Advertising Corrective Lenses for the Modern Individual As Ronald Berman aptly notes, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes The Great Gatsby at the moment the Victorian public conscien ce is replaced by modern subjectivityÂ—an epistemological shift from which questions of truth and morality inevitably rise ( Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the Twenties 53). In Gatsby we see that Fitzgerald is not only aware of and concerned with the pr oblems that accompany a shift to modern subjectivity, but is also conscious of the pe rsistence of the competing perceptions of the differing classes typified in New YorkÂ’s Long Island area. FitzgeraldÂ’s choice of landscapeÂ—from the old-monied East Egg, to the new-monied West Egg, to the nomonied valley of ashesÂ—provi des Fitzgerald with a stratif ied locale through which he can illustrate the competing perceptions of morality and truth of Long IslandÂ’s inhabitants. But we know that Fitzgerald transformed the historical New York landscape of the 1920s by infusing his own vision of New York, both changing and adding places and images to further illustrate his vision of the complexi ties of modernity, and mo re specifically, the complexities of living in Jazz Age New York. The most profound of FitzgeraldÂ’s transf ormations of the landscape is located between Long IslandÂ’s West Egg and New York in what Nick calls Â“a valley of ashesÂ”
26 (27). FitzgeraldÂ’s significant contribution to this re-envisioned locale is the addition of Doctor T.J. EckleburgÂ’s worn -out billboard advertisement, which Â“brood[s] on over the solemn dumping groundÂ” found between Queen and Astoria (28). The billboardÂ’s form and placement provides us with a complex im age of the times. The formÂ—the billboard itselfÂ—points to modern AmericaÂ’s growing capitalism, consumerism, and materialism, all which had a transformative effect on the standards of truth and morality of the American people. The billboardÂ’s placementÂ—Â“above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust,Â” a place where Â“ash-grey men swar m with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud which screens their obscu re operation from your sightÂ”Â—is more than a comment on the dilemmas of modern vision (2 7). For eighty years scholars and critics have, in fact, focused on Doctor EckleburgÂ’s billboard eyes and their placement in the Â“ash heapsÂ” as the central symbolic device of the narrative and as the thematic center of FitzgeraldÂ’s comments on the implic ations of modern subjectivity.13 Yet it is what Doctor Eckleburg is advertisingÂ—corrective lensesÂ—that persists as the moral center of FitzgeraldÂ’s modern vision. It is a view that Â“our percepti ons, corrected by our experience and our common sense, must serve as guides for us, and we must seize every opportunity to widen their range and increase their accurac y,Â” what Friedrich Nietzsche prescribes as the perspective for finding Â“truthÂ” in modern times (Mencken 89). This is what Doctor EckleburgÂ’s Â“enormous yellow spectaclesÂ” adve rtiseÂ—they preach a change of vision, an 13 The earliest comment I have found is in a letter fr om Maxwell Perkins to Fitzgerald dated 20 December 1924 where Perkins writes: Â“In the eyes of Dr. Eckl eburg various readers will see different significances; but their presence gives a superb touch to the whole thing: great unblinking eyes, expressionless, looking down upon the human scene. ItÂ’s magnificent!Â” See Scott DonaldsonÂ’s Critical Essays on F. Scott FitzgeraldÂ’s The Great Gatsby p. 260-261.
27 improvement in seeing, the need to strive for a new, clearer, and more accurate point of view ( Gatsby 28). 14 Since my understanding of Fitzgerald Â’s construction of Doctor Eckleburg assumes FitzgeraldÂ’s conscious infusion of Nietzschean philosophy in to the novel, it is important here to note that Fitzgerald was not Â“an innocent of philosophyÂ” as many scholars believe (Foster 229). In fact, thanks to Matthew Br uccoliÂ’s extensive research into and published collections of FitzgeraldÂ’s interviews, life, a nd letters, it is possible to recreate a rough chronology of the years prio r to and during FitzgeraldÂ’s writing of Gatsby when Fitzgerald was influenced by Niet zsche. For example, Fitzgerald himself reveals in a 1924 interview that at the age of twenty he Â“wanted to be King of the World, a sort of combined J.P. Morgan, General Ludendorff, Abraham Lincoln, and Nietzsche not to omit ShakespeareÂ” (qtd. in Bruccoli, Conversations 65). 15 This means that by 1916 or 1917 Fitzgerald was already an admirer of NietzscheÂ’s works, what Fitzgerald describes in a 1927 interview as his being Â“a ho t NietzscheanÂ” ever since he first read Thus Spake Zarathustra (qtd. in Bruccoli, Conversations 87). 16 Although Princeton University Libraries does not catalogue FitzgeraldÂ’s copy of Thus Spake Zarathustra as one of the books owned by Fitzgeral d, H.L. MenckenÂ’s 1913 edition of The Philosophy 14 In a world in which there is an the absence of absolute Â“TruthsÂ” and absolute objectivity, Nietzsche advocates that we view ourselves and our world from varying perspectives, from multiple viewpoints; by doing so, we will come increasingly closer to understanding what is true for our own, undeniably subjective lives. Yet, hand-in-hand with this perspective is Niet zscheÂ’s demand that we hold all things we have found to be true tentatively, since the world is invariably in a constant state of change as is our knowledge and what we think to be true. Thus, Â“truthÂ” does not refer to absolute Â“Truths,Â” nor does it connote objectivity. 15 Interviewer B.F. Wilson follows this quote with a note that Â“There is an implication that he [Fitzgerald] has hopes of being all this stillÂ” (65). 16 Although Bruccoli and Baughman footnote that NietzscheÂ’s Thus Spake Zarathustra was published in English Â“in four parts between 1883 and 1892Â” (see p. 87), the first complete English translation did not appear until 1896 (see Alexander TilleÂ’s translation).
28 of Friedrich Nietzsche is listed (Princeton). Fitzgera ldÂ’s copy, a third edition of MenckenÂ’s highly popular original 1908 publication, is personally inscribed to Fitzgerald from Mencken, who was not only one of the mo st influential literary and cultural critics of the Jazz Age but was considered Â“the best-known American propagatorÂ” of Nietzschean philosophy and Â“one of the most vociferous Nietzsche-inspired cultural critics of his timeÂ” (Ptz 5-6). Fitzgerald did not become personally ac quainted with Mencken until 1919 when Mencken, then an editor for Smart Set magazine, accepted FitzgeraldÂ’s story Â“Babes in the WoodsÂ” for publication. This was FitzgeraldÂ’s first commercial sale of his work, as well as his entrance into the American literary community. Whether Fitzgerald had read MenckenÂ’s work on Nietzsche before they met is unclear; but what is clear is that by December of 1920, Fitzgerald writes to his aunt and uncle of Mencken, describing him as Â“A keen, hard intelligence interpreting th e Great Modern PhilosopherÂ” and as Â“my current idolÂ” (qtd. in Bruccoli, F. Scott Fitzgerald on Authorship 86). 17 Three years later, in a 1923 interview, Fitz gerald lists MenckenÂ’s The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche as number two on his list of favorite works (Bruccoli, Conversations 44). In this same interview Fitzgerald also reveals that Nietzsch e, to cite the interviewerÂ’s words, was one of the Â“intellectual influences which molded FitzgeraldÂ’s mindÂ” (Bruccoli, Conversations 44). 18 In 1924 Mencken is still admittedly one of FitzgeraldÂ’s idols. Interviewer B.F. 17 The letter Fitzgerald wrote to his aunt and uncle is dated 28 December 1920. 18 FitzgeraldÂ’s top three books were The Note-Books of Samuel Butler The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses (the Joyce novelÂ’s shared third place). Also, in this article, Samuel Butler, Friedrich Ni etzsche and Anatole France are cited as the main Â“intellectual influences which molded FitzgeraldÂ’s mind.Â” See Conversations with F. Scott Fitzgerald where Bruccoli and Baughman have reproduced this article, p. 44-45.
29 Wilson cites Fitzgerald as saying, Â“My hero es? Well, I consider H.L. Mencken and Theodore Dreiser the greatest men living in the country todayÂ” (qtd. in Bruccoli, Conversations 65). Although Wilson does not qualify F itzgeraldÂ’s choice of heroes, a closer look reveals that Menc ken and Dreiser both particip ated in the propagation of Nietzschean philosophy in Am erican cultureÂ—Mencken via his explication of NietzscheÂ’s works and his Nietzschean-based critiques of American culture and Dreiser through infusing his own Â“reflec tions of certain Nietzschean ideas that fascinatedÂ” him into his novels Â—something Fitzgerald himsel f sought to achieve as a cultural critic, a literary artist, and as an aspiring Nietzschean (Ptz 6).19 Significantly, FitzgeraldÂ’s infusion of Ni etzschean ideology into the fabric of The Great Gatsby precedes FitzgeraldÂ’s creation of Do ctor Eckleburg. In fact, Fitzgerald created then added the image of Doctor Eckleburg to the pages of a completed manuscript draft of The Great Gatsby after he saw a dust jacket illustration in which DaisyÂ’s eyes loomed large over an Â“amusemen t parkÂ” scene (Eble 89). Fitzgerald took this image and transformed it into a uniquely American Â“sign and symbol of the times,Â” one which simultaneously advertises and cri tiques modern AmericaÂ’s cultural, social, economic, religious, and moral worlds a nd embodies the Nietzschean philosophy Fitzgerald espouses and illustrates throughout Gatsby (Berman, Fitzgerald 53). Yet with the addition of Doctor Eckle burg comes a flawÂ—or what has been identified as Â“flawedÂ” 19 In his work Nietzsche in American Literature and Thought Manfred Ptz attributes the popularity of MenckenÂ’s book on Nietzsche to MenckenÂ’s own Â“intricate mixture of literary, philosophical, and popular concerns,Â” and notes that this book Â“is rightly consider ed as a landmark of the reception, interpretation, and propagation of Nietzschean ideas in AmericaÂ” (5-6). Further, Ptz specifically discusses NietzscheÂ’s influence on authors Jack London and Theodore Dreiser, who Ptz argues Â“turned what intrigued them in Nietzschean philosophyÂ… into literature by weaving th eir reflections of certain Nietzschean ideas that fascinated them into the very texture of their novelsÂ” (6).
30 in FitzgeraldÂ’s conception of the image. In his work Apparatus for F. Sc ott FitzgeraldÂ’s The Great Gatsby [Under the Red, White and Blue] Matthew Bruccoli notes that FitzgeraldÂ’s use of the word Â“retinasÂ” found in NickÂ’s descri ption of Doctor EckleburgÂ’s billboard eyesÂ—Â“blue and giganticÂ—their retinasÂ… one yard highÂ”Â—is a mistake ( Apparatus 33; Gatsby 27). Â“Fitzgerald,Â” Bruccoli claims, Â“meant irises or pupilsÂ” ( Apparatus 33). Although Bruccoli correc tly notes that the Â“[r]etin as are at the back of the eye and can not be seen,Â” it is unclear w hy Bruccoli attributes the mistaken use of the word Â“retinasÂ” to Fitzgerald instead of the narrator, Nick Carraway, who is admittedly struggling with his own percep tions throughout the narrative ( Apparatus 33).20 Although I accept BruccoliÂ’s note that Â“r etinasÂ” is anatomically in correct, I cannot overlook the possibility that the Â“mistakeÂ” is a matter of poetic licenseÂ—that Fitzgerald intentionally and consciously chose the word Â“retinasÂ” for symbolic purposes commensurate with Nietzsche, Mencken, and the already existent draft of Gatsby The agreement among textual scholars that it is Fitzgerald not Nick, who incorrectly uses the word Â“r etinasÂ”Â—an Â“errorÂ” scholars to this day argue should be rectifiedÂ—accounts for the lack of critical at tention to this aspect of Eckleburgian symbology.21 Under these critical circumstances, it is not surprising that the symbolic and 20 It remains unclear why Bruccoli notes in Apparatus that it is Fitzgerald who misuses the word Â“retinasÂ” when just a few entries later he attributes the misspelling of the word Â“appendicitisÂ” to MyrtleÂ’s pronunciation instead of FitzgeraldÂ’s misspelling. Bruccoli notes, Â“The misuage is deliberate; and the misspelling may have been an attempt to indicate MyrtleÂ’s pronunciationÂ” ( emphasis mine ). See BruccoliÂ’s Apparatus p. 34. 21 In 1970, Richard Johnson identifies an Â“errorÂ” in F. Scott FitzgeraldÂ’s description of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg and claims that Â“Fitzgerald did not want the term retinas to describe Doctor T. J. EckleburgÂ’s eyesÂ” (20). Although Johnson cites no evidence for his cl aim, he expects Â“once the error is recognized, the symbolic value of the passage will be reevaluatedÂ” and Â“more references to Â‘ocular confusions,Â’ Â‘distorted vision,Â’ and those Â‘enigmatic eyesÂ’Â” will follow (21). Although dozens of literary critics including Ronald Berman, Scott Donaldson, and Richard Lehan have, in fact, discussed the significance of Doctor
31 thematic implications of Doctor EckleburgÂ’ s Â“retinasÂ” have gone wholly unexamined to this day. But because my examination of Doctor EckleburgÂ’s advertisement for prescriptive spectacles assumes FitzgeraldÂ’s conscious merging of image and philosophy, a reconsideration of NickÂ’s use of the word Â“r etinasÂ” is essential to our understanding of both the image and the embedded ideology. I will thus briefly examine NickÂ’s use of the word Â“retinasÂ” and their anatomical functions and anatomical Â“flawsÂ” as an aspect of FitzgeraldÂ’s Eckleburgian vision for and of the modern individual and the modern, Â“civilizedÂ” world. Doctor EckleburgÂ’s Â“RetinasÂ” and the Dilemmas of Modern Vision Although Doctor EckleburgÂ’s advertisem ent for corrective lenses and its placement in the ash heaps calls attention to the need to see more clearly, this theme of clouded or distorted vision is not only cons idered a condition of modernity, but more significantly is a condition inherent in the an atomy and function of the retina. While the iris and the pupil, as Bruccoli correctly notes, are visible to the naked eye, they merely function as a camera lens and control the amount of light the retina receives. The retina, on the other hand, functions like a camera: it is the retina th at captures the image or the Â“photographÂ” the eye receives. It is signi ficant to note that the photograph the retina receives is distorted: the image is always inverted. This inverted photograph is then EckleburgÂ’s eyes and their placement in the ash heaps as indicative of the moral and spiritual blindness inherent in the modern condition and as symbolically bound to Nick CarrawayÂ’s narrative view, JohnsonÂ’s expectation that the Â“symbolic valueÂ” of Doctor Ec kleburgÂ’s retinas would become the focus of critical reexamination has not been met.
32 translated or interpreted by the optic nerve, which recons titutes the image photographed and transfers this image to the brain. The significance of the retinaÂ’s function here is twofold: first, the retina receives a distorted image, just as subjective beings our initial impressions of the world, of people and th ings, like Doctor EckleburgÂ’s Â“enormous yellow spectacles,Â” are colored by ou r own judgments, prejudices, and hasty generalizations; second, the optic nerve translates the image, just as subjective beings we naturally translate and interpre t the world around us and are of tentimes unaware of and/or blinded by our own interpretive processes. This theme of blindness, what has been variously attributed to th e blindness of Nick Carraway, Doctor Eckleburg, George Wilson, and Jay Gatsby, points to the modern condition of spiritual and moral blindness, yet blindness is also a condition that is inherent in the retina.22 Inherent in the anatomy of the retina is a blind spotÂ—one in each eye. The retinal layer is composed of rods and cones whic h are the photoreceptors of the eyeÂ—they capture the image; but there is a Â“flaw.Â” The place where the retina meets the optic nerve is absent of rods and cones (See Figure 1). Therefore, there are no photoreceptors here to capture the image. 22 See Ronald BermanÂ’s discussion of Nick CarrawayÂ’s and Doctor EckleburgÂ’s blindness in The Great Gatsby and FitzgeraldÂ’s World of Ideas (p. 45) and Richard LehanÂ’s discussion of George Wilson as Â“the blind agent of a blind GodÂ” in The Great Gatsby: Limits of Wonder (p. 41). Both scholars equate blindness with the loss of religious certainty in the novel.
33 Figure 1 This means that part of the Â“photographÂ” the retina receives is always missing. This creates what is known as a Â“blind spot,Â” one that goes unnoticed by the seer due to the ability of one eye to compensate for the Â“blind spotÂ” of the other. To illustrate how we compensate for our blind spots, I have placed two symbols below (See Figure 2). Simply cover your left eye, look directly at the aste risk (*) and move the image closer until the Â“OÂ” disappears. Figure 2
34 Because the simplicity of this test does not le nd itself to fully illustr ate the effect of our blind spots on our vision, it is important to note that what th e other eye can not compensate for, as illustrated by this simple test, our brain create s. Thus, a portion of what we see is made up by the brain; we automatically fill in the gaps in the Â“photographÂ” to create a whole picture. Because every individualÂ’s Â“blind spotsÂ” diffe r in both location and in size, just as every subjective beingÂ’s vi sion is clouded by his/her own pre-conceived notions, judgments, and generalizations through which he/she fills in his/ her gaps of knowledge, NickÂ’s use of the word Â“retinasÂ” is not only consistent with the novelÂ’s themes of blindness, clouded vision, and moral and spiritual uncertainty, but rein forces the idea that no two points of view are alike. Therefore, NickÂ’s (mis)use of the word Â“retinasÂ” does not necessarily point to an over sight on FitzgeraldÂ’s partÂ—on the contrary. The attention to the retina, blindness, inverted or distorted images, flawed vision, the inability to see clearly, and the need to compensate for our Â“blind spotsÂ” is imbedded in the image of Doctor EckleburgÂ’s billboard advertisement as described by Nick. We must, as Nick subtly suggests with his use of the word Â“retinas,Â” survey the world from varying perspectives, from several points of view, in order to see the world around us more clearly; that is, to compensate for our an atomical Â“blind spotsÂ” and for our inherent subjectivity. We must strive to widen our perceptions through Â“our experience and our common senseÂ…and we must seize every opport unity to widen their range and increase their accuracyÂ” (Mencken 89).23 This requires that we take responsibility for our own 23 Significantly, on the same page that Mencken discusses NietzscheÂ’s perspectivism Mencken discusses the function of the optic ne rve in reference to the impressions we receive (89). Mencken writes: Â“Those
35 lives and become aware of the complications of modern vision; in short, we must, as Nick does, strive to break all illusions and see self and world more clearly and truly. Nick as an Aspiring Nietzschean Nietzsche believedÂ… that there was, in every man of the higher type (the only type he thought worth disc ussing) an instinc tive tendency to seek the true as opposed to the false, t hat this instinct, as the race progressed, grew more and more accurate, and that its growing accuracy explained the fact that, despite the opposition of codes of morality and of the iron hand of authority, man constantly increase d his store of knowledge. A thought, he said, arose in a man without his in itiative or volition, and was nothing more or less than an expression of his innate will to obtain power over his environment by accurately observing and interpreting it.24 NickÂ’s opening statement that he Â“is inc lined to reserve all judgementsÂ” reveals that his perspective, his epistemology, his pe rsonal morality, and his art of living in the metaphysicians who fared farthest from the philosopher of Cusa evolved the doctrine that, in themselves, things have no existence at all, and that we can think of them only in terms of our impressions of them. The color green, for example, may be nothing but a delusion, for all we can possibly know of it is that, under certain conditions, our optic nerve experience a sensation of greenness. Whether this sensation of greenness is a mere figment of our imagination or the reflection of an actual physical state is something that we cannot tellÂ” (89). Although this idea, Mencken writes, Â“is entirely impractical,Â” his explication of the metaphysicians questioning of reality and illusion, or delusions, conjures images of GatsbyÂ’s illusory and delusory worlds, worlds that revolve around DaisyÂ’s green dock light. This passage may have contributed to FitzgeraldÂ’s choice of the word Â“retinasÂ” and to his choice of the color green for DaisyÂ’s dock light. 24 MenckenÂ’s explication is found on pages 92-93 of The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche in the section entitled Â“Truth.Â”
36 modern world all derive from the same source: his inclination to seek what is true. By controlling his perceptions, by avoiding rash judgments and hasty generalizations, and by increasing his own store of knowledgeÂ—by becoming Â“that most limited of all specialists, the Â‘well-roundedÂ’ manÂ”Â—Nick strives to accurate ly observe and interpret the world around him (9).25 He seeks to Â“obtain power ove r his environmentÂ” by observing the world with phenomenological precision and t hus Â“come as near to the absolute truth as it is possible for human beings to comeÂ” (Mencken 93, 90). What is significant about NickÂ’s conscious and active striving to obser ve and interpret the world around him more accurately by Â“[r]eserving judgementsÂ” is that Nick simultaneously ca lls attention to the dilemmas of the modern epistemological shif t to subjectivity and to the creation of his own subjectively developed epistemological maxim. In the opening pages of his narrative Nick leads the reader to believe that his life maximÂ—Â“to reserve all judgementsÂ”Â—is based, in part, on inherited advice and, in part, on his own interpretation of his fatherÂ’s advi ce. In fact, decades of literary critics and scholars have focused on NickÂ’s interp retation of his fatherÂ’s advice as a mis interpretation that calls attention to the freedoms, the flaws, and the relativity of 25 In the opening chapter, part of NickÂ’s self-introduction contains his aspirations to increase the breadth and depth of his knowledge in order to become a Â“Â‘well-roundedÂ’ man.Â” Nick writes: There was so much to read for one thing and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew. And I had the hi gh intention of r eading many other books besides. I was rather literary in collegeÂ—one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the Â“Yale NewsÂ”Â—and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the Â“well-roundedÂ” man. (8-9)
37 modern subjectivity a nd modern perception.26 Yet the claim that NickÂ’s life-view is based on a misinterpretation diminishes the valu e and significance of NickÂ’s self-created scheme for living in the modern world by failing to acknowledge NickÂ’s act of interpretation and his adapta tion of inherited knowledge as an epistemologically valid process through which Nick seeks Â“truthÂ” and creates meaning for his own life. Although the prevailing critical view is that Nick misinterprets his fatherÂ’s message, we must consider that NickÂ’s fathe rÂ’s advice, which is in terpreted by Nick into a maxim on reserving oneÂ’s judgments of others is NickÂ’s modernization of, a revision of, his fatherÂ’s Â“golden rule.Â”27 NickÂ’s revision of his fatherÂ’s advice, a revision that in its literal reading reveals Nick Â’s pursuit of Â“truthÂ” as a striving for phenomenologically precise observation, simultaneou sly reveals his awareness of perceptual and moral relativity and also serves to illustrate th e modern epistemological processes Nietzsche espouses. Mencken explains: The tendency of intelligent men, in a word, is to approach nearer and nearer the truth, by the process of re jection, revision and invention. Many old ideas are rejected by each new ge neration, but there always remain a few that survive. (Mencken 91) Although NickÂ’s fatherÂ’s advice continues to have meaning in NickÂ’s generation, Nick creates a maxim that not only embodies his own, personal perspective, but is an apt revision for modern times. Through NickÂ’s inte rpretation of his fath erÂ’s advice, Nick 26 For an extended discussion of moral and perceptual relativity in Gatsby see Ronald BermanÂ’s works Modernity and Progress The Great Gatsby and FitzgeraldÂ’s World of Ideas, and Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the Twenties 27 NickÂ’s father advises: Â“Â‘Whenever you feel like cr iticizing anyoneÂ…just remember that all the people in this world havenÂ’t had the advantages that youÂ’ve hadÂ’Â” ( Gatsby 6).
38 shows us this process of Â“rejection, revision, and inventionÂ” in actio n: Nick rejects the traditional meaning of his fatherÂ’s advice, re vises it, modernizes it, and invents his own maxim, one that is applicable for his life a nd his times. In fact, Nick creates a life maxim with a multitude of meanings and applications commensurate with the multifarious nature of the turn to modern subjectivity. Thus wh at Nick tells and shows us in the opening pages of his narrative re veals more than his aspirations to Â“widen the range and increase the accuracyÂ” of his perceptions: Nick also se rves to illustrate the process by which one creates what Nietzsche advises; that is, m odern individuals must create Â“a workable personal moralityÂ” and a Â“workable scheme of livingÂ” for their own individual and undeniably subjective lives (Mencken 55, 47). Although NickÂ’s morality, or lack thereof, has been the subject of much criticism and is often cited as proof of NickÂ’s unreliabi lity as a narrator, his inclination to Â“reserve all judgementsÂ” is applicable to NickÂ’s ep istemology as well as his view of morality.28 We see that Nick not only resists imposing hi s judgments on others, but he also refrains from imposing moral standards on others. As Ni etzsche advises, Nick rejects traditional Christian morality, moral precepts Nietzsch e argues are man-made constructions given Â“force and permanenceÂ” by being put into the Â“mouths of the godsÂ” (Mencken 44; 46). In terms of Christian morality, which is th e basis of NietzscheÂ’ s discussion, Mencken explicates that 28 For discussions on NickÂ’s narrative unreliability s ee Scott DonaldsonÂ’s Â“The Trouble with Nick,Â” A.E. ElmoreÂ’s Â“Nick CarrawayÂ’s Self-Introduction,Â” Ron NehausÂ’ Â“Gatsby and the Failure of the Omniscient Â‘I,Â’Â” Peter MalliosÂ’ Â“Undiscovering the Countr y: Conrad, Fitzgerald, and Meta-National Form,Â” and Caren J. TownÂ’s Â“Â‘Uncommunicable Forever:Â’ NickÂ’s Dilemma in The Great Gatsby .Â”
39 The act of acquiring property by conque stÂ… becomes a crime and is called theft. The act of mating in obedi ence to natural impulses, without considering the desire of others, beco mes adultery; the quite natural act of destroying oneÂ’s enemies becomes murder. (Mencken 51) Clearly Nick does not adhere to what Nietzs che considers an outdated Christian morality: he does not speak of heaven and hell or of sin and salvation; he does not allow the prevailing Christian mass morality to color his pe rceptions or taint his pursuit of Â“truth.Â” Specifically, Nick does not judge by the sta ndards of Christian morality: he does not judge Tom, Daisy, or Myrtle as adulterous sinners; he does not condemn Daisy as a murderer or Tom as a conspirator in Gats byÂ’s death. Instead, he calls Daisy and Tom Â“careless peopleÂ” and sees TomÂ’s actions as Â“enti rely justified,Â” at least from TomÂ’s point of view ( Gatsby 187). Although Nick does make a judgment about Tom and Daisy by calling them Â“careless,Â” what is significant is that NickÂ’s judgments are not bound to Christian notions of morality. Nick knows that Â“morality, in itself is the enemy of truth,Â” thus he avoids moralizing throughout the narra tive (Mencken 54). In fact, Nick not only refrains from imposing moral standards on ot hers, but he is also skeptical of the judgments and morality of others an d what they discern as truths. NickÂ’s comment that Â“life is much mo re successfully looked at from a single window, after all,Â” reveals that NickÂ’s aspirations to become a Â“Â‘well-roundedÂ’ manÂ” are bound to his pursuit of Â“truthÂ”: Â“he believes a thi ng to be true when his eyes, his ears, his nose and his hands tell him it is true. And in th is he will be at one with all those men who are admittedly above the mass todayÂ” ( Gatsby 9; Mencken 71). As Nietzsche advises,
40 Nick relies on his own acquired knowledge, his own observations, and his own experiences. Â“A man,Â” Mencken explains, Â“sho uld steer clear of rash generalizations from his own experience, but he should be doubly careful to steer clear of the generalizations of othersÂ” (93). Similarl y, NickÂ’s explanation of his Â“habitÂ” of withholding judgments reveals that Nick is skeptical of what otherÂ’s say, believe, and discern as what is true. Nietzs cheÂ’s hesitancy to lend validity to the views of others is because of his belief Â“that the great major ity of human beings ar e utterly incapable of original thought, and so must perforce, bo rrow their ideas or submit tamely to some authorityÂ” (Mencken 94). NickÂ’s skepticism is introduced in similar terms in his comment that his own experience and observa tion has taught him that Â“the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressionsÂ” (6). Like Ni etzsche, NickÂ’s skepticism toward the views of others, what Nick calls his Â“unaffected scornÂ” for the majority of men (6) and Mencken calls Â“NietzscheÂ’s viol ent loathing and contempt for the massesÂ” (94), manifests itself as a te ndency to be suspicious and doubtful of the ideas that are generally accepted by the majority. Â“It is only by skepticism,Â” Mencken writes, Â“that we can hope to make any progr essÂ” (93). In fact, If all men accepted without question, the dicta of some one supreme sage, it is plain that there could be no fu rther increase of knowledge. It is only by constant turmoil and conflict and exchange of views that the minute granules of truth can be separated from the vast muck heap of superstition
41 and error. Fixed truths, in the long run, are probably more dangerous to intelligence than falsehoods. (Mencken 93) This is why Nick claims himself as Â“one of the few honest people I have ever knownÂ”Â— because of his Â“tendency to seek the true as opposed to the false,Â” his inclination to reserve judgments, and his constant skepticism ( Gatsby 64; Mencken 92-93). He, like Nietzsche, is suspicious of all notions the masses accept as truths because, Â“What everybody believes,Â” according to Nietzsche, Â“is never trueÂ” (qtd. in Mencken 94). In NickÂ’s narrative this translates into NickÂ’s desire to learn the truth about Gatsby; that is, Nick strives to discern what is mere rumor and speculation and what is true. In fact, NickÂ’s skepticism is what sets Nick ap art from the masses who show up at GatsbyÂ’s parties: Nick stands apart from Â“the he rdÂ” because he does not buy into, nor does he perpetuate, the massesÂ’ speculati ons and rumors about Gatsby. Nick views the droves of people who atte nd GatsbyÂ’s parties as a representative group of modern AmericaÂ’s growing masses and it is through this upwardly mobile groupÂ—the nouveau richÂ—that Nick illustrates the perspective of the general public. Instead of searching for the truth about GatsbyÂ’ s past and present, the masses fill in their gaps of knowledge not through a pursuit of truth, but through unfounded speculation. NickÂ’s attention to these rumors, he tells us is a Â“testimony to the romantic speculation he [Gatsby] inspiredÂ” (48). Si gnificantly, the sources of the various Â“factsÂ” that circulate about GatsbyÂ’s past, professi on, and source of wealth, for ex ample, are never revealed;
42 instead Â“theyÂ” and Â“somebodyÂ” are the sources cited, suggestive of the mass mentality of believing what the majority of society believes to be true.29 As the narrative progresses, Nick repeatedly calls attention to what is just rumor and speculation, what he calls Â“contemporar y legendsÂ” about Gatsby and Â“wild rumors, which werenÂ’t even faintly trueÂ” (103; 107). After careful observat ion and investigation, and after two years of contemplating the pa rticulars of his summer with Gatsby, Nick rejects much of the Â“romantic specula tionÂ” surrounding Gatsby and his death as Â“grotesque, circumstantial, eager and untrueÂ” (171). These comments embody NickÂ’s skepticism and illustrate the process of Â“rejection, revision, and inventionÂ” Nick introduces the reader to in the opening pages of the narrative: Nick rejects second-hand accounts of Gatsby, revises first-hand accounts, such as the half-truths Gatsby himself perpetuates, and notes the re visions to his own impressions during as well as after the summer of 1922. The most obvious of NickÂ’s revisions of his impression of Gatsby, Nick tells us, is that Gatsby, Â“who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scornÂ” became Â“exemptÂ” from NickÂ’s normal reac tion (6). Nick also revises, that is, he comes closer to the Â“truthÂ” about the ru mors concerning GatsbyÂ’s Oxford days, his service in the military, his pining for Dais y, and his family and lineage. Although Gatsby perpetuates many of these half -truths himselfÂ—he is not really an Oxford man, for exampleÂ—NickÂ’s skepticism towards the vi ews of others, Gatsby included, is bound to 29 Throughout the narrative Nick recounts the rumors he hears about Gatsby, all of which, Nick subtly notes, are from unidentif ied sources. Nick cites, for example: Â“Well, they say heÂ’s a nephew or a cousin of Kaiser WilhelmÂ’s. ThatÂ’s where all his money comes fromÂ” and Â“ Somebody told me they thought he killed a man once,Â” that Â“he was a German sp y during the warÂ…. I heard that from a man who knew all about him, grew up with him in GermanyÂ” ( emphasis mine 37, 48). At another party later in the novel, Nick recalls the unidentified Â“young ladiesÂ” suggestion that Â“HeÂ’s [GatsbyÂ’s] a bootleggerÂ…. One time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devilÂ” in terms that elevate speculation to fact (65).
43 his pursuit of the truth about Gatsby. Thus, it is through the process of rejection and revision that Nick invents The Great Gatsby ; that is, Nick not onl y creates a narrative through his engagement with this process, but it is through Nick that Fitzgerald illustrates this process and sets his philosophy in motion. T hus, what Fitzgerald presents us with is an individual in pursuit of Â“truthÂ” and in the process of becoming. Although it is clear that Fitzge raldÂ’s construction of Nick is an illustration of the difficulty of modern perception and the pro cess through which one strives to discover what is true in modern times, what is also clear is that NickÂ’s re ndering of the people and the events in the narrative is colored by his stance as an aspiring Nietzschean. As an aspiring Nietzschean Nick aims to increase his, and thus the wo rldÂ’s, storehouse of knowledge by widening the range and increasi ng the accuracy of his perceptions; he aspires to increase his own intelligence and e fficiency, and thus atta in mastery over his environment; he rejects traditional truths a nd morality and creates his own scheme of living and his own workable personal morality. But as an aspiring Nietzschean Nick also verbalizes his mistrust of the masses and his Â“unaffected scornÂ” for the majority of men, a view Nick Â“snobbishlyÂ” repeats as Â“a sense of the fundamental decencies is parceled out unequally at birthÂ” (6). NickÂ’s elistist view, his skepticism towards and loathing of the majority of men, according to scholar Robert Roulston, reflects Â“MenckenÂ’s attitudes towards the incompetent poor like George Wilson and the plutocratic rich like Tom Buchanan,Â” yet this point of view should be attributed to Nietzsche since its is NietzscheÂ’s criticism of two of the Â“three castes of menÂ” he claims exist in all civilized
44 societiesÂ—what he calls the Â“laboring classÂ” and the Â“legal aristocracyÂ”Â—that are the basis for MenckenÂ’s view (57). NietzscheÂ’s Three Caste System & Fitzge raldÂ’s Vision of Jazz Age New York The order of castesÂ… is the domi nating law of nature, against which no merely human agency may prevail. In every healthy society there are three broad classes, each of which has its own morality, its own word, its own notion of perfection and its own sense of mastery. The first class comprises those who are obviously superior to the mass intellectually; the se cond includes those whose eminence is chiefly muscular, and the third is made up of the mediocre.30 Through the physical descriptions of the characters and their accompanying locations, Fitzgerald creates a New York that resembles the separate and unequal social, economic, religious, and moral worlds that Niet zsche argues exist in all modern, civilized societies. For example, NickÂ’s attention to TomÂ’s aggressive physical presence dominates NickÂ’s descriptions of Tom in the narrative. In the opening chapter, Nick description of the Â“enormous powerÂ” of TomÂ’s body and his Â“gr eat pack of musclesÂ” reveals that Nick is doing more than merely describing TomÂ’ s dominating presence (11). NickÂ’s comment that TomÂ’s Â“was a body capable of enormous leverageÂ—a cruel body,Â” reveals that Nick envisions Tom as part of the Â“chiefly mu scularÂ” caste of the legal aristocracy ( Gatsby 11; 30 Mencken quotes Nietzsche here. See The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, p. 96.
45 Mencken 96). Wilson, on the other hand, is presented as one of the Â“mediocre,Â” Â“a blonde, spiritless man, anaemic and faintly ha ndsome,Â” one of lim ited aspirations and limited vision, and his place in the valley of ashes reinforces his mediocre existence ( Gatsby 29). In fact, all of FitzgeraldÂ’s locati onsÂ—the valley of ashes, East Egg, and West EggÂ—reinforce the characteristics and be liefs that Nietzsche attributes to the members of each of these di stinct castes of men. The Blind Masses in the Valley of Ashes At the bottom are the workers.... It is the law of nature that they should be public utilit iesÂ—that they should be wheels and functions.... In them the mastery of one thingÂ— i.e., specialismÂ—is an instinct.31 FitzgeraldÂ’s construction of the ashen men who live under the watch of Doctor Eckleburg in a visually Â“impenetrable cloudÂ” of dust recalls Nietzsch eÂ’s discussion of the caste of workingmen and laborers, the Â“blindÂ” masses who blindly fo llow tradition, law, and authority instead of thinking or seeing for themselves. Nietzsche notes that the laboring men of this caste are usually Â“wheels and functions,Â” thus it is no coincidence that Fitzgerald positions Wilson and his namele ss auto garage amidst the laboring Â“ashen menÂ” whose function is to m echanically move heaps of ash (Mencken 27). WilsonÂ’s sign Repairs. GERORGE B. WILSON. Cars Bought and Sold 31 Mencken quotes Nietzsche here. See The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, p. 97.
46 is an advertisement for his function: he deals in Â“wheels,Â” in automobiles, and serves the transportation needsÂ—such as gas and repair sÂ—of the upper class, of those privileged enough to own a car. Although WilsonÂ’s professi on is of a higher ra nk than those who haul ashesÂ—he does, in fact, own and run his own garageÂ—his Â“functionÂ” and his placement in the valley of ashes sugge sts he is part of the blind masses. Fitzgerald reinforces WilsonÂ’s membersh ip in the masses by presenting him as blind to MyrtleÂ’s affair, to TomÂ’s rouse to se ll him his car, and blind to the true identities of MyrtleÂ’s lover and her killer. To rein force the persistence of WilsonÂ’s blindness, Fitzgerald invokes the image Do ctor Eckleburg. Yet, Fitzge rald does not merely place Doctor Eckleburg in the ash heaps as his co rrelative for spiritual and moral blindness of the masses; he makes the billboard visibl e from WilsonÂ’s window and illustrates the inherited morality the masse s blindly submit to through WilsonÂ’s reference to Doctor Eckleburg.32 The scene in which Wilson conflates the ey es of Doctor Eckleburg with the eyes of God reveals that NickÂ’s envisions Wilson as one of the masses who blindly follow tradition and authority, as one whose notions of truth and morality, like the majority of men, are bound to an unreasoning faith in an all-powerful and all-knowing Christian God.33 Through WilsonÂ’s recollection of his conve rsation with MyrtleÂ—he takes her to the window, points out Doctor EckleburgÂ’s billboard and tells her Â“God knows what youÂ’ve been doing, everything youÂ’ve been doi ng. You may fool me but you canÂ’t fool 32 See Chapter 9 of The Great Gatsby p. 165-168. 33 Critics often cite this scene as evidence of NickÂ’s unreliability as a narrator and argue that Nick clearly invents this scene; he was not a witness to Wilson and MichaelisÂ’ conversation. Although Nick was not a witness to the conversation, Nick suggests that hi s knowledge derives from MichaelisÂ’ Â“testimonyÂ” after GatsbyÂ’s death. See p. 171.
47 God!Â”Â—we see that Wilson not only submits to the authority of God, a God who Wilson believes Â“sees everythingÂ” and judges accordingly, but Wilson also invokes God as his authority on morality and human sin (167). Like the majority of men Nietzsche discusses, Wilson accepts Â“without question, the dicta of some one supreme sageÂ” (Mencken 93). NietzscheÂ’s and, as I see it, NickÂ’s view is that blind submission to GodÂ’s authority, morality, and notions of sin, is absurd; m odern epistemology, in fact, Â“discourages unreasoning faithÂ” (Mencken 90) WilsonÂ’s reference to God, coupled with his admission to Michaelis that he does not have a Â“churchÂ” he attends thus no specific faith of Christianity that he follows, makes WilsonÂ’ s belief in God and hi s blind adherence to Christian morality and Christian Truths seem even more absurd (Mencken 90). WilsonÂ’s, and correlatively the masses, blind submission to perceived authoritie s, whether past or present, God or man, and their lack of signifi cant contributions to the worldÂ’s storehouse of knowledge, explains Nietzsch eÂ’s contempt for and, as I see it, NickÂ’s Â“unaffected scornÂ” for the majority of men ( Gatsby 6). Yet, NietzscheÂ’s and NickÂ’s contempt is much stronger for the ruling classÂ—wh at Nietzsche refers to as Â“the legal aristocracyÂ” (Mencken 97). The East-Egg Â“Legal AristocracyÂ” Now, since all moral codesÂ…are merely collections of the rules laid down by some definite group of hu man beings for their comfort
48 and protection, it is evident that the morality of the master class has for its main object the preservati on of the authority and kingship of that class.34 Nietzsche believed that the legal aristo cracy, the Tom BuchananÂ’s of society, Â“expended its entire energy in combating experi ment and changeÂ” to ensure its elevated position in society (Mencken 98). The morality of this class, as both Nietzsche and Nick envision, is bound to retaining its power and thus retaining co ntrol of the moral and legal apparatuses that keep them in power. In the opening chapter of the novel, TomÂ’s comment that Â“[i]tÂ’s up to us who are the dom inant race to watch out or these other races will have control of things,Â” reveals that TomÂ’s morality and his view of what he perceives to be the Â“inferiorÂ” races is bound to the preserva tion of his and his raceÂ’s power and authority; Tom, like the members of NietzscheÂ’s legal aristocracy, support the ideas that help him maintain his inheritance and ensure that his power, his authority, and his position in society remains secure. Impor tantly, TomÂ’s concern with protecting the Â“white raceÂ” from being Â“utterly submergedÂ” due to Â“The Rise of the Colored EmpiresÂ” also translates to his elitist view toward the lower classes later in NickÂ’s narrative ( Gatsby 17). Under the uniquely American system of democracy, equal opportunity and freedom of choice make upward mobility a possibility for the Â“i nferiorÂ” races and Â“inferiorÂ” classes, a possibility that stands in direct opposition to the agenda, morality, and security of the legal aris tocracy. As Mencken explains: 34 See MenckenÂ’s The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche p. 48.
49 Next only to its [the aristocracyÂ’s] desi re to maintain itself without actual personal effort was its jealous endea vor to prevent accessions to its ranks. Nothing, indeed, disgusts the traditiona l belted earl quite so much as the ennobling of some upstart brewer or iron-masterÂ… (Mencken 98) Â—or in GatsbyÂ’s case a bootlegger. As Â“guardia ns and keepers of or der,Â” as the oneÂ’s who, as Tom puts it, Â“produced all the things that go to make ci vilizationÂ—oh, science and art and all that,Â” the legal aristocracy believes they must protect the Â“civilized societyÂ” they helped create from the corr uption of the lower classes and Â“otherÂ” races (Mencken 97; Gatsby 18). TomÂ’s view of Wilson, for exampleÂ—Â“HeÂ’s so dumb he doesnÂ’t know heÂ’s aliveÂ”Â—reveals TomÂ’s disd ain for the lower clas ses; but it is through TomÂ’s reaction to GatsbyÂ’s desire to be reunite d with Daisy that TomÂ’s belief that he is a Â“guardianÂ” of the Â“civilizedÂ” world is reinforced (30). Tom asks Gatsby: Â“What kind of row are your trying to cause in my house anyhow?Â” Â… Â“I suppose the latest thing is to s it back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if th atÂ’s the idea you can count me outÂ… Nowadays people begin by sn eering at family life and family institutions and next theyÂ’ll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white.Â” (136-137) TomÂ’s refusal to allow Â“Mr. Nobody from Nowh ereÂ” to make love to his wife has more to do with the power and boundaries of the aristocracy being threatened than TomÂ’s actual jealousy over DaisyÂ’s potential affair. To m, as part of Â“the dominant raceÂ” and the
50 dominant class, blocks GatsbyÂ’s entrance into the aristocracy sine his upward mobility would disrupt that closed circle which beli eved it was responsible for the social and moral foundations of society, structures wh ich revolve around keeping marriages within oneÂ’s own class and within oneÂ’s own race. Because the legal aristocracy privileges Â“civilized societyÂ” and those w ho are monied, educated, civilize d, and refined, it is in this classÂ’ own best interests to protect itself and everything that is Â“civilizedÂ”Â—art, civilization, and the foundati ons of social and moral orderÂ—from the coarse, the immoral, the uneducated, the uncivilized. The Â“legal aristocracyÂ’sÂ” viewÂ—that they are the guardians of truth and morality and that one can only enter this class through proper birthÂ—conflicts with the uniquely American ideas of democracy, equal opportunity, and upward mobility. From Nietzs cheÂ’s point of view, the ex clusivity of the Â“legal aristocracyÂ” is absurd since the progress of a civilization, he believed, depends upon Â“a free and constant interchange of individuals between the three natural castes of menÂ” (Mencken 98). For this reason, Nietzsche finds th at Â“[t]he morality of the master class is irritating to the taste of the present day becau se of its fundamental principle that a man has obligations only to his equals ; that he may act to all of lower rank and to all that are foreign as he pleasesÂ” (qtd. in Mencken 49). In NietzscheÂ’s class structure, the Tom Buchanans of the world belong to this ruling class who, by force of th eir inherited power and Â“vast carelessness,Â” as Nick puts it, impose their power on the lower classes (188). Wilson, a man associated with the blind masses in both NietzscheÂ’s and FitzgeraldÂ’s constructions, is con tinually undermined by Tom throughout the novel. From TomÂ’s underhanded promise to sell Wilson his car to
51 TomÂ’s affair with WilsonÂ’s wife, and finally to TomÂ’s facilitation of GatsbyÂ’s murder and WilsonÂ’s resulting suicide, we see that Tom is the catalyst for WilsonÂ’s despair and for inciting WilsonÂ’s misdirected vengeance to wards Gatsby. Thus, like Wilson, Gatsby is victimized by Tom as well. But Gatsby does not belong to the ca ste of the masses in either NietzscheÂ’s or NickÂ’s view; instead, Ga tsby is a victim of another sort. He is exempt from NickÂ’s and NietzscheÂ’s Â“scornÂ” because he is neither a man of the masses, nor a man of the aristocracy; instead he, in NickÂ’s view, aspires to the highest classÂ— Gatsby aspires to become a self-made Â“man of efficiencyÂ” (Mencken 98). West Egg and the Â“True AristocracyÂ” Nietzsche called himself an immoralist He believed that all progress depended upon the truth and that the tr uth could not prevail while men yet enmeshed themselves in a web of gratu itous and senseless laws fashioned by their own hands. He was fond of pict uring the ideal immoralist as Â“a magnificent blond beastÂ”Â—innocent of Â“virtueÂ” and Â“sinÂ” and knowing only Â“goodÂ” and Â“bad.Â” Instead of a god to guide him, with commandments and the fear of hell, this immora list would have his own instincts and intelligence. Instead of doing a given thing because the church called it a virtue of the current moral code requir ed it, he would do it because he knew that it would benefit him or his descendants after him. Instead of refraining from a given action becaus e the church denounced it as a sin and the law as
52 a crime, he would avoid it only if he were convinced that th e action itself, or its consequences, might wo rk him or his an injury.35 In NietzscheÂ’s hierarchy the immoralist be longs to NietzscheÂ’s first and highest caste, what Nietzsche envisions as an Â“aristo cracy of efficiencyÂ”Â—for Nietzsche, the only Â“true aristocracyÂ” (Mencken 42, 98). In fact, Â“it was to the aristo crat only,Â” Mencken writes, Â“that he [Nietzsche] gave, unreserve dly, the name of human beingÂ” (58). In NickÂ’s hierarchy, Nick envisi ons Gatsby as Nietzsche envisions his aristocrat: as a man who Â“would stand forth from the herdÂ” of me n; a man like Gatsby who, Nick tells us, is the only individual in his narrative Â“exemptÂ” from his usual Â“scornÂ” (Mencken 58; Gatsby 6). Although the Â“priest-ridden, creed -barnacled masses,Â” who submit to Christian morality and the man-made laws th at enforce this moralit y, envision Gatsby as immoral and criminalÂ—a bootlegger, a murderer an adulterer, his wealth amassed from criminal connections and enterprisesÂ—both Niet zsche and Nick venerate the aristocrat for his willingness Â“to pit his own feelings against the laws laid down by the majorityÂ” (Mencken 93). It is this Â“gorgeous, fatalist ic courage and sublime egotismÂ” the majority lacks that separates the Â“tru eÂ” aristocrat from Â“the herd Â” (Mencken 100). His greatness lies in the fact that he Â“honors his own powerÂ” and thus Â“seeks every opportunity to increase and exalt his own sense of effi ciency, of success, of mastery, of powerÂ” (Mencken 60). Significantly, what Nietzsch e characterizes of those who aspire to Â“efficiency,Â” Nick illustrates through Gatsby; yet, where NietzscheÂ’s descriptions of his aspiring superman remain mainly in the abstract, Nick provides us with a living 35 See Mencken p. 57.
53 illustration by putting Nietzschean philosophy in motion. In short, Nick shows us the ways in which Gatsby increases and exalts his power and gives us glimpses of Â“Jay GatsbyÂ” in the in the process of becoming. NickÂ’s inclusion of the young Ga tzÂ’s Â“SCHEDULEÂ” and Â“GENERAL RESOLVESÂ” in the latter part of the narrative serves to illustrate, in the particular, how the young James Gatz, like Nietzs cheÂ’s artistocrat, creates hi s own scheme for living and Â“exercises strictness and severity over himselfÂ” in order to increase his knowledge as well as his physical and intellectua l efficiency. Although Nick in cludes this evidence without commentary, we see young Gatz strives to incr ease his physical stre ngth and efficiency through daily Â“Dumbbell exercise and wall-scaling,Â” as well as Â“Baseball and sportsÂ” (181). We see his plan to increase his in telligence by reading Â“one improving book or magazine per weekÂ” and by studying Â“needed inventionsÂ” and Â“electricity, etc.Â” (181182). We see how he attempts to increase his social effectiveness by resolving to give up Â“smokeingÂ” and Â“chewing,Â” by resolving to bathe Â“every other da y,Â” and by practicing his Â“elocution, poise and how to attain itÂ” (181-182). We also see that his aspirations to efficiency also include not Â“wasting time at Shafters or [a name, indecipherable]Â” and saving Â“$3.00 per weekÂ” (181-182). Although there is no evidence of young GatzÂ’s implementation of his schedule and resolves his aspirations alone show us the young GatzÂ’s Â“desire to attain and manifest effi ciency and superiorityÂ” over himself and his environment (Mencken 61). Significantly, it is this desire, what Me ncken explicates as a Â“yearningÂ” for Â“glory,Â” that Nietzsche believes stimulates a man to efficiency. Mencken explains:
54 It is the desire to attain and mani fest efficiency and superiority which makes one man explore the wilds of Af rica and another pile up vast wealth and another write books of philosophy and another submit to pain and mutilation in the prize ring. It is th is yearning which makes men take chances and risk their lives and limbs for glory. (Mencken 61) Although GatzÂ’s schedule and resolves do not reveal a specific Â“yearningÂ” for Â“glory,Â” what they do reveal is GatzÂ’s self-imposed discipline, his creation of his own scheme for living, and his early aspirations to efficiency. The result of Ga tzÂ’s desire to cultivate his powersÂ—his instincts and intelligence, hi s knowledge and his masteryÂ—is further illustrated through NickÂ’s account of GatzÂ’s m ovements after the War; that is, after he loses Daisy. In NickÂ’s account of the year leading up to GatzÂ’s transformation into Jay Gatsby, Nick presents Gatz in terms that recall Ni etzscheÂ’s aristocratÂ’s reliance on his own instincts, knowledge, and power. Nick tells us that after Gatz returns from the war to find Daisy gone, Gatz spends more than a year on the shores of Lake S uperior, working just enough to provide himself with food and a bed ( Gatsby 104). Then, according to Nick, one day GatzÂ’s Â“instinct toward his future gloryÂ” leads him to St OlafÂ’s College, but Â“dismayed at its ferocious indifference to the drums of his destiny, to destiny itselfÂ” he returns to the shores of Lake Superior (105). Although GatzÂ’s Â“instinctÂ” led him to St. OlafÂ’s, he could not accept Â“the janitorÂ’s work with which he was to pay his way throughÂ” as the path to his imagined destiny (105). Thus, like Nietzs cheÂ’s aristocrat, we see that Gatz Â“honors his own powerÂ” and beli eves he has the power to create his own
55 destiny; like NietzscheÂ’s aristocrat, he beli eves it is his destin y to Â“progress upward,Â” something Â“janitorÂ’s workÂ” did not offer (Mencken 60, 114, 65). Dismayed, Gatz leaves St. OlafÂ’s after staying only two weeks and re turns to Lake Superior Â“still searching for something to doÂ” when he sees Dan Cody anc hor his yacht (105). A lthough Nick leads us to believe that what stimulated Gatz to Â“efficiencyÂ” was his Â“yearningÂ” for Â“gloryÂ” now that the War was overÂ—CodyÂ’s yacht representing Â“all the beauty and glamour in the worldÂ” and conjuring visions of travel, adventure, far-off treasure, luxury, wealth, and freedom on the seaÂ—what stimulated Gatz to aspire to Â“efficiencyÂ” and to become Jay Gatsby is not merely his life-l ong desire to progress upward ( Gatsby 105). Instead, Nick reveals that Gatsby is stimulated to Â“efficien cyÂ” by another catalyst Mencken explicates from NietzscheÂ’s writings; that is, aside from the desire to manifest superiority, women can also stimulate a man to Â“efficiency.Â” In NietzscheÂ’s discussion Â“Women and Marriage,Â” Nietzsche argues that women are menÂ’s natural opponent and thus capable of stimulating men Â“to constant efficiencyÂ” (105). Because women are oftentimes the cata lyst which stimulates the Â“will to power,Â” this power being Â“responsible for many of th e worldÂ’s great deeds,Â” women served as Â“the most splendid rewardÂ—greater than honors or treasuresÂ—that humanity could bestow upon its victorsÂ” (Mencken 111). In fact, Mencken explains NietzscheÂ’s belief that Â“[t]he winning of a beautiful and much -sought woman, indeed, will remain as great an incentive to endeavor as th e conquest of a princi palityÂ” (112). Significantly, Nick tells us that young Gatz was Â“excitedÂ” by the id ea Â“that many men had already loved DaisyÂ— it increased her value in his eyesÂ” (156). Nick further reinforces this point by equating
56 Daisy with the most-sought object in histor y: Nick tells us that the young Gatz Â“found that he had committed himself to the following of a grailÂ” (156). But, although Nietzsche envisions women as a great incentive to the Â“higher man,Â” Nietzsche also points out that women can work Â“harm to the highe r sort of menÂ” (Mencken 105-106). For Nietzsche, because women have a limite d range of vision, their focus on Â“the present or the very near future,Â” it is Â“dange rousÂ” for a higher man Â“t o love too violentlyÂ” or Â“to be loved too muchÂ” (Mencken 106-107). Although Menc kenÂ’s explication does not provide a clear picture of how women can ha rm the Â“higher man,Â” Mencken suggests that women often thwart the higher manÂ’s aspira tions. This view is embodied in GatsbyÂ’s recollections of his early days with Da isy. According to Nick, Gatsby tells him: Â“I canÂ’t describe to you how surpri sed I was to find out I loved her, old sport. I even hoped for a while that sheÂ’d throw me over, but she didnÂ’t, because she was in love wi th me too. She thought I knew a lot because I knew different things from herÂ…. Well, there I was, way off my ambitions, getting deeper in love every minute, and all of a sudden I didnÂ’t care. What was the use of doing great th ings if I could have a better time telling her what I was going to do?Â” ( Gatsby 157) Significantly, GatzÂ’s loss of ambition, the loss of his desire to cultivate and exalt his sense of power, is bound to his intense love for Daisy. We s ee GatzÂ’s youthful Â“yearningÂ” for Â“glory,Â” his desire to Â“increase and exal tÂ” his powers, is replaced by his yearning for Daisy. Gatsby intimates that his love for Dais y is the reason for the loss of his youthful
57 aspirations, yet NickÂ’s narrativ e also reveals that after he loses Daisy, GatsbyÂ’s ambition eventually returns; it returns because he must win Daisy back. For Nick, the day James Gatz changes his name to Jay Gatsby not only marks the beginning of GatsbyÂ’s career, but marks the da y that GatzÂ’s ambitions return. In fact, Nick envisions GatzÂ’s transformation into Gatsby as the moment Gatz, the dreamer who merely talked to Daisy of all the things he could do, who spent the previous year Â“driftingÂ” here and there a nd Â“loafingÂ” on the beach Â“searching for something to do,Â” becomes a man of action, Â“who borrowe d a row-boat, pulled out to the Tuolomee and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hourÂ” (104). Significantly, NickÂ’s descripti on of how James Gatz becomes Jay Gatsby also serves as an illustration of what Nietzsche discusses in terms of manÂ’s meta morphosis into a higher man. According to Mencken, [Nietzsche] speaks of three metamorphoses of the race, under the allegorical names of the camel, th e lion and the childÂ…. The camel, a hopeless beast of burden, is man. Bu t when the camel goes into the solitary desert, it throws off its burde n and becomes a lion. That is to say, the heavy and hampering load of artificial dead-weight called morality is cast aside and the instinct to liveÂ—or as Nietzsche insists upon regarding it, the will to powerÂ—is given free re ignÂ…. The lion is the Â‘higher manÂ’Â— the intermediate stage between man and supermanÂ…. In the desert comes the first metamorphosis, and the Â‘thou shaltÂ’ of the camel becomes the Â“I
58 willÂ” of the lion. And what is the missi on of the lion? Â“To create for itself a new creating.Â” (66) Nick envisions GatzÂ’s transfor mation into Gatsby in similar terms. The Â“thou shaltÂ” of Gatz is embodied in his confession that he ha d a Â“better timeÂ” talki ng about what he was going to do rather than actually doing it. The Â“I willÂ” recalls Jay Gatsby, the man of action, who rows out to the Tuolomee and joins Dan Cody. Gatz creates a new self at this specific moment, the moment he is stimulat ed to Â“efficiencyÂ” and becomes a man of action. He creates a new self by throwing off th e burdens of his past and his heritage; in short, he creates a self through which he can give his power free rei gn and thus create his own destiny.36 In NickÂ’s view, GatsbyÂ’s time with Cody left Gatsby with a Â“singularly appropriate education; the vague contour of Jay Gatsby had fill ed out to the substantiality of a manÂ”Â—in NickÂ’s view, a higher man ( Gatsby 107). But whether one believes that the catalyst for GatsbyÂ’s Â“becomingÂ” is the result of his Â“searching for something to doÂ” to forget Daisy or to win her back, Gatsby himself reveal s that is the though t of Daisy that continues to stimulate him to Â“efficiency.Â” Although Nietzsche, as Mencken reveals, views women as the Â“natural opponentÂ” of men, who serve the Â“benevolent purpos eÂ” of stimulating a man to Â“constant efficiency,Â” Nietzsche does not provide the sp ecifics of how this is actualized (Mencken 105). NickÂ’s narrative, on the other hand, reveals specific instances of how Gatsby keeps 36 Although the details of GatsbyÂ’s days with Cody and his days before reaching West Egg are vague at best, Nick tells us that Gatsby served as Â“steward, ma te, skipper, secretary and even jailorÂ” for Cody who, throughout the years, entrusts more and more of his busi ness to Gatsby (106). We are led to believe that in this time Gatsby continues to increase and exalt his pow er under CodyÂ’s tutelage; thus, as GatsbyÂ’s power increases, his responsibilities increase as well.
59 the thought of Daisy before him and thus suggests how women can stimulate men to Â“constant efficiencyÂ” (105). For example, we learn from Nick of the newspaper clippings Gatsby collects of Daisy over the years; we learn that from GatsbyÂ’s West Egg mansion there is a view of DaisyÂ’s green dock light ; and we learn that GatsbyÂ’s open-invitation parties have a purposeÂ—he has hopes that Da isy will wander in some evening. For Nick, these details reveal how Gatsby keeps the thought of Daisy before him and how this thought stimulates him to Â“efficiency.Â” In fact, we see that it is the thought of Daisy that motivates Gatsby to amass great wealth; it is this thought whic h brings him to West Egg; it is with this thought that Gatsby plans his parties. Yet Nick also reveals how Gatsby, like NietzscheÂ’s courageous aristocrat, is ev er-willing to take risk s and face danger in order for his Â“yearningÂ” to be actualized. As Mencken explains: Â“It is the mission of the greatest to run risk and dangerÂ—to cast dice with deathÂ” (62). The glimpses Nick gives us of the risk and dangers Gatsby faces throughout his Â“career as Jay GatsbyÂ”Â—such as his Â“gonnec tionÂ” with criminals such as Meyer Wolfshiem, his profitable but illegal drug store trade, and his adulterous affair with DaisyÂ—all reveal GatsbyÂ’s desire to increa se and exalt his own power in order to win Daisy at not matter what cost to others and no matter what risk to himself. Yet it is not until Gatsby confronts Tom in the Plaza Hotel that we see Gatsby risk everything he has createdÂ—namely, Â“Jay GatsbyÂ”Â—in order to win Daisy and thus satisfy his yearning for her. But, in NickÂ’s eyes, Gatsby fails. He fa ils because he does not get Daisy to admit she Â“never lovedÂ” Tom (139). He fails becau se Tom makes Gatsby look like Â“some kind of cheap sharperÂ” (159). Nick envisions GatsbyÂ’ s failure to win Daisy at the Plaza Hotel not
60 just as the death of GatsbyÂ’s aspirations and his dream, but as the death of Â“Jay GatsbyÂ” himself. Â“Â‘Jay Gatsby,Â’Â” Nick writes, Â“had broken up like glass against TomÂ’s hard malice and the long secret extravaganza was pl ayed outÂ” (155). Although Nick envisions GatsbyÂ’s failure as the existential death of Â“Jay Gatsby,Â” Gatsby himself will not admit defeat. Nick envisions Gatsby as risking ever ything when he refuses to leave town after MyrtleÂ’s death. In fact, Nick makes it clear that Gatsby is well aware of the danger of waiting for Daisy to call. Nick recalls tel ling Gatsby: Â“Â‘You ought to go away,Â’Â” I said. Â“Â‘ItÂ’s pretty certain theyÂ’ ll trace your carÂ’Â” (155). Accord ing to Nick, Â“He [Gatsby] wouldnÂ’t consider it. He couldnÂ’t possibly leave until he knew what she was going to do. He was clutching at some last hope and I couldnÂ’t bear to shake him freeÂ” (155). Although, at the least, Gatsby risks being accuse d of MyrtleÂ’s death by waiting to hear from Daisy, it is GatsbyÂ’s willingness to take risk s such as this that lies at the source of what Nietzsche envisions as his aristocratÂ’s courage. For Nietzsche, whether the aristocratÂ’s attempts succeed or fail, whether he is victorious or defeated, what he venerates is his aristocratÂ’s courageous attempt to actualize his yearnings. Mencken explicates: It is time to die, says Zarathustra, when the purpose of life ceases to be attainableÂ—when the fighter breaks his sword arm or falls into his enemyÂ’s hands. And it is time to die, too, when the purpose of life is attainedÂ—when the fighter triumphs and sees before him no more worlds to conquerÂ…. The best death is that wh ich comes in battle Â“at the moment
61 of victory;Â” the second best is deat h in battle in th e hour of defeat. (Mencken 135) Although Gatsby risks everything he has create dÂ—i.e., Â“Jay GatsbyÂ”Â—when he confronts Tom in the Plaza Hotel, by waiting for DaisyÂ’s call Gatsby also risks his life. Tragically, GatsbyÂ’s risk does not pay offÂ—he experiences existential death at the hands of Tom, a death punctuated by his literal death at the hands of Wilson. Yet, in NickÂ’s view, Gatsby dies well; he dies Â“at the right timeÂ” (Mencken 135). Significantly, Mencken notes th at Nietzsche Â“was unable to give any very definite picture of this proud, heav en-kissing super manÂ”; yet where Nietzsche fails, Nick succeeds in many ways (Mencken 66).37 In fact, Nick not only creates a picture of his aspiring Â“supermanÂ” and shows us the specifi cs of Jay GatsbyÂ’s Â“becoming,Â” but he also shows us the process of his own becoming a nd provides a first-hand account of his own failures in his aspirations to Â“e fficiency.Â” Like Gatsby, Nick stri ves, as he tells us at the beginning of his narrative, to increase hi s own intelligence and his efficiency by becoming healthy, well-read, and well-rounded. Li ke Gatsby, Nick creates a scheme for livingÂ—to increase his intel ligence and Â“to reserve all judgmentsÂ”Â—and rejects manmade notions of morality and truth. He strives to Â“develop and fortifyÂ” his powers, to achieve a heightened perspective of the worl d, and focuses on what he learns through his own observations and expe riences. Yet, when Nick tells us at the end of the novel that Â“the East was haunted for him,Â” his eyes Â“distorted beyondÂ” his Â“eyesÂ’ power of correction,Â” he simultaneously calls attention to the Â“retinasÂ” and the dilemmas of 37 Mencken writes: Â“It is only in ZarathustraÂ’s preachme nts to Â“the higher man,Â” a sort of bridge between man and superman, that we may discer n the philosophy of the latterÂ” (66).
62 modern vision and signals his own failure to ma intain the heightened point of view of the Â“higher manÂ” (185). Nietzsche, in fact, addresses the difficulty of becoming and remaining a part of the Â“true aristocracyÂ” in terms that add depth to our understanding of NickÂ’s choice to move West. Mencken writes: Â“Nietzsche was well aware that his Â‘first casteÂ’ was necessarily small in numbers a nd that there was a st rong tendency for its members to drop out of it and seek ease a nd peace in the castes lower downÂ” (Mencken 100). We see that because NickÂ’s vision becomes distorted in the East, because GatsbyÂ’s strivings result in his death, because, as Nick tells us in the beginning of his narrative, after leaving the East he felt that he Â“wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever,Â” he has not only fa iled to become a Â“superman,Â” but has chosen the Â“ease and peaceÂ” of the Western middle-clas s life over a life that Nick perceives as Â“hauntedÂ” by constant conflict and struggle (F itzgerald 6). Thus, through NickÂ’s admitted failure to control his perceptions and to re serve his judgments, Nick shows us why proper vision, so to speak, is not only e ssential to prosper, but is esse ntial to oneÂ’s existential and literal survival in the modern, Â“civi lizedÂ” world represented by the East. NickÂ’s narrative serves, in part, as a su rvival guide to modern times, and through the creation of his narrative Ni ck ensures that his generation and the generations to come will benefit from GatsbyÂ’s life and death, as well as what Nick perceives to be GatsbyÂ’s strivings and failures. As NietzscheÂ’s Zara thustra puts it: Â“Suppose you have failed? Has not the future gained by your failure?Â” (qtd. in Mencken 66). What the future generations gain from NickÂ’s narrative is GatsbyÂ’s sens e of power, his courage, his commitment, and his faith. Through Gatsby they will learn how to create a scheme fo r living in order to
63 Â“fortify and developÂ” their powers; they will lear n they must give direction to the vitality of the creative spirit and will learn from Gats byÂ’s courage that one must take risks in order to create their own des tiny. This is why Nick feels Â“responsibleÂ” for Gatsby after his death: because he is th e only one who can tell GatsbyÂ’s story. Nick feels a personal and a social responsibility to en sure that future generations will benefit from GatsbyÂ’s life and death and from his aspirations and his courage. But for Nick, what he sees as GatsbyÂ’s failure is similar to his own failure : both are bound to th e dilemmas of modern vision. Yet it is GatsbyÂ’s failure and his death that inspires Ni ck to give direction to his own creative spirit, to create his own life and experiences as a work of art, and thus become an artist. The Â“art of livingÂ” Nick espouses throughout Gatsby is set against the background of the current state of American democracy and AmericaÂ’s social structure, what cultural critics such as Mencken and F itzgerald envision as the incongruous nature of AmericanÂ’s social hierarchy and the uniquely American ideals of freedom, equal opportunity, and social and economic mobility The American Dream promises. In NietzscheÂ’s vision of the modern, civili zed world Â“There is no wrong in unequal rights!Â”Â—it is the natural state of modern civilization. What is wrong, according to Nietzsche, Â“lies in the vain pretension to equal rights!Â”Â—a view commensurate with NickÂ’s sympathetic view towards Gatsby (q td. in Mencken 97). For Nick and for Fitzgerald, the Â“vain pretension to equal right sÂ” is the illusion of The Dream, the illusion that drives GatsbyÂ’s belief a nd hope that the self-made Ameri can man can rise to personal and even national significance. Significantly, it is NickÂ’s narrative that ensures GatsbyÂ’s rise to national significance: it is through Nick that Gatsby becomes what his father
64 envisioned. He becomes a national figure, th e embodiment of the c ourage, hope, vitality, and creative spirit that is essential for indi vidual growth and development. Yet what is also essential to achieve pers onal Â“greatness,Â” as Nick illu strates through hi s perceptual struggles, is to break all illusions, to s ee self and world more accurately and clearly. Thus, what Nick shows us throughout Gatsby is that perception is central to the survival and the success of the modern individual whos e aspirations are often thwarted by others, but more often thwarted by oneÂ’s own cloude d vision and blinded by the illusion of The Dream. FitzgeraldÂ’s Eckleburgian Visi on for the Modern Individual Throughout Gatsby Nick shows us modern percep tion is clouded, thus truth and morality are inevitably uncertain. Perception is not only in conflict between the differing classes, but is further comp licated and clouded by the specta cles imposed on all classes by the media of Jazz Age New York. From scantily dressed flappers to jazz musicians, from movie starts at wild parties to dazzl ing wealth, it becomes our moral responsibility not to be taken in by grandeur. Doctor Eckleb urgÂ’s prescriptive spectacles remind us that we need corrective lenses because what we see, like Doctor EckleburgÂ’s Â“yellow spectacles,Â” is colored by our own judgment s and notions. His Â“retinasÂ” remind us that images we receive are inevitably distorted, that we have inherent blind spots, and that we thus naturally fill in the missing gaps to inte rpret the world around us. He reminds us that we must as Nick connotes with his use of the wo rd Â“retinasÂ” and his claim that he is
65 Â“inclined to reserve all judgements,Â” strive to widen the range and increase the accuracy of our perceptions; we must break all illusi ons and strive to see self and world more clearly and truly (5). Yet we must keep in mind that Doctor EckleburgÂ’s billboard was a latter addition to the novel as FitzgeraldÂ’s subjective correlative for what Fitzgerald had already written into Gatsby : Fitzgerald had already made Nick an aspiring Nietzschean striving to achieve a heightened perspectiv e and constructed a New York in which The Wilsons, The Buchanans, and Gatsby play out the roles of their respective Nietzschean castes. And it is through these class tensi onsÂ—between the ashen men, and the East and West EggersÂ—that Fitzgerald illustrates what Doctor Eckleburg is a dded to advertise: our need to correct our own pe rceptions in order to bette r understand and overcome the competing perceptions of truth and morality that haunt and complicate modern times. This dilemma is a moral one. It is the dile mma of modern vision, one that emphasizes our personal and social responsibility to see the world around us more clearly for our own progress as well as the progress of the nati on, a nation that Fitzgerald envisioned as heading toward the death of individualism, th e death of the individu al, and thus the death of what is unique to American cultureÂ—the vi tality of the creative spirit. Thus, we must take responsibility for our own lives and our own perceptions; we must take action and strive to come to a heightened awareness a nd understanding of self and world. This is FitzgeraldÂ’s Eckleburgian vi sion of the modern world, hi s prescriptive vision for the modern individual, a complex vision he shar es with his contemporar ies with the hope of guiding them through the dilemmas of modern ity and the dilemmas inherent in Â“BeingÂ” American.
66 Chapter 3 Life, Death, and Art: The E(a)rnest Thought of Death and HemingwayÂ’s Death in the Afternoon a Manifesto on the Art of Living E(a)rnestly The only place where you could see life and death, i.e., violent death now that the wars were over, was in the bull ring and I wanted very much to go to Spain where I could study it.38 Ernest HemingwayÂ’s Death in the Afternoon has been described as experimental, Â“a matchless guideÂ” to Spain and the Spanis h bullfight, a Â“correct iveÂ” for writing and Â“various guides to Spain,Â” a semi-autobiographical memoir of HemingwayÂ’s own traumatic wounding and near-death experien ces, and Â“a work of artÂ” through which Hemingway directly reveals his philosophies on writing, art, and the art of the Spanish bullfight. As apt as these descriptions are, they fail to capture what Hemingway asks us to see as the Â“wholeÂ” of his study in Death in the Afternoon (Spilka 132; qtd. in Bredendick 42). Even Hemingway scholars such as John Killinger, Susan Beegel, Philip Young, and Miriam Mandel, who have, in fact, advan ced our understanding of the depths and dimensions of what Hemingway espouses throughout Death in the Afternoon have not fully explicated the underlying unifying st ructureÂ—i.e., the Â“wholeÂ”Â—of HemingwayÂ’s 38 See Death in the Afternoon p. 2.
67 study.39 This Â“whole,Â” as Hemingway suggests in the title and tell s us in the opening pages of Death in the Afternoon is the study of death, a dark subject Hemingway justifies by his Â“humbleÂ” purpose: Â“I was trying to le arn to write, commencing withÂ…one of the simplest things of all and the most fundamentalÂ…violent deathÂ” ( DIA 2). Although the role of death in Death in the Afternoon seems to be exclusive to the art of the Spanish bullfightÂ—since it is Â“an art,Â” as Hemingway tells us, Â“that deals with deathÂ”Â—death and art per se are not merely contingently related to HemingwayÂ’s art through his own, personal correlative ( DIA 99). In fact, throughout Death in the Afternoon Hemingway repeatedly suggests that th e study of death is not only central to understanding the Â“wholeÂ” of the art of the Spanish bullfight, but is essential to the creation of art as well. Significantly, what Hemingway tell s us in the opening pages of Death in the Afternoon Â— that he is working to capture Â“the feeling of life and deathÂ” in his writing, that he intends to learn this from the study of death, that he chooses death as his teach er to assist him in his thinking and writingÂ—is an interesting, but by no means an original approach to creating art ( DIA 3). The relationship between d eath and artÂ—i.e., what th e study of death can teach the living about being an Â“artistÂ”Â—has been a central subject in the philosophic discourse of existence philosophers for close to two centuries. In f act, the study of death and the creation of art, the art of liv ing and the art of dying authen tically are predominate themes in nineteenth and twentieth century philosophies of self and self-actualization. For the Existentialists in particular, the study of deathÂ—i.e., facing up to oneÂ’s own deathÂ—is 39 See John KillingerÂ’s Hemingway and the Dead Gods Susan BeegelÂ’s HemingwayÂ’s Craft of Omission Philip YoungÂ’s Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration, and Miriam MandelÂ’s HemingwayÂ’s Death in the Afternoon: The Complete Annotations and A Companion to HemingwayÂ’s Death in the Afternoon.
68 essential to an individualÂ’s actualization of his/her life and work as Â“art.Â” In fact, the study of oneÂ’s own death teaches the individual to see life as a Â“whole,Â” to see what his/her life would mean if it e nded today. It teaches the indivi dual to see his/her life as a Â“wholeÂ” and thus reveals the necessity of creating personal meaning and content for his/her own life; it reveals to individuals the importance of Â“creating their lives as Â‘works of artÂ’Â” (Guignon xxxv). Similarly, what He mingway tells and shows us through the whole of his study of death in Death in the Afternoon Â—that Â“All art is only done by the individualÂ”Â—reveals that for Hemingway, as fo r the Existentialists, it is through the study of death that the individual recognizes the importance of seei ng his/her life Â“clear and as a wholeÂ” and comes to understand the neces sity, as Hemingway puts it, of making Â“something of his own,Â” of creati ng Â“artÂ” and becoming an Â“artistÂ” ( DIA 100, 278, 101). Decades of Hemingway scholars have, in fact, recognized and discussed the role death plays in HemingwayÂ’s own life, in his canon of works, and in what has been called HemingwayÂ’s own, self-developed Â“character istic philosophyÂ” (de Madariaga 18). Scholarship that focuses on the role of death in HemingwayÂ’s works has variously addressed HemingwayÂ’s interest in death and violence in general, and the bullfight in particular, as indicative of HemingwayÂ’s in tense Â“preoccupationÂ” and morbid obsession with death and violence and as evidence of HemingwayÂ’s need to exorcise his own traumatic, near-death experience on the Italian front (Killinger 18 ).40 A number of Hemingway scholars have also a ccurately identified the role of death and violence in HemingwayÂ’s works as integral to Hemingway Â’s Â“ruling philosophy of lifeÂ” in which the 40 See Philip YoungÂ’s Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration for YoungÂ’s assessment of how HemingwayÂ’s own experiences with death relate to his life and his canon of works.
69 Spanish bullfight is a Â“fixed and indelibleÂ” part, Â“the basis of his elemental philosophy which he would carry with him throughout hi s lifeÂ” (Castillo-Puch e 236). Yet it was John Killinger who first turned to existential ideo logy as a point of departure for understanding the role death plays throughout HemingwayÂ’s canon of works, what Killinger insightfully identifies in Hemingway and the Dead Gods as Â“the most immediate key to the interpretation of his [HemingwayÂ’s] workÂ” (Killinger 18). Although Killinger accurately identifies the similarities between Hemingway Â’s fascination with death and death as a central subject of existential philosophy, he gives relatively scant critical attention to the work in which Hemingway most direct ly addresses the s ubject of death: Death in the Afternoon Albeit briefly, Killinger does examine Death in the Afternoon and HemingwayÂ’s fascination with the Spanish bullf ight in terms of ex istential notions of facing death: he discusses deat h as a revealer of truth and of freedom, Â“the moment of truthÂ” in the bullring as Â“the moment of existential anguish,Â” and draws a connection between HemingwayÂ’s protagonists and th e Â“existentialist heroÂ” (Killinger 30, 48). Although KillingerÂ’s treatment of Death in the Afternoon leaves much to be said, his work did, in fact, spur a critic al trend in which scholars began to re-examine the role of death in Death in the Afternoon and throughout HemingwayÂ’s canon of works through the lens of exis tential philosophy. Following KillingerÂ’s lead, numerous He mingway scholars have identified and discussed the underlying ph ilosophies at work in Death in the Afternoon as reminiscent of existential notions of d eath, freedom, and personal meani ng, yet critical examination of HemingwayÂ’s discourse on death has been li mited, for the most part to discussions of
70 the general existential te ndencies in HemingwayÂ’s works. Kathy Willingham, for example, discusses HemingwayÂ’s code hero in Death in the Afternoon Â—the matadorartistÂ—in terms of Â“existential authentic ityÂ” and Â“existential be-ing in the worldÂ” (Willingham 37). Wayne Kvam, who attributes HemingwayÂ’s popularity in Germany to the existential ideology that reverberates throughout HemingwayÂ’s works, dedicates less than a dozen sentences to Death in the Afternoon Yet aside from Manfred Ptz and Jacqueline Brogan, who attribute the philo sophies Hemingway espouses to specific existential philosophersÂ—i.e., Friedrich Niet zsche and Sren Kierkegaard, respectivelyÂ— critical examination of the role of death in Death in the Afternoon continues to be discussed for its general existential tendenc ies, tendencies which have been variously attributed to a mixture of existentialism s by Friedrich Nietzsch e, Sren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Pau l Sartre, and Albert Camus.41 Significantly, the death epistemolo gy Hemingway espouses throughout Death in the Afternoon is, in fact, undeniably consistent with the intellectual and philosophic currents of his time. Yet by looking at Hemingw ayÂ’s focus on death in terms of general existential tendencies, critics have neglected to consider the historical moment of Death in the Afternoon Killinger analyzes Death in the Afternoon in terms of SartreÂ’s concept of Â“nausea,Â” HeideggerÂ’s discussion of Â“beingtowards-death,Â” and CamusÂ’ claim that the individual must repeatedly face death, for ex ample, concepts that post-date HemingwayÂ’s creation of Death in the Afternoon (Killinger 19, 50, 20, 22). In short, Heidegger, Sartre, and Camus come too late, but Nietzsche and Ki erkegaard, were, in fact, on the American 41 See Manfred Ptz Nietzsche in American Literature and Thought and Jacqueline BroganÂ’s Â“ItÂ’s only interesting the first time; or Hemingway as Kierkegaard.Â”
71 sceneÂ—Nietzsche via H.L. Mencken and Ki erkegaard via L.M. Hollander and David Swenson. Although Nietzsche dominated the American scene in the 1910s and 20s, with MenckenÂ’s highly popular explication The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche appearing in three different editions be tween 1908 and 1913, KierkeggardÂ’s philosophies of life and death were gaining currency in the Germ an, French, Spanish, and English-speaking worlds during the first quarter of the twentieth century.42 Although much of the cultural discourse on Kierkegaard in America preceded English translations of KierkegaardÂ’s canon of works, the growing interest in Ki erkegaard and Kierkega ardian philosophy in America is not only evident in the sheer num ber of scholarly arti cles that discuss Kierkegaard in the first quarter of the twentieth century, but is also evident in the early appropriation of Kierkegaardian philosophy by so me of the worldÂ’s most prolific literary artists. 43 In his Â“IntroductionÂ” to Selections from the Writings of Kierkegaard (1923), one of the first English translation of Kierke gaardÂ’s writings, L.M. Hollander notes that Henrik IbsenÂ’s poem Â“BrandÂ” Â“undeniably owes its fundament al thought to him [Kierkegaard],Â” although Ibsen himself admitted that he Â“had read little of Kierkegaard 42 For the American critical receptio n of Nietzsche see Manfred PtzÂ’s Â“Nietzsche in America: An IntroductionÂ” and Hays SteilbergÂ’s Â“First Steps in th e New World: Early Popular Reception of Nietzsche in AmericaÂ” in Nietzsche in American Thought and Literature 43 In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centur ies mention of Kierkegaard in journals such as The American Journal of Theology, The Philosophical Review, The Biblical World, The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, The Philosophical Review, and The Harvard Theological Review just to name a handful, points to the diverse interest in the applicability of KierkegaardÂ’s writings to American interests and concerns. In the 1920s in particular, scholars such as L.M. Hollander and David Swenson began to meet the growing demand for English translations and explications of KierkegaardÂ’s canon. Yet, where HollanderÂ’s 1923 translation of Kierkegaard entitled Selections from the Writings of Kierkegaard introduced Kierkegaard to the Englishspeaking world as a literary figure and his writings as Â“literature within a literature,Â” David Swenson discussed the philosophical and theological implica tions of KierkegaardÂ’s writings throughout the first quarter of the twentiethcentury (Hollander 1).
72 and understood lessÂ” (1). 44 Notable literary figures such as Franz Kafka were integral in introducing Kierkegaard to the literary world, and early litera ry studies such as Clyde Charles HollerÂ’s Boston University Dissertation Kierkegaard's Concept of Tragedy in the Context of his Pseudonymous Works (1900), Einar Wulfsberg AndersonÂ’s MasterÂ’s thesis The Influence of Kierkegaard's Philo sophy on the Works of Henrik Ibsen (1926), and Edwin MuirÂ’s "A Note on Franz Kafka" ( 1931), do not merely stand as testaments to KierkegaardÂ’s early influence and importance in the literary and the academic worlds, but also stand as evidence of the English-speaki ng worldÂ’s growing inte rest in Kierkegaard and Kierkegaardian thought early in th e twentieth century (Kraushaar 562). KierkegaardÂ’s origins in American thought are most commonly attributed to American scholars David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie (Marino). In his work Existential America scholar George Cotkin notes Sw ensonÂ’s interest in Kierkegaard began in 1890 when Swenson first read KierkegaardÂ’s Unconcluding Scientific Postscript in German translation (Cotkin 43). SwensonÂ’s role in the propagati on of Kierkegaardian thought in America, like Walter LowrieÂ’s, is traditionally attributed to their highly popular English translations of Kierkegaar dÂ’s canon of works in the 1930s and early 1940s, translations, which by the mid-1940s, ma de Kierkegaard practically a household name in America (Cotkin 54). Yet, Swens onÂ’s early discourse on Kierkegaard, both in journals and in lectures at the University of Minnesota, L.M. Ho llanderÂ’s 1923 translation 44 Although Gordon D. Marino cites that the first Eng lish translation of Kierkeg aardÂ’s works appeared in 1908, he provides no citation for this work. See MarinoÂ’s Biography Â“About Sren KierkegaardÂ” on the Howard V. and Edna H. Hong Kierkegaard Library site or MarinoÂ’s Â“Making Faith PossibleÂ” Atlantic Monthly 272.1 (July 1993): 109-113.
73 Selections from the Writings of Kierkegaard ,45 Walter LowrieÂ’s sermons and Princeton lectures on Kierkegaard in th e late 1920s and early 1930s,46 and the growing consensus that Kierkegaardian philosophy pre-dated what had already come to be known as existential thought,47 provides evidence that Kierkegaard was, in fact, becoming an established part of the academic, literary, philosophic, and religious discourses in America at the time Hemingway was writing Death in the Afternoon In the decades before Kierkegaard transl ations exploded on the American scene in the 1930s and 1940s, Kierkegaard was being touted as one of the most important thinkers of the nineteenth century. In fact, as early as 1916, David Sw enson anticipates that what he calls Â“KierkegaardÂ’s comprehensive lite rature of the person alityÂ” will assure Â“KierkegaardÂ’s permanent fame as a thi nkerÂ” (Swenson, Â“The An ti-Intellectualism of KierkegaardÂ” 575). Both Hollander and Swens on recognize KierkegaardÂ’s relevance to modern American thought ear ly in the century and bot h attribute KierkegaardÂ’s importance, in part, to his emphasis on s ubjective epistemology and his corresponding philosophies of self and self-actualiza tion. Swenson, for example, notes that Â“Kierkegaard calls himself a subjective thi nkerÂ” and appropriately tags Kierkegaard an Â“artistic thinkerÂ” (Â“The Anti-IntellectualismÂ” 568) His method of Â“indirect communication,Â” which both Swenson and Holl ander address, is a method by which the authorÂ—i.e., Kierkegaard or one of his pse udonymous authorsÂ—serves only to assist the 45 HollanderÂ’s translation, published by the University of Texas, includes Fear and Trembling Â“DiapsalmataÂ” (from Either-Or Part I), Â“The BanquetÂ” (from Stages on Life's Road Part I), Preparation for a Christian Life, and The Present Moment 46 In March of 1929 Lowrie began his first sermons on Kierkegaard, and in June of 1930 Lowrie returned to Princeton to begin an "itinerant ministry." In 1930, he began to lecture on Barth and Sren Kierkegaard. See Â“Walter Lowrie PapersÂ” at . 47 According to Kierkegaard scholar Charles Guig non, Â“[m]any of the majo r themes in secular existentialism were first developed by KierkegaardÂ” (2).
74 Â“discipleÂ” or reader to discover the tr uth for him/herself (Swenson, Â“The AntiIntellectualismÂ” 568; Hollander, Â“Introduc tionÂ”). For Hollander, KierkegaardÂ’s importance to twentieth century thought is not merely bound to KierkegaardÂ’s turn to subjective epistemology but to his message of Â“individual responsibility,Â” a message he clearly addresses to Â“my only reader, the si ngle individualÂ” (1). For Kierkegaard, the individual, as Swenson explicates, Â“is a synthesis between the universal and the particular,Â” and the realizati on of the structure of oneÂ’s ow n human nature is, according to Hollander, the Â“outcome of some severe inner conflict engendering infinite passion,Â” what Swenson calls Â“experience surcharged with pathosÂ” (Hollander, Â“IntroductionÂ”; Swenson, Â“Anti-IntellectualismÂ” 574). The real ization of the struct ure of oneÂ’s nature, what Kierkegaard discusses in terms of the Â“temporal and the eternal,Â” leads the individual to Â“the realizati on of his own proper human taskÂ”Â—i.e., the expression of the eternal in oneÂ’s natureÂ—the part of human nature Kierkegaard be lieves most crucially requires expression (Guignon 7). Significantl y, the profound emotiona l experience which accompanies the individual seeing his/her life as a Â“wholeÂ”Â—as a synthesis of the temporal and the eternalÂ—and th e individualÂ’s responsibility to create his/her life as Â“artÂ” by expressing the eternal in his/her nature, ar e particularly relevant to what Hemingway espouses throughout Death in the Afternoon as a Â“wholeÂ” and through his detailing of the Spanish bullfight in particular. In fact, our understanding of the multifarious depths and dimensions of Death in the Afternoon as a Â“wholeÂ”Â—what I see as HemingwayÂ’s philosophical treatise on the impact the t hought of death has on life and artÂ—can be advanced through an examination of how Hemingway puts philosophy in motion through
75 the only living art Â“that includes death as part of the spectacleÂ”Â—the art of the Spanish bullfight (Ibn ez 144). Therefore, I will, as Hemingway does in his detailing of the Spanish bullfight, present the bullfight and Hemingw ayÂ’s philosophy of death Â“integrally,Â” since as both Hemingway a nd Kierkegaard state, each part is only significant as it relates to the Â“wholeÂ” and each part, Â“if made truly,Â” as I believe Hemingway does through his detailing of the bullfight, Â“will repres ent the wholeÂ” of HemingwayÂ’s study of Death in the Afternoon ( DIA 7; 278).48 The Study of Death via the Spanish Bullfight In the opening pages of Death in the Afternoon Hemingway tells readers that he chooses Â“violent deathÂ” as the focus of his st udy because it is Â“one of the simplest things of all and the most fundamentalÂ” ( DIA 2). Hemingway suggests the simplicity of Â“violent deathÂ” is bound to the fact th at Â“[i]t has none of the emoti onal complications of death by disease, or so-called natural death, or the deat h of a friend or some one you have loved or have hated, but it is death neverthelessÂ” ( DIA 2).49 Hemingway admits that although his own life experiences have made him familiar with death, he has never been able to Â“study the death of his father or the hanging of some one, say, th at he did not know and would not have to write of immediately after for th e first edition of an afternoon newspaperÂ” 48 See GuignonÂ’s Existentialism: Basic Writings p.4 and SwensonÂ’s Â“The Anti-Intellectualism of KierkegaardÂ” for explications of KierkegaardÂ’s view of how the parts of our lives relate to our lives as a whole. 49 Although Hemingway does digress from his study of violent death, most notably in the imbedded tales in Â“The Natural History of the Dead,Â” his shift of focus to natural death, slow death and the scene of the dead after war, for example, serve to further illustrate how differing life-viewsÂ—personal, professional, and religiousÂ—cloud oneÂ’s ability to see death clearly.
76 without personal, emotional, or professional complications ( DIA 3).50 Since Hemingway himself strives to see death and the bullfight Â“clearlyÂ” and Â“as a w holeÂ”Â—that is, without emotional or professional interferenceÂ—he choos es what he sees as the simplest of all deaths to study and understand: violent death. His choice of violent death in the bullring, in particular, is twofold: one it is Â“[t]he only place where you could see life and death, i.e., violent death now that the wars were ove rÂ”; and two, the bullfight is a spectator sport in which death is a Â“fundamentalÂ” part ( DIA 2). Hemingway suggests the fundamentality of vi olent death in the bull ring is due to death being an integral part of the Spanis h bullfight, since the bullfight, taken as a Â“whole,Â” is a performance that Â“includes death as part of the spectacleÂ” (Ibn ez 144). Hemingway reinforces the persistence of deat h in the bull ring as a Â“fundamentalÂ” part of the spectacle when he tells readers that Â“there is always deathÂ” in the bullfight, that Â“there is danger for the man but certain death for the animal,Â” that in the bullfight, Â“the bull is certain to be killedÂ” ( DIA 1, 16, 20). Significantly, Hemingwa y not only calls attention to the certainty of death in the Spanish bullfight as a fundamental premise of the spectacle, but he also points to the certainty of deat h as a fundamental premise of life. Throughout Death in the Afternoon Hemingway reminds us of what is fundamental and certain in our own lives, that Â“our bodies all wear out in so me way and we die,Â” that Â“no man can avoid death by honest effort,Â” and that Â“all stories, if conti nued far enough, end in deathÂ” ( DIA 11, 122). The duality of HemingwayÂ’s vision of th e certainty of death in the bullfight and 50 Hemingway writes: Â“It might be argued that I had become callous through having observed war, or through journalism, but this would not explain other people who had never seen war, nor, literally, physical horror of any sort, nor even worked on, say, a morning newspaper, having exactly the same reactions [to what happens to the horses]Â” ( DIA 8).
77 of the certainty of death in life reveals Hemi ngwayÂ’s attempt, as John Killinger notes, Â“to reduce the problem of existence to its lowe st common denominatorÂ”Â—i.e., death and the certainty of death for all living things (21-22). But not only does Hemingway simultaneously call attention to death as a fundamental and certa in aspect of the bullfight and of life, he also emphasizes the importance of seeing the spectacle of the bullfight and of death subjectively (i.e., i ndividually). In fact, Hemingw ayÂ’s repeated emphasis on the certainty of death in the bu llfight and of the bullfight as an Â“individual experienceÂ” simultaneously points to the epistemological shift to subjectivity and to the loss of all certaintiesÂ—perceptual, moral, emotional, and religiousÂ—and reve als that Hemingway chooses to study death since it is the only certainty that remains. Death, as Hemingway puts it, is an Â“unescapable reality,Â” what Beatriz Ibn ez recognizes as Â“the only truth in a world of appearancesÂ” ( DIA 63, 266; Ibn ez 145). 51 And the Â“truthÂ” is that death, which is Â“always an individual experience,Â” is a fundamental certainty th at all living beings must consider for themselves ( DIA 63). HemingwayÂ’s Epistemology; or Â“Hemingway as KierkegaardÂ”52 The opening pages of Death in the Afternoon not only reveal that HemingwayÂ’s epistemology and authorial stance reflect that of Kierkega ard and his various pseudonymous authorsÂ’ emphasis on the importan ce that individuals become Â“subjective thinkers,Â” but they also reve al that HemingwayÂ’s epistemo logical stance, like that of 51 Emphasis mine. 52 This title is borrowed from Jacqueline BroganÂ’s article entitled, Â“ItÂ’s only interesting the first time; or Hemingway as Kierkegaard.Â”
78 Kierkegaard and his authors, is inevitably intertwined with th e study of death as a way to discover Â“truthÂ”Â—subjectively.53 As Â“subjective thinkers,Â” Hemingway and Kierkegaard reinforce the importance of individuals discovering Â“truthÂ” for themselves by constructing Â“authors,Â” narrative voices who do not claim to be Â“authoritiesÂ” but who tell readers that they, themselves, are striving to discover their own truths (i.e., what is true for them and their own lives) through studying death. Heming way, himself, privileges his own subjective epistemology, and by doing so, he not only stresses the importance of relying on oneÂ’s own powers of observation, oneÂ’s own experiences, and oneÂ’s own feelings, but he also serves to illustrate his epistemologi cal processesÂ—i.e., how he, or one, acquires knowledge subjectively. Alt hough Hemingway tells us he knows some things about the Spanish bullfight and has writ ten of and witnessed death, he also admits he has never studied it beforeÂ—the Spanish bul lfight or death. In fact, Hemingway does not claim himself an authority on the subject of the bullfight or of death: he can only Â“tell honestly the thingsÂ” he ha s Â“found trueÂ” about them ( DIA 1). Hemingway tells Â“honestlyÂ” what he has found Â“trueÂ” by shar ing his own observati ons, experiences, and feelings on the subject of death and on spectac le, the art, the cruelty, the danger and death in the Spanish bullfight. Although what has been called HemingwayÂ’s Â“memoirÂ” serves to illustrate how he, or one, comes to see the bullfight and the spectacle of death Â“clearlyÂ” 53 Kierkegaard is well-known for his use of differing pseudonymous authors in order to present his readers with differing individual life-viewsÂ—some authentic, some not. For the purpose of brevity, I will hereafter simply use Â“KierkegaardÂ” rather than engage in distinguishing between Kierkegaard and his pseudonymous authors. For a comprehensive discussion of KierkegaardÂ’s pseudonymous authors and their significance to his work, see M. Hartshorne HolmesÂ’ Kierkegaard, Godly Deceiver: The Nature and Meaning of his Pseudonymous Writings New York, Columbia UP, 1990.
79 and as a Â“whole,Â” Hemingway also emphasizes the importance that his readers do the same; that is, they must privilege their own subjectivity. He tells r eaders they must feel, not as they have been Â“taught to feel,Â” but must give credence to their own Â“reactions,Â” they must discern for themselves what they feel is Â“goodÂ” and Â“bad,Â” both morally and aesthetically, and they must reserve all judgem ents of the bullfight until Â“he, or she, has seen the things that are spoke n of and knows truly what their reactions to them would beÂ” ( DIA 1). In short, they must learn to rely on their own observations and experience and their own feelings and reactions, a nd they must create their own standardsÂ—both moral and aestheticÂ—that have meaning for their own lives. Significantly, Hemingway does not advo cate a perspectiveless subjective epistemology; in fact, the opening pages of Death in the Afternoon reveal that Hemingway employs and encourages a Â“phe nomenological approachÂ” to the study of death and the Span ish bullfight (Ibn ez 143). HemingwayÂ’s intent, as Anthony Brand accurately notes, is Â“to teach his readers how to look. His book is not a guide on how to fight a bull; it is, rath er, a guide on how to look at the bull and the bullfighter who is fighting himÂ” (Brand 169). To help readers achieve this perspectiveÂ—what Hemingway refers to as seeing Â“clearlyÂ” and as a Â“wholeÂ”Â—Hemingway does several things to Â“makeÂ” his readers, much in the same way Hemingway suggests the matador must Â“make the bullÂ” ( DIA 147).
80 HemingwayÂ’s Perspectivism: The Â“Individua l ExperienceÂ” of Death in the Bullring In the opening pages of Death in the Afternoon in particular, Hemingway addresses several aspects of th e bullfight that could complicate the readerÂ’s ability to achieve the perspective Hemingway espouses and illustrates throughout his treatise on death. In order to help readers learn to see the bullfight and the spectacle of death Â“clearlyÂ” and as a Â“whole,Â” he demands his readers experience the bullfight first-hand and advises they not view the bullfight as a bloodsport, so to speak, but as an Â“artÂ” in which death is only part, a lthough a certain part, of the spectacle. For example, Hemingway attempts to explain away the em otional interference caused by what happens to the horses in the bullri ng, and asks readers to withhol d from judging parts of the bullfight, except as they relate to the Â“wholeÂ” of the bullfight, not just as a spectacle but as an art ( DIA 1, 8-9). Hemingway himself employs th is perspective, shows readers what he sees when he is viewing the bullfight Â“clearlyÂ” and as a Â“wholeÂ” and shares the significance and meaning the bullfight and the persistence of death in the bullring has for him Significantly, HemingwayÂ’s death epistemology not only embodies the perspectivism and turn to subjectivity he advocates but reveals that HemingwayÂ’s phenomenological and subjective focus on d eath as a way to discover Â“truthÂ” is commensurate with Kierkegaardian notions of how and what one can learn from the study of death (de Madariaga 18).
81 HemingwayÂ’s epistemology and perspectivis m, like that of KierkegaardÂ’s, is bound to the study of death, not just death via the Spanish bullfight. The significance of HemingwayÂ’s epistemology of death, like that of KierkegaardÂ’s, is fourfold. First, Hemingway and Kierkegaard focus on the only universal truthÂ—the certainty of deathÂ— as the point of departure fo r their study. Second, they both stress the importance of the study of death, since it is the only certainty in life and the only truth that remains in modern times. Third, they both repeatedly ca ll attention to the study of death as an individual experience. And fourth, th ey both attempt to make the reader see death Â“clearlyÂ” and as a Â“wholeÂ” by providing ex amples of authentic and inauthentic perspectives on death. For both Hemingway a nd Kierkegaard the study of death reveals that death is the only certainty, that death is a subjective experience, and that one must see death Â“clearlyÂ” and as a Â“wholeÂ” in order fo r the study of death to have an impact on oneÂ’s life. Hemingway and Kierkegaard focu s on death because there is a universal Â“TruthÂ” to deathÂ—i.e., death is certain for a ll living beings. But death is an individual experience without universal meaning, feelings, reactions, morality, or ways to die, for example. This is the subjective aspect of th e Â“truthÂ” of death of which nothing is certain. For example, if there was a universal experien ce of death, death would be consistently the same for everyone. But since there is no equa lity in death, men can only study ways to temporarily prevent it, ease the coming of it, and learn to identify the physical signs of it; or they can speculate on it, on the best way to die, the worst, the state that is or is not afterlife; or they can moralize on it, on sin, sa lvation, and the suicide, for example. But as Kierkegaard directly addresses and Hemingway illustrates, these are all merely differing
82 and inadequate perspectives of death, wh at Kierkegaard and He mingway both denounce as inadequate perspectives or life-views of death.54 For both Hemingway and Kierkegaard, in order to learn from the study of death, one must have the proper perspective; one must learn to see deat h Â“clearlyÂ” and as a Â“whole.Â” Yet, throughout Death in the Afternoon Hemingway is not merely showing readers how to see the spectacle of death in the bullfight Â“clearly Â” and as part of the Â“wholeÂ”; instead, what Hemingway shows readers thr oughout his detailing of the Spanish bullfight is the importance of seeing their own deaths Â“clea rlyÂ” and their own lives as a Â“wholeÂ”Â—as towards-death. In order to see death Â“clearly,Â” to ha ve an Â“earnest thought of deathÂ” as Kierkegaard calls it, one must think of his/her own death and resign him/herself to the certainty of death as well as the uncertainty of when death will arrive. Because Â“[w]hen death comesÂ… meaning is at an end,Â” s eeing ownÂ’s own death Â“clearlyÂ” brings an individual to see what his/he r life would mean as a Â“wholeÂ” if it ended this very day. Through facing the certainty of death the indivi dual sees his/her end Â“clearlyÂ” and his/her life as a Â“whole,Â” but it is the thought of the uncertainty of death that gives the individualÂ’s Â“life force as nothing else doesÂ” (Kierkegaard, Â“At a GravesideÂ” 83). It is through facing oneÂ’s own certain death and uncer tain hour that the individual comes to fear the scarcity of time crea ted by the uncertain hour of death; thus death teaches the 54 Hemingway specifically calls attention to a variety of modern perspectives that are inadequate for the study of death, including Â“a Christian point of view,Â” an Â“animalarianÂ” or Â“hum anitarianÂ” perspective, and naturalistic or scientific views of death (1; 9; 133). HemingwayÂ’s perspectivism requires that we view the bullfight from varying perspectives (from different seat s in the bullring, as a spect acle, and as an art, for example), and he requires us to leave pre-conceived notions, judgments, and world-views out of our assessment of the bullfight so we can come to see the bu llfight (and death) clearly, truly, and as a whole.
83 individual Â“not to fear thos e who kill the body but to fear for himself and fear having his life in vanity, in the moment, in imagina tionÂ” (Kierkegaard, Â“At a GravesideÂ” 77). The earnest thought of death teaches earnestness in life; because time is both certainly and uncertainly limited, this thought motivates th e individual to live life bravely and fully each and every day since every day may be the day death will come. Like Kierkegaard, Hemingway sees facing deathÂ—f acing the certainty of oneÂ’s own death as well as the uncertain moment of deathÂ’s arri valÂ—as integral to Â“see life and deathÂ” Â“clearlyÂ” and as a Â“wholeÂ” ( DIA 3). For Hemingway, the bullring provi des the perfect arena in which the impact of facing the certainty and uncertainty of death can be obs erved, experienced, and studied. In fact, the Spanish bullfight itself not only point s to the certainty of deathÂ— death only being part of the spectacle of the bullfightÂ—but to the uncertainty of the moment when and circumstances under which d eath will become part of the spectacle. Yet, it is not just through the Spanish bu llfight and the specta cle of death that Hemingway puts his philosophy of death in motion; Hemingway, in fact, provides a living example through his detailing of th e matadors of Spain who literally face the certainty and uncertainty of death in the bullring on almost a daily basis. The Matador-Artist and Artistic Failures: Pundonor and Cowardice in the Face of Death Because the Spanish bullfight is the only liv ing art that Â“includes death as part of the spectacle,Â” it is also the only art in which the artistÂ’s creation of his art is, in part,
84 bound to how he faces death in the bullring (Ibn ez 144). Thus, for Hemingway the matadors of Spain do not only serve as a liv ing illustration of how facing death with courage has an impact on the life and art of the matador, but also, and more often, serve to illustrate how matadors fail to create art due to cowardice and fear when facing the bull and possible death in the bullring. In fact Hemingway describes a number of matadors and their reaction to the dange r of death in the bullring, so me earnest, some not. Some fear the bull, some fear gor ing, some fear death, some, Hemingway writes, Â“started as though they might be good matadors and end in varying degrees of failure and tragedyÂ” ( DIA 224). Significantly, at the time Hemingway writes Death in the Afternoon he feels that the majority of bullfighters in Spain ar e artistic failures. Hemingway writes: Â“Of the seven-hundred and sixty-some unsuccessful bullf ighters still attempting to practice their art in Spain,Â” the Â“brave onesÂ” fail through Â“lack of talentÂ” and the ones with skill fail because of Â“fearÂ” ( DIA 227). Hemingway does briefly not e matadors who use Â“tricksÂ” to compensate for their lack of artistic ability and those who Â“lack ar tistic abilityÂ” entirely, but he gives much more atten tion to those who fail artistically due to uncontrollable fear in the face of death. Although Hemingway, himself, admits th at his own nervesÂ—even after a few drinksÂ—failed him in the bullring, the matador, a highly paid professional, is expected to face the bull, possible goring, and possible deat h in the bull ring with courage and honor; he is expected to have the c ourage necessary to work closely with the bull and thus create what Hemingway calls Â“sculptura l artÂ” through his performance. 55 Because in the Spanish bullfight Â“the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighterÂ’s 55 See DIA p. 172.
85 honor,Â” the matadorÂ’s honor, Hemingway tells us, Â“is as necessary to a bullfight as good bullsÂ” ( DIA 92). Although a bullfighter, Hemingway writes, Â“is excused for bad work if the bull is very difficult,Â” it is a matter of Â“ pundonor,Â” or honor, for a bullfighter to do the best work he can with every bull ( DIA 91). In short, this m eans that the matadorÂ’s performanceÂ—regardless of the responsivene ss of the bullÂ—is judged by how he reacts to the danger of death in the bullring. But because the bullfight is a living art, Â“the only art in which the artist is in danger of death,Â” a matadorÂ’s performance is also gauged by his effort and ability to create art while faci ng death. For Hemingway, the matadors of Spain not only provide a living illustration of pundonor but also serve to illustrate what Kierkegaard himself discusses as the connection between th e earnest thought of oneÂ’s own death and the creation of art; that is, how one faces death determines their ability to create art. Therefore, just as Hemingway emphasizes how facing death in the bullring with pundonor is essential to the matadorÂ’s creation of art, what Kierke gaard envisions as the earnest thought of death is essential for the individual to create his/her life and work as Â“art.Â” Because of the Â“constant danger of deathÂ” for the matador in the bullring, through his study of the Spanish bullf ight and the matadors of Spain, Hemingway not only finds an equivalent for what Kierkegaard characte rizes as Â“earnestnessÂ” in the SpaniardÂ’s conception of pundonor but he also finds an equivalent for what Kierkegaard discusses as inauthentic perspectives or Â“moodsÂ” to wards death in the various displays of cowardice in the bull ring ( DIA 166, 91; Â“At a GravesideÂ” 74-75). Where Hemingway tells us that Â“it is a matte r of pundonor not to show cowardice,Â” Kierkegaard describes
86 cowardice as the binding characteristic at the root of most inauthentic moods towards the thought of oneÂ’s own death that are not earnest Of the moods towards death Kierkegaard illustrates and describes as not being earnest Â—emotional interference, depression, fear, inclinations toward suicide, viewing death as a relief, refusing to acknowledge death existsÂ—a lack of courage in facing oneÂ’ s own certain death is the most common characteristic. Similarly, HemingwayÂ’s deta iling of the Â“fake me ssiahsÂ” and artistic failures who fail to actualize pundonor in the bull ring reveals th at a lack of courage in facing the possibility of their own death is the most prevalent reason. Throughout Death in the Afternoon Hemingway exposes and denounces matadorian tricks and nervedÂ–up courage in th e bull ring and presents individual portraits of failed matadors and Â“fake messiahs,Â” mata dors whose cowardice and fear in the face of death is, for Hemingway, a disgrace. Matado rs such as Rafael El Gallo who Â“never admitted the idea of death andÂ…would not even go in to look at Joselito in the chapel after he was killedÂ” is among t hose whose fear of death is so pronounced that they refuse to think about death at all; they, as Kierke gaard advises against, completely ignore the existence of death ( DIA 159). Matadors such as Chicue lo and La Rosa, who witnessed and could never Â“completely forget the death of Joselito and of Granero,Â” became even more frightened of the bull, of goring, and of death, what Kierke gaard describes as a Â“fear of those who kill the body,Â” which is not an earnest fear of death ( DIA 74, 243; Â“At a GravesideÂ” 77).56 Although Kierkegaard does not explici tly address physical displays of cowardice in his distinctions between earnestness and moods Hemingway discusses 56 Significantly, for Kierkegaard, Â“to witness the death of anotherÂ” and not think of oneÂ’s own death is a mood (75).
87 matadors whose fear of death is so pronounced th at it is visible in the bull ring. He writes of Domingo Hernandorena, a matador who Â“c ould not control the nervousness of his feetÂ” and describes one bullfight in particular in which Hern andorena, in an effort to control his feet, Â“dropped to both kneesÂ” and was gored severely ( DIA 1718). Although Hemingway tells us that Â“[t]o be goredÂ” is Â“honorable,Â” Hernandorena received no sympathy from the spectators because everyone knows, Hemingway writes, Â“[t]he knees are for cowardsÂ” ( DIA 19). Hemingway also writes of Cagancho, a matador who is Â“subject to fits of cowardice, altogether w ithout integrity, who violates all the rules, written, and unwritten, for th e conduct of a matadorÂ” ( DIA 13). According to Hemingway, CaganchoÂ’s Â“cynical cowardiceÂ” at the moment of killing is Â“the most disgusting negation of bullfighting that can be seen; worse even than the panic of Nino de la Palma,Â” whose panic, Hemingway writes, is Â“cowardice in its least attractive formÂ” ( DIA 88, 250). On the other hand, when Cagancho is confident, Hemingway writes, he Â“could serve as a model and illustration of perfection in artistic bullfightingÂ” ( DIA 250). But, Hemingway continues, Cagancho Â“only pe rformsÂ…if he is certain that there is no dangerÂ….He does not take chances. He must be certain in his own mind that danger,Â” or death, Â“does not existÂ” ( DIA 250). In short, he avoids da nger and death, as well as the thought of his own death, a cowardly mood Kierkegaard describes as fear that prevents one from living life fully. As Hemingway himself admits, courage when facing possible death is difficult enough, but what further complicates facing death in the bullring is the Â“necessity of physical courage to face wounding and possibl e death after the wounding has become a
88 reality through its first experienceÂ” ( DIA 88). 57 Thus Hemingway describes matadors who, after their first goring, regardless of th eir previous displays of courage in the bullring, were unable to continue to create their Â“artÂ” in the fa ce of death due to a fear of that which Â“kills the bodyÂ”Â—the bull (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 77). Hemingway writes of matadors such as Julian Saiz who, after hi s first goring, became Â“the embodiement of caution and safety before all thingsÂ” ( DIA 75). Juan Luis de la Rosa, for example, Â“was gored once, frightened forever, and quickly disappeared from circulationÂ” and Manuel Jiminez aka Chicuelo, Hemingway writes, Â“was wonderful until he was first touched by a bullÂ” but then was Â“utterly cowardly if the bull offered any difficultiesÂ” ( DIA 75-76).58 Since Â“[a]ll matadors,Â” Hemingway tells us, Â“a re gored dangerously, painfully, and very close to fatally, sooner or later, in their car eers,Â” it is not Â“until a matador has undergone this first severe woundÂ” that one can discern whether a matador is truly brave and thus be able to determine Â“what his permanen t valueÂ” as a bullfighter will be ( DIA 166). Such is the case, Hemingway tells us, with Nino de la Palma aka Cayetano Ordonez, who Â“in his first season as a matadorÂ… looked like the messi ah who had come to save bullfighting if ever any one didÂ” ( DIA 88). But then Â“he was gored seve rely and painfully in the thigh very near the femoral arteryÂ” ( DIA 88-89). Because of this near-death experience, That was the end of himÂ…. He could hard ly look at a bull. His fright as he had to go in to kill was painful to see and he spent the whole season assassinating bulls in the way that offered him least dangerÂ…. It was the 57 See DIA p. 172 for HemingwayÂ’s discussion of his own attempts at bullfighting. 58 Although Chicuelo, according to Hemingway, could occasi onally nerve himself up to perform close to the bull, his performances became one Â“of the saddest exhibitions of cowardice and shamelessness it would be possible to seeÂ” ( DIA 76).
89 most shameful season any matador ha d ever had up until that year in bullfighting. What had happened was that the horn wound, the first real goring, had taken all his valor. He never got it back. He had too much imagination. ( DIA 89-90) Significantly, HemingwayÂ’s descriptions of Ordonez as having Â“too much imaginationÂ” is illuminated by KierkegaardÂ’s view that Â“d eath is indeed not a monster except for the imaginationÂ” (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 94). Kierkega ard explains that by practicing the earnest thought of death, one learned not to shudder at phantoms and human inventions but at the responsibility of death, now learned not to fear t hose who kill the body but to fear for himself and fear having hi s life in vanity, in the moment, in imagination. (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 77) Throughout his portraits of faile d matadors, Hemingway simultaneously explains what is considered to be improper conduct in the bullring and illustrates what Kierkegaard characterizes and explic ates as inauthentic moods towards the thought of death. Like Kierkegaard, Hemingway presents his readers with a variety of inauthentic perspectives or moods towards death to help readers discern what pundonor Â—or earnestness Â—is by showing what it is not. Signifi cantly, what these matadors serve to illustrate is how a lack of courage in facing the certainty and uncertain ty of oneÂ’s own death has an impact on an individualÂ’s ability to create art. Conversely, through HemingwayÂ’s portraits of matadors such as Belmonte, Joselito, and Maera, He mingway not only illustrates the importance of courage to the creation of art in th e bullring, but through these matadors he
90 simultaneously describes and il lustrates the importance of pundonor what Kierkegaard discusses as earnestness in the face of death. Â“In Spain,Â” Hemingway tells us, Â“honor is a very real th ing. Called pundonor, it means honor, probity, courage, self-r espect and pride in one wordÂ” ( DIA 91). Significantly, Hemingway shows us throughout Death in the Afternoon that courage in the bull ring is essential to pundonor as a Â“wholeÂ” and essential to each Â“partÂ” that comprises the concept of pundonor For example, Hemingway suggests that courage is an essential part of pride: Â“Pri de,Â” Hemingway writes, Â“is the strongest charact eristic of the race and it is a matter of pundonor not to show cowardiceÂ” ( DIA 91).59 In the name of pride and self-respect, a matador, Hemingway tells us, should never run from the bull like El Gallo does; he should control his nerves, especially his feet, something Nino de la Palma and Domingo Hernanando are unable to do ( DIA 157, 250, 18-19). Hemingway also suggests that courage is essential to th e matadorÂ’s probity in the bull ring. It takes courage for a matador to adhere to the highest principles and ideals of the bullfight: he should not use Â“tricksÂ” to make it appear th at he works close to the bull as Hemingway tell us Alfred Corrachano is known to do ( DIA 230). In fact, it is a lack of courage that precipitates a matadorÂ’s use of Â“tricksÂ” in the bull ring. Courage is necessary for a 59 It is important to distinguish between HemingwayÂ’s conception of the term Â“prideÂ” and KierkegaardÂ’s conception of Â“prideÂ” as manÂ’s greatest sin. Even though the Spanish bullfight (and San Fermin, in particular) has religious significance in Spain, Hemingw ay presents a secularized version of the experience of the bullfight and of the experience of seeing oneÂ’s own death. For Hemingway, the bullfight has an Â“emotional and spiritual intensityÂ” and is Â“ as profound as any religious ecstacy,Â” although it does not hold any religious value for Hemingway ( emphasis mine; DIA 207, 68). Further, HemingwayÂ’s use of the word Â“prideÂ”suggests a Â“consciousness of what befits, is due to, or is worthy of oneself or oneÂ’s positionÂ”; it is self-respect or self-esteem Â“of a legitimate or health y kind or degreeÂ” (OED). HemingwayÂ’s use of Â“prideÂ” could refer to Â“vitality, mettle, or spirit,Â” although this now rare use of the term re fers to animals (OED). In the context of the bullfight and HemingwayÂ’s discussion of death, it seems that Â“prideÂ” refers to a respect for oneÂ’s own life: to have pride in oneself is to cher ish or value oneÂ’s life, oneÂ’ s vitality, and oneÂ’s creative spirit. This is quite different from the sense of the word in KierkegaardÂ’s canon of works.
91 matador to give an honest, true, and sincere performance, one without faked or tricked passes that make him appear to work close to the bull or make a bad kill look clean as Hemingway tells us Vincente Barrera does ( DIA 248-249). Courage is essential for a matador to be able to kill cleanly and pr operly, going in over the bullÂ’s horns as a matador is expected to do. Further, Hemingw ay suggests that courage is essential to honor when he writes: Â“Once it [cowardice] has been shown, truly and unmistakably shown, honor is goneÂ” ( DIA 91). In order to have honor in the bullring, a matador should conduct himself in the manner befitting a mata dor and observe the rules of the bullfight. In short, a matador must have courage in th e face of death to observe those rules, unlike Bienvenida and Cagancho, who, Hemingway tells us, Â“make no pretense of observing the rules of killingÂ” ( DIA 249). In terms of respect for onese lf, a lack of courage reveals a lack of confidence in oneÂ’s own abilities. It is a matter of self-respect and pride for a matador to attempt to perform his best ev ery time, but this also takes courage. Because, as Hemingway tells us, Â“the func tion of bravery in the bullfightÂ… should be a quality whose pres ence permits the fighter to pe rform all acts he chooses to attempt unhampered by apprehension,Â” we see th at courage in the bullr ing is as necessary as pundonor or honor, in the bull ring ( DIA 94). To have the cour age to perform without apprehension, this means that the matador does not fear the bull, gori ng, or the possibility of death. He does not use Â“tricksÂ” because he has the courage to perform close to danger. His pride, his honor, and his self-respect de mand that he maintain his courage through every moment and every fight. Because one must have courage to actualize pundonor in the bullring, pundonor like earnestness is actualized through how one faces deathÂ—with
92 pundonor honor, and courage, or as a coward. In fact, Hemingway tells us that once Â“a bullfighter can no longer be calm and put dange r away after the fight once starts, can no longer see the bull come calmly, without having to nerve himself, then he is through as a successful bullfighterÂ” ( DIA 167). Thus we not only see what the function of bravery or courage is in the bullfight, but also see that courage is the binding characteristic of pundonor, and what Hemingway describes as the parts of pundonor are all represented by the Â“wholeÂ” of the concept, the Â“whol eÂ” bound together by the necessity of the matadorÂ’s courage in the face of death. Hemingway shows us through his portrait s of failed matadors that cowardice in the face of death is often quite visible in the bull ring, but Hemingway also presents matadors who have faced death with pundonor and have thus allowed the thought of death Â“to penetrateÂ” their lives, Â“transform it,Â” and have a positive impact on their lives and art, something that Hemingway both tells and shows us is visible in the bullring (Kierkegaard, Â“At a GravesideÂ” 98 ). Joselito, Belmonte, and Maera, who are all known to work closely with the bull and to kill cl eanly and properly without apprehension, even after repeated goring, serve as living illustrations of how facing death with pundonor has a positive impact on oneÂ’s life and art. In terms of the actualization of pundonor in the bull ring, Hemingway presents Belmonte and Joselito, who according to He mingwayÂ’s standards were two of the greatest bullfighters in the history of bullfighting. Both worked closely with the bull, so close that they mark the transition from the original bullfight to the modern one;60 both 60 Because Belmonte and Joselito worked so closely to the bull, bulls were bred down in size. They could do more and Â“finer things with these smaller, easier bullsÂ” ( DIA 69-70).
93 always attempted to kill cleanly and honestly ; both were repeatedly gored, but their performances were not effected negatively; both continued to produce emotion and both continued to create their Â“artÂ” in the face of death.61 But both Belmonte and Joselito embody what Hemingway defines as pundonor Belmonte, Hemingway writes, Â“was a genius,Â” who could Â“break th e rules of bullfightingÂ” ( DIA 68-69). Â“The way Belmonte worked,Â” Hemingway writes, Â“was not a heritage, nor a development; it was a revolutionÂ” ( DIA 69). Joselito was a Â“geniusÂ” who Â“ lived for bullfightingÂ” and because all of the bulls Joselito fought were easy for him, his pride, his pundonor required that he Â“make his own difficultiesÂ” ( DIA 69-70). Although Hemingway lauds Belmonte and Joselito as great artists who have gone Â“b eyond what has been done or knownÂ” to make something of their own and who repeatedly pr ove their commitment to their art by always doing their best, Hemingway dedicates much more spac e to the evolution of Maera from banderillero to matador, a description through which Hemingway most directly illustrates what it means to have pundonor or earnestness in the face of death ( DIA 99-100; Kierkegaard, Â“At a GravesideÂ” 83). Through HemingwayÂ’s description of Maer a, in particular, Hemingway provides a living illustration of how facing death with pundonor or earnestness has an impact on the life and art of the individual. Like Be lmonte and Joselito, MaeraÂ’s performances in the bull ring reveal that he embodi es what Hemingway discusses as pundonor Hemingway tells us that Maer a was intelligent, Â“naturally brave,Â” and Â“very proudÂ… the proudest manÂ” Hemingway claims he had ever seen ( DIA 77-78). He had Â“a valor that 61 Belmonte was known to be gored numerous times a year, yet Â“none of his wounds had any effect on his courage, his passion for bullfighting, nor his reflexesÂ” ( DIA 167). Joselito, Hemingway tells us, Â“was only gored badly three times and killed fifteen hundred and fifty-seven bullsÂ” ( DIA 167).
94 was so absoluteÂ” that it was Â“solid part of himÂ” ( DIA 78). Significantly, Hemingway tells us that not only was Maera one of the best banderillos Hemingway had ever seen, but he became one of the best matadors, as well. Even after being gored severely in the neck, Maera, Hemingway tells us, was back in the bull ring fighting the next day ( DIA 79).62 During another performance in which Maera broke his wrist attempting to kill cleanly and properly, Maera, Hemingway notes, con tinued to attempt the kill numerous times because Â“his honor demandedÂ” he finish the fi ght and kill his bull Â“high up between the shouldersÂ” as a matador should; and he did ( DIA 81). Through HemingwayÂ’s description of Maera, Hemingway suggests that MaeraÂ’s embodiment of pundonor was evident in his work as a ba nderillo and after a few years as a matadorÂ—after correcting his flaws and im proving his styleÂ—Maera became Â“an artistÂ” ( DIA 79). Maera, Hemingway writes, Â“went to the bullsÂ” with out apprehension: Â“arrogant, dominating and disreg arding dangerÂ” and t hus always Â“gave emotionÂ” to the spectators ( DIA 79). In fact, Hemingway writes that Maera was so brave that he shamed those st ylists who were not and bullfighting was so important and so wonderful to him that, in his last year, his presence in the ring raised the whole thing from the least effort, get-richquick, wait-for-the-mechanical bull ba sis it had fallen to, and, while he was in the ring, it again had dignity and passion. Â… 62 The wound in MaeraÂ’s neck, Hemingway tells us, Â“was closed with eight stitchesÂ…[h]is neck was stiff and he was furious. He was furious at the stiffness he could do nothing about and the fact that he had to wear a bandage that showed above his collarÂ” ( DIA 79).
95 But all the last year he fought you c ould see he was going to dieÂ….but he paid no attention to the pain. He act ed as though it were not thereÂ….he ignored it. He was a long way beyond pain. I never saw a man to whom time seemed so short as it did to him that season. ( DIA 78-79) Hemingway adds, Â“I thought that year he hoped for death in the ring but he would not cheat by looking for itÂ” (DIA 82). He would not Â“cheat,Â” as Hemingway puts it, because to long for death, to think death is a relief from suffering, from pain, from life, this is not earnestness Â—this is a mood As Kierkegaard puts it, Â“it is an indulgent lethargy that wants to go to bedÂ—that is, indulgently wants to sleep itself into c onsolation, indulgently wants to sleep itself away from sufferingÂ” (Â“At a GravsideÂ” 81). Even though during his Â“last six months of life he was very bitt erÂ” because Â“he knew he had tuberculosis,Â” Hemingway tells us that in these last six months Maera Â“lived with much passion and enjoymentÂ” because Â“bullfighting was so important and so wonderful to himÂ” and because Â“[h]e loved to kill bullsÂ” ( DIA 82). Although Maera Â“took absolutely no care of himselfÂ” after being diagnosed with tuberculosis, Hemingway at tributes this to the fact that Maera had Â“no fear of deathÂ”; Â“he prefer red to burn out, not as an act of bravado, but from choiceÂ” ( DIA 82-83). Significantly, MaeraÂ’s co mmitment to living his life with passion and intensity, his commitment to the bu llfight and to his Â“art, Â” and his decision to create his Â“artÂ” until death comes for him, reveals how his pundonor or earnestness in the face of death had an impact on and transforme d his life as well as his ability to create Â“art.Â” In fact, Maera illustra tes what Kierkegaard describes as the impact the earnest thought of death has on an i ndividualÂ’s life and art. As Kierkegaard puts it:
96 Death in earnest gives life force as no thing else does; it makes one alert as nothing else doesÂ….the t hought of death gives the earnest person the right momentum in life and the right goa l toward which he directs his momentumÂ…. Then earnestness grasps th e present this very day, disdains no task as too insignificant rejects no time as too short, works with all its mightÂ… (Kierkegaard, Â“At a GravesideÂ” 83) Through HemingwayÂ’s depiction of Maera, we see a matador who, through facing death earnestly or with pundonor experiences a constant renewa l of his urgency to live life fully each and every day Through Maera Hemingway suggests what one can learn from the study of death: how the earnest thought of death can come to transform the life and art of the earnest individual. Like pundonor it takes courage for an individual to see his/her death clearly and to think of oneÂ’s own certain death and un certain hour. It takes courage to recognize the possible scarcity of time the individual has to make a commitment to his/her life, work, and art a nd to do his/her very best every day. And it takes courage to face oneÂ’s own death again and again and renew oneÂ’s commitment to life and art on almost a daily basis. Signi ficantly, it is through the study of death the earnest individual learns that the Â“a rt of dyingÂ” is inevitably in tertwined with the Â“art of livingÂ” Kierkegaard and Hemingway espouse. As Kierkegaard puts it, Â“To die is indeed the lot of every human being and thus is a very mediocre art, but to be able to die well is indeed the highest wisdom of lifeÂ” (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 76). To die well is to anticipate oneÂ’s own death, to see oneÂ’s own death Â“cle arlyÂ” and oneÂ’s own lif e as a Â“whole,Â” and to allow the thought and experience of oneÂ’s own death to have a positive impact on how
97 one lives life; it motivates the individual to cr eate his/her life and work as Â“artÂ” each and every day. It is through HemingwayÂ’s detailing of the matadors of Spain that Hemingway shows us that it is how a matador faces the possibility of death in the bull ring that determines whether or not he will be able to create Â“art.Â” If he faces the certainty and uncertainty of death earnestly or with pundonor he not only experiences what Hemingway refers to as Â“the feeling of life and d eath,Â” but by working close to the bull he gives this feeling to his audience. Si gnificantly, the profound emotional experience produced by a man, a bull, and a piece of cl oth, what Hemingway de scribes as being Â“as profound as any religious ecstacy,Â” recalls the emotional and spiritual intensity Kierkegaard describes as accompanying the earnest though of death. For Hemingway, the bullfight, taken as a Â“whole, Â” is not merely a Â“living artÂ” but a living illustration of the process of Â“becomingÂ” in which a matador faces the certainty a nd the uncertainty of death and strives to capture and conve y the profound emotional experience that accompanies facing death earnestly or with pundonor a Â“performanceÂ” he attempts to repeat on almost a daily basis. The Â“feeling of life and death and mortality and immortality,Â” and the Â“moment of truthÂ” in the Spanish Bullfight63 How a matador faces death in the bull ring determines the emotional experience of the bullfight: if he faces death with pundonor or earnestness, the matador-artist goes 63 See DIA p. 1 and p. 68
98 beyond the individual emotional ex perience and gives this emo tion to his audience. This emotional experience, what Kierkegaard describes as accompanying the earnest thought of death, is bound to the earnest individualÂ’s re alization that a Â“self,Â” as Charles Guignon puts it, Â“is a tension between the finite and the infiniteÂ…the tempor al and the eternal,Â” what Hemingway translates as Â“the feeli ng of life and deathÂ” of Â“mortality and immoralityÂ” that the matador-artist produces when he works closely with the bull. KierkegaardÂ’s description of what it means to face death earnestly suggests the individualÂ’s realization th at his/her Â“selfÂ” is a te nsion between life and death. Kierkegaard writes: Â“Earnestne ss is that you think death, a nd that you are thinking it as your lot, and that you are then doing what d eath is indeed unable to doÂ—namely, that you are and death also isÂ” (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 75). It is through facing the certainty and uncertainty of oneÂ’s own death an individua l comes to realize his/her nature as a synthesis of life and death, of the finite and the infinite, of the temporal and the eternal. Kierkegaard explains the temporal aspect of an indi vidualÂ’s life as signifying the separate moments of his/her life, what Hemingway di scusses in terms of the Â“partsÂ” of the bullfight experience; th e eternal, on the other hand, Â“si gnifies the overarching unityÂ” or Â“whole,Â” which Â“has the potential of providing the separate mo ments of our lives with the kind of meaning and significance they lack without this unityÂ” (Guignon 4). Because there is always tension between the temporal and eternal in an individualÂ’s life, the expression of the eternal in oneÂ’s nature is not only difficult but Â“it comes only with a struggleÂ” (Guignon 7). In the bullfight, this strugg le, this tension, is literal, the bullfight serving as a living illustration of individuals who are caught up in this tension and who
99 attempt to express the eternal through their commitment to the creation of their Â“art.Â” Thus, for Hemingway, the expression of the eter nal, the expression of this unity, is found in the emotional experience of the bullfight at the Â“moment of trut h,Â” the moment when life and death, mortality and immortality, the temporal and eternal exist simultaneously for the audience to see. What Hemingway refers to as the em otional experience of the bullfight, an Â“ecstacy,Â” Hemingway writes, that is Â“as prof ound as any religious ecstacy,Â” recalls the emotional and spiritual intensity Kierkegaar d discusses as accompanying the Â“earnest thought of death,Â” an emotional experience Hemingway describes as occuring at Â“the moment of truthÂ” ( DIA 68). Although Hemingway does di stinguish between the Â“original moment of truthÂ”Â—the moment of Â“the final sword thru st, the actual encounter between the man and the animalÂ”Â—and Â“the mode rn moment of truthÂ”Â—the faenaÂ—his descriptions of the emotional intensity produ ced at these moments are consistent. In both instances, it is the Â“feeling of life and death and mortality and immortalityÂ” that the matador experiences and then gives to the crowd ( DIA 4). In the original moment of truth, Â“the beauty of the moment of killing,Â” Hemingway tells us, Â“is that flash when man and bull form one figure as the sword goes all the way in, the man leaning after it, death uniting the two figures in the emotional, aesthetic and artistic climax of the fight. That flash never comes in the skillful administering of a half a blade to the bullÂ” ( DIA 247).64 Although Hemingway suggests the union or synthesis of the two figuresÂ— and of the temporal and the eternalÂ—many critics continue to focus on the kill in the bul lfight not as a combin ation of Â“mortality and 64 Emphasis mine.
100 immortality,Â” of creation coming from de struction, of life be ing motivated by the earnest thought and experience of death but as lack ing any value beyond cruelty and violence. Although critics persist in interpreting Hemingway intense inte rest in the art of killing in the bullfight in term s of senseless violence, destruc tion, defiance against death, and a display of manÂ’s power over deathÂ—as an Â“art Â” it is necessarily creative, as well. Facing death is creative for the ma tador just as facing death earnestly is a creative force in the individualÂ’s life in terms of motivatio n, meaning, and purpose. What Hemingway attempts to convey is not a rebellion ag ainst deathÂ—that is antithetical to his philosophyÂ—but a oneness with deat h, one that is found in the emotional intensity of the bullfight. The modern Â“moment of tr uth,Â” on the other hand, a lthough it occurs before the moment of killing, evokes the same emoti onal experience from the matador and the audience. In fact, Hemingway tell us, that Â“I t is impossible to believe the emotional and spiritual intensity and pure, cl assic beauty that can be produc ed by a man, an animal and a piece of scarlet serge dr aper over a stickÂ” ( DIA 207). The modern Â“moment of truthÂ”Â— the faena Â—Hemingway writes, Â“takes a man out of himself and makes him feel immortal while it is proceedingÂ…gives him an ecstasy, that is, while momentary, as profound as any religious ecstasy, moving all the people in the ring together and increasing in emotional intensity as it proceedsÂ” ( DIA 206).65 Through this description, Hemingway suggest that during the faena just as during the moment of killing, the emotional 65 Hemingway also writes the following of the faena: Â“Now the essence of the greatest emotional appeal of bullfighting is the feeling of immortality that the bullfig hter feels in the middle of a great faena and that he gives to the spectatorsÂ” ( DIA 213).
101 experience is bound to the matadorÂ’s expression of the eternal thr ough his Â“art.Â” Further, Hemingway writes: He is performing a work of art and he is playing with death, bringing it closer, closer, closer, to himself, a death that you know is in the horns because you have the canvas-covered bodies of the horses on the sand to prove it. He gives the feeling of his immortality, and, as you watch it, it becomes yours. Then when it belongs to both of you, he proves it with the sword. ( DIA 213) To think death and think of it as your ownÂ—this is earnestness (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 75). This is what Hemingway suggests when he wr ites that Â“the feeling of immoralityÂ” the matador creates Â“becomes yoursÂ” ( DIA 213). Thus we see that what Hemingway not only attempts to show his readers how to see the bullfight, but like Kierkegaard, he attempts to show readers how to come to see their own death earnestly Hemingway attempts to actualize what Kierkegaard requests of his readers when he writes: Â…if you, my listener, will fix your attention on this thought [of death] and concern yourself in no other way with the consideration than to think about yourself, then this unauthorized discourse will become an earnest matter also with you. To think of oneself as dead is earnestness; to be a witness to the death of anothe r is mood. (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 75) Hemingway intends for his reader to come to understand the nature of pundonor and earnestness for their own lives, and it is thr ough HemingwayÂ’s desc ription of how a matador gives Â“the feeling of immortalityÂ”Â— i.e. expresses the eternal in his nature
102 though his creation of artÂ—that Hemi ngway not only illustrates what earnestness in the face of death is, but shows how the earnest thought of death Â“motiv atesÂ” oneÂ’s life. What HemingwayÂ’s desriptions of the Spanish bu llfight reveal is HemingwayÂ’s conscious merging of image (the bullfight) and philosophy (of life and death), a complex philosophic subjective correlative that shar es the necessity of repetition of oneÂ’s commitment to oneÂ’s life, oneÂ’s work, and to oneÂ’s art. This philosophy focuses on the individual emotional experience that accomp anies the Â“earnest thought of death,Â” an emotion the matador produces, gives to his spectators, and proves his earnestness (i.e., proves his commitment to his art) by working close to the bull, by controlling his nervousness, his feet, and his fear, and by repeating his performance in earnest on almost a daily basis. The Ritual and Repetit ion of the Bullfight The significance of the ritual and repeti tion of the bullfight in terms of the matadorÂ’s actualization of pundonor or earnestness in the bullring is two-fold. First, Hemingway tells us that it is repetition within the bullfight that ma kes a bullfighter and an artist when he writes of a pass called Â“the naturalÂ” ( DIA 208). The natural, Hemingway writes, is Â“the most dangerous to make and the most beautiful to seeÂ” ( DIA 208). Hemingway tells us that it takes courage, serenity, and great ability to perform this pass and that Â“repeating this [pa ss] three or four or five tim es takes a bullfighter and an artistÂ” ( DIA 209). Second, Hemingway tells us that it is the repetition of the matadorsÂ’
103 performanceÂ—on an almost daily basisÂ—that shows a matadorÂ’s repeated and renewed commitment to his art when he writes of the matadorÂ’s Â“detachmentÂ” ( DIA 56). Hemingway writes: The matador, from living every day with death, becomes very detached, the measure of his detachment of cour se is the measure of his imagination and always of the day of the fight an d finally during the whole end of the season, there is a detached something in their minds that you can almost see. What is there is death and you cannot deal in it each day and know each day there is a chance of receivi ng it without having it make a very plain mark. It makes this mark on everyone. ( DIA 56) This Â“detached something in their minds,Â” He mingway tells us, is Â“death.Â” The Â“detached somethingÂ” Hemingway Â“can almost seeÂ” in the matador comes from the matadorÂ’s knowledge that Â“each day there is a chance of receiving it [death]Â” ( DIA 56). Significantly, what Kierkegaard discusses as faith or repetition Â“combines psychological detachment with acceptanceÂ” (Guignon 16). This means that an individual recognizes and accepts the paradox of existenceÂ—that is, his/he r existence as a unity of the temporal and the eternalÂ—and understands that he/she must repeatedly face death, must repeatedly commit him/herself to life, work, and/or art fo r death to have an impact on life each day. Although the matador proves his earnestness and his art, for example, at Â“the moment of truth,Â” to actualize earnestness or pundonor for oneÂ’s Â“wholeÂ” life requires repetition. The matadorÂ’s life and art Â“acquire retroactive powerÂ” through repetition, through a repeated commitment to his work, hi s art (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 97). Significantly,
104 the ritual and repetition of th e bullfight requires that the matador literally repeat his performance on almost a daily basis; he must repeatedly face his own death. John Killinger reveals his own recognition of the si gnificance of repetition in terms of the bullfight when he writes: Â“For both Hemingway and the ex istentialists, the choice is never made finally, but must be made again and again, as if it had never been made beforeÂ” (98). HemingwayÂ’s description of MaeraÂ’ s repeated attempt to kill his bull with a broken wrist, for example, suggests that it is through repetition that an individual actualizes the Â“wholeÂ” of his/her life by repe ating his/her commitment to life and art, living and trying oneÂ’s best Â“This very day!Â” and everyday (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 83). HemingwayÂ’s Manifesto on the Â“Art of LivingÂ” Earnestly Although decades of Hemingway critics agr ee that the bu llfight is HemingwayÂ’s correlative for art, writing, and how to live life, that is just the tip of the ice-berg. Just below the surface, the characteristics Hemingw ay finds most admirable in the matador reveals that what has been called Heming wayÂ’s Â“ruling philosophyÂ” of how we should live in this world is akin to that of KierkegaardÂ’s (Broer, Spanish Tragedy 55). In fact, even HemingwayÂ’s method of dissemination, like th at of KierkegaardÂ’s, forces readers to wade through examples of cowardly beha vior, tricked emotion, and false posturings toward the thought of death, which forces the r eader to search the text and him/herself to more accurately discern the nature of earnestness for his/her own life. In fact, throughout Death in the Afternoon Hemingway, as Anthony Brand aptly notes, Â“gives us
105 representative images of both good and bad bu llfighting to support, illustrate, and expand his exposition,Â” yet what Brand refers to as HemingwayÂ’s Â“expositionÂ” on the Spanish bullfight serves as more than a Â“guide on how to look at the bull and the bullfighter who is fighting himÂ” (169). It serves as a guide on how to distinguish between earnestness and cowardice in the face of death, between real emotion and Â“tricks,Â” between artists and Â“fake messiahsÂ” ( DIA 86). Under the guise of a guide to Spain and the Spanish bullfight, Hemingway serves as guide for his gene ration beyond how Wayne Kvam envisions Hemingway Â“as a guideÂ…for writing, bullfi ghting, boxing, a job ethic, or simply achieving a sense of humorÂ” (29). Although Hemi ngway does, in fact, serve as a guide for his generation in all of these capacities, in Death in the Afternoon Hemingway serves as a guide on how and what one can learn a bout actualizing oneÂ’s life and art from the study of death via the Spanish bullfight. In fact, HemingwayÂ’s emphasis on the individual experience of the bullfight is reinforced by Kier kegaardÂ’s view that Â“e arnest instruction is recognized precisely by its leavi ng to the single individual th e task of searching himself so it can then teach him earnestness as it can be learned only by the person himselfÂ” (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 76). As Kierkegaard claims, Hemi ngway is Â“merely letting you witness just as he himself is doing, how a person seeks to learn something from the thought of deathÂ” (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 102). Lawrence Broer suggests that as early as Â“The UndefeatedÂ” (1925), Hemingway Â“introduces not another emobodiment of the passive hero, but a man who will teach the hero how to live in a world of death and destructionÂ—who w ill pass on to him the necessary rules for survivalÂ” ( Spanish Tragedy 46). Although Broer argues that the
106 Spanish matador, for Hemingway, is this Â“new embodimentÂ” of heroism without abstraction, Hemingway, himself, is also this hero, this guide, the matador serving as another living illustration through which Hemi ngway puts his philosophy of life, death and art in motion. Although Hemingway acts as student of deathÂ—he te lls the reader he has never had the opportunity to Â“studyÂ” d eath before, thus he can only record his observations of what he finds to be Â“trueÂ”Â— this is just an act, a way Hemingway can present his philosophy of life, death, and art without cramming it down his readerÂ’s throats ( DIA 1-3). His passion for the bullfight is obvious enough, but his passion for life and artÂ—how to live life and how to create ar tÂ—and his need to sh are this knowledge is veiled by HemingwayÂ’s consciously constructe d, controlled narrative stance. Thus, it is not only through HemingwayÂ’s detailing of th e Spanish bullfight and the matadors of Spain that Hemingway finds a living illustrati on of what earnestness is, but it is through his stated aspirations as a writer and the actualization of his own art that Hemingway provides another living example of what one can learn from the study of death. It is not surprising that Â“Hemingway was dismayed that many reviewers found Death in the Afternoon marred by a morbid Â‘preoccupation with fatalityÂ’ and a tendency to Â‘he-manish posturingÂ’Â” (Baker 243). In fact what has been consiste ntly glossed over in criticism, if given a mention at all, is that HemingwayÂ’s continual attempt to redefine and adapt the values of bravery, courage, and digni ty, for example, is not indicative of what many critics believe to be HemingwayÂ’s espousal of exclusively masculine values; instead, in Death in the Afternoon Hemingway shows us the actuality that these Â“abstractionsÂ” can only be discovered indivi duallyÂ—i.e., subjectivel y (Fuchs 437). Thus
107 HemingwayÂ’s philosophi cal treatise on how pundonor in the bull ring and how earnestness in the face of death are essential to the creation of art and to the expression of the eternal in oneÂ’s nature not only deserves the moniker of Â“art,Â” but deserves to be reread, again and again, for its relevance to its historic mome nt, as well as its enduring relevance to the bullfight, to life, and art today.
108 Chapter 4 A Â“ProfessorÂ” of Existential Psychology: MailerÂ’s Existential Psycho-Therapist and the American Existential Experience Although Mailer scholars have relentlessl y probed MailerÂ’s canon of works in an effort to discern the roots of what Maile r himself calls his own brand of American existentialism, they have consistently failed to recognize An American Dream as a work essential to our understanding of the specific philosophical basis from which MailerÂ’s vision of a uniquely American brand of existentialism grows.66 In fact, because Mailer has repeatedly claimed that his existentialis m is not the existentialism of his European philosophic predecessors,67 critical investigation of the philosophy that drives An American Dream has been limited to discussions of existentialism in general terms.68 The problem with reducing MailerÂ’s appropriation of existentialism to a general existential trend is that this reduction fails to take into account the historic moments of An American Dream and existential philosophy in America, a moment when MailerÂ’s own demand for a Â“new psychologyÂ” to understand Ameri can experience was met by the growing 66 See Laura Adams Existential Battles: The Growth of Norman Mailer p. 38, 52-55, Stanley T. GutmanÂ’s Mankind in Barbary: The Individual and Society in the Novels of Norman Mailer p. 102 and 211, Michael GlendayÂ’s Modern Novelists: Norman Mailer p. 2, and MailerÂ’s Advertisements for Myself p. 292-293 in which Mailer explicates his early fo rm of American existentialism. 67 See George CotkinÂ’s chapter on Mailer in his book Existential America specifically p. 184-187 and MailerÂ’s essay Â“Existentialism: Does It Have a Future?Â” collected in The Big Empty. 68 See Laura AdamsÂ’ Existential Battles Stanley T. GutmanÂ’s Mankind in Barbary and George CotkinÂ’s Existentialism and American Literature for differing critical discussions of MailerÂ’s existentialism.
109 popularity and practice of a Eur opean-based existential-orient ed psychotherapy (Glenday 120; Lennon 300). What the historic moment of An American Dream reveals is that MailerÂ’s philosophic contemporaries were successf ully developing and teaching existentialoriented approaches to psychotherapy in Amer ica and world-wide. At this time, two main schools of thoughtÂ—one based on Martin HeideggerÂ’s 1927 Being and Time and one based on Jean-Paul SartreÂ’s 1943 Being and Nothingness Â—had been translated into psychologies and had begun to replace the mo re traditional, instituted Freudian and Jungian psychoanalytic appr oaches. Significantly, Heide ggerian-based existential psychology was Â“the first model of an existent ially oriented thera py,Â” decades ahead of SartreÂ’s own development of psychoanalyse existentielle (Cohen xviii).69 Although Mailer criticizes both Heideggerian and Sa rtrean existentialism because they do not explore the possibilities for the self after d eath, he explicitly denies an allegiance to Sartrean existentialism; in fact, Mailer cont ends that Sartre is the one responsible for derailing existentialism (Mailer, Â“Exist entialismÂ—Does It Have a FutureÂ” 203). Yet Mailer was not only cri tical of his philosophic c ontemporaries, he was also critical of the prevailing ps ychoanalytic approaches to understanding the human psyche. In his 1959 Advertisements for Myself Mailer denounces psychoanalysisÂ—Freudian and Jungian approaches in particularÂ—for pr omoting what Laura Adams refers to as 69 In the years 19591969, Heidegger became personally and ac tively involved with Swiss therapists Medard Boss, Ludwig Binswanger, and Gion Condrau, who had been actively developing, teaching, and practicing Heideggerian-based psychotherapy for almo st three decades. Although Boss, Binswanger, and Condrau began working from a Heideggerian model in the late 1920s, their psychology was not dubbed Daseinsanalyse until 1941. Psychoanalyse existentielle on the other hand, was based on SartreÂ’s 1943 work Being and Nothingness (translated into English in 1956), in which Sartre first introduced the tenants of what would become his version of existential psychology
110 Â“socialization-alongacceptable-linesÂ” (31). Existen tial psychology, on the other hand, offered a psychology of Â“BeingÂ” in which soci al conformity is not only discouraged, but is considered a threat to the Â“self. Â” In existential psychology Mailer found a psycho therapy Â—not a psycho analysis Â—that promoted growth and individual expression, not social conformity and behavior modifi cation along socially acceptable lines. In fact, MailerÂ’s distinction between the aims of the novelist and the aims of the psychoanalyst in his 1959 Advertisements for Myself reveals MailerÂ’s aims as a novelist as commensurate with the aims of an existentially-oriented psychotherapy. That is, where Mailer sees the psychoanalyst as Â“a regulator concerned with Being,Â” he s ees the novelist as Â“a rebel concerned with BecomingÂ” (qtd. in Adams 31; Mailer, Advertisements 282). What this distinction reveals is that MailerÂ’s concerns are, in fact, the concerns of existential psychology: both Mailer and the existential psychotherapies are concerned with an individualÂ’s tendency toward Â“fallingÂ” into the roles and behaviors endorsed by the Â“theyÂ” of society and, more importantly, both are concerned with the individualÂ’s growth and the process of Â“BecomingÂ” oneÂ’s Â“trueÂ” or authentic self,Â” which is achieved, in part, through the individualÂ’s recognition of the structures of society that shape identity and thwart individual development (Heidegger, Being and Time 298). Significantly, throughout MailerÂ’s early canon of works, Mailer repeatedly voices an existentialist view of the threat society poses to the authentic development of the individual with particular reference to Am ericans and American culture. In fact, in MailerÂ’s recent claim that, Â“The modern form of oppression is nuanced ; it gets into your psyche; it makes you think thereÂ’s somethi ng wrong with you if youÂ’re not on the big
111 capitalist team,Â” Mailer simultaneously voices his concern with the psychological climate of America and points a finger at American cap italism, a sentiment that echoes MailerÂ’s subtle critique of American culture in An American Dream (Mailer, The Big Empty 128). Yet Mailer does not merely critique what he sees as oppressive in American culture; he seeks to do something about it. What Mailer admittedly sets out to do is create Â“a new psychology, a new consciousnessÂ” (qtd. in Glenday 120). His goa l: to make Â“a revolution in the consciousnessÂ” of his time, one whic h would meet the demands of the historic moment and address what Maile r envisioned to be the unique, psychological experience of Â“BeingÂ” American (Mailer, Advertisements 15). This Â“revoluti on,Â” Michael Glenday notes, Â“was to involve him [Mailer] in a mighty assault upon the American psycheÂ” (Glenday 16). For Mailer, existential-based philoso phical and psychological perspectives provided him with the tools for this Â“assaul tÂ” on American culture and AmericaÂ’s mass consciousness. Because Mailer believes that American cult ure Â“gets into your psycheÂ” and is thus psychologically oppressive, his goal in writing An American Dream was to Â“clarify a nationÂ’s vision of itselfÂ” (Mailer, The Big Empty 128; Cannibals and Christians 98).70 What Mailer sought to Â“clarifyÂ” wa s what mass culture endorsed as Â“BeingÂ” American was devoid of significant meaning for the individual. What Mailer sought to clarify was the oppressive nature of American culture and its tendency toward mediocrity and conformity. What he sought to clarify was how American culture absorbs the individual and thus hinders gr owth and progress. In short, Mailer sought to Â“clarifyÂ” the 70 Significantly, Mailer believes that Â“to clarify a na tionÂ’s vision of itselfÂ” is the highest purpose of literature. See MailerÂ’s Cannibals and Christians p. 98 and Laura Adams Existential Battles p. 31.
112 Â“nationÂ’s vision of itselfÂ” by exposing what American culture offered was not superior but oppressive and false. Whether Mailer succeeded in making a Â“rev olution in the consciousnessÂ” of his time with An American Dream is questionable, especially in light of accusations that Mailer was no more than an American pornogr apher, socially irresponsible, and acutely immoral (Wenke 98; Harwick 146). Ye t what Mailer does accomplish through An American Dream is a response to his historic mo ment, what Michael Glenday aptly recognizes as the Â“first extraordinary res ponse by an American writer to the national sickening,Â” a successful dramatization of Â“t he national moodÂ” (Glenday 91, 88). It is how Mailer expresses this mood throughout An American Dream that is the concern of this study. In fact, what Mailer views as Â“the na tional sickeningÂ” and how he seeks to remedy it through purging AmericaÂ’s psyche are no t only essential to our understanding of MailerÂ’s message and his goals in the 1950s and 1960s, but essential to our understanding of MailerÂ’s goal for An American Dream in particular. In light of MailerÂ’s intense concern fo r the psychological well-being of the nation, a natural point of departure for understanding MailerÂ’s An American Dream is an investigation of the psychological perspectives from which Mailer launches his Â“assaultÂ” on American culture. Yet, Mailers ca ll for a Â“new psychologyÂ” and a Â“new consciousnessÂ” coincide with his development of his own brand of existentialism. Thus, an exploration of the specific foundations from which MailerÂ’s psychology and his existentialism grow will illuminate what Mail er views as Â“the national sickeningÂ” he
113 seeks to remedy and provide a basis unde rstanding MailerÂ’s psychological and philosophical vision of America in An American Dream The Philosophy and the Psychology: An American Dream and the Basis of MailerÂ’s Vision MailerÂ’s depiction of An American Dream Â’s narrator Stephen Richards Rojack as a Professor of existential psychology not only reflects MailerÂ’s own rejection of psychoanalysis and his admitted preference for self-analysis, but also reflects MailerÂ’s call for a Â“new psychologyÂ” that addresses the concerns of MailerÂ’s historic moment (qtd. in Glenday 120). Because existential psychol ogy is concerned with an individualÂ’s awareness of the ways in which he/she is sh aped by the social world, Mailer gives Rojack the ability to deconstruct the culture in wh ich he is absorbed. RojackÂ’s heightened awareness of self and world, for Mailer, se rves as his vehicle to raise the nationÂ’s awareness of itself, and, more importantly, it is through RojackÂ’s prac tice of self-analysis that Mailer provides readers w ith the tool for their own sel f-analysis. But not only does Rojack, by example, serve to bring readers to an awareness of their own blind absorption in American culture, he also serves to illustrate the process through which one frees oneself from absorption in Â“the everyday so cial worldÂ” and attempts to discover oneÂ’s Â“trueÂ” or authentic Â“selfÂ” (Guignon 197). The depth of MailerÂ’s visi onÂ—call it geniusÂ—is evident in his choice to publish An American Dream in eight installments in Esquire Magazine, a choice that made An American Dream an Â“ongoing Â‘eventÂ’Â” reflective of
114 RojackÂ’s process of Â“BecomingÂ” and provide d the perfect medium through which Mailer could speak to his intended audienceÂ—Â“that horde of the mediocre and the madÂ” who were absorbed in American culture (Glenday 86; AAD 2).71 What Mailer presents in his first installment of An American DreamÂ— namely RojackÂ’s recognition of the cultural conspiracy of mediocrity a nd conformity and his recogniti on of the distance between his Â“publicÂ” persona and his Â“true selfÂ”Â—not only se rves as the basis of MailerÂ’s attack on the psychologically oppressive nature of American culture, but also serves to introduce the philosophic perspecitive from which Mailer launche s his attack ( AAD 7). The Philosophic Foundations of Existential Psychology Like MailerÂ’s An American Dream Martin HeideggerÂ’s discussion of an individualÂ’s Â“being-in-t he-worldÂ” in his work Being and Time not only serves as a commentary on and a critique of modern societyÂ’s tendency to thwart individual development, but also serves as critique of the individualÂ’s tendency to become absorbed in the mediocre, Â“everyday social worldÂ” (Guignon 197). According to Heidegger, by Â“fallingÂ” into socially approved roles, follo wing social norms and engaging in the idle chit chat of the Â“theyÂ” of society, an indivi dual becomes absorbed in the corrupted, public Â“everydaynessÂ” of Being (Heidegger 307). For an individual to become aware of his/her Â“fallennessÂ” or Â“lostness in das Man Â” is one of the goals of existential psychotherapy. That is, an individual must become aware of how he/she is absorbed in and shaped by the public world of the Â“they.Â” As existentia l psychotherapy is concerned with the 71 The original publication of An American Dream ran in Esquire from January to August of 1964.
115 individualÂ’s Â“BecomingÂ” a Â“trueÂ” or authenti c Â“self,Â” the patient must first come to recognize his/her tendency toward Â“fallingÂ” in to the roles and behaviors society endorses and see more authentic possibilities for the Â“s elfÂ” (Heidegger 298). By Â“fallingÂ” in step with society, the individual becomes aliena ted from his/her Â“trueÂ” or authentic Â“selfÂ” because the individualÂ’s absorption in the ev eryday mediocrity and conformity of the social world conceals the individualÂ’s Â“basic situation in lifeÂ” and thus conceals the individualÂ’s Â“trueÂ” or authentic Â“selfÂ” (Y alom 207). According to Heideggerian-based existentialism, what can free us from Â“this co mplacent drifting through life is the mood of anxiety ( Angst )Â” (Guignon 197). Because anxiety bri ngs an individual to the recognition that the socially approved roles of the Â“the yÂ” do not guarantee meaning for his/her life, this leads an individual to confront his/he r Â“basic situation in life,Â” what existential psychotherapist Dr. Irvin Yalom refers to as the individualÂ’s c onfrontation with the Â“givensÂ” or Â“ultimate concernsÂ” of exis tence (Yalom 8, 207). These Â“givensÂ” of existenceÂ—the certainty of our deaths, our i nherent aloneness and is olation in the world, the lack of meaning in our lives, and our ultimate freedom to choose how we will live our livesÂ— are concealed from the individual w ho is absorbed in the corrupted, public Â“everydaynessÂ” of Being (Hei degger 307). Society conceals these Â“givensÂ” from the individual through its consensus of what views, acts, thoughts, and feelings are socially acceptable and within social norms, what Mail er sees as views endorsed by the social world and reaffirmed by the psychoanalyst. In Â“falling,Â” our absorption in society conceals these Â“ultimate concernsÂ” from the i ndividual by endorsing certain social roles,
116 views, and acts as socially acceptable and by punishing thoseÂ—socially, legally, economically, and/or psychologicallyÂ—who choos e other possibilities for themselves. Because existential psychotherapy is a dynamic psychotherapyÂ—that is, it is based on the belief Â“that there are forces in conflict within the individualÂ”Â—existential psychotherapy focuses on the existe ntial conflicts within the individual, conflicts that Dr. Irvin Yalom notes flow Â“from the individualÂ’s c onfrontation with the givens of existenceÂ” (8). According to Dr. Yalom, an Â“individualÂ’ s confrontation with each of these facts of lifeÂ”Â—death, meaninglessness, isolation, a nd freedomÂ—Â“constitutes the context of the existential dynamic conflictÂ” (8). Existent ial-oriented therapy thus focuses on an individualÂ’s awareness of the Â“givensÂ” or Â“ultimate concernsÂ” of existence and the anxiety the individual experien ces over his/her Â“basic situ ation in lifeÂ” (Yalom 8, 207). Dr. Yalom explicates the bases of the indi vidualÂ’s existential conflicts with death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness as Â“co reÂ” conflicts that ar e the source of an individualÂ’s anxiety over his/her Â“basic situation in lifeÂ” (Yalom 207). Facing the certainty of oneÂ’s own death, according to Yalo m, is Â“a core existential conflict,Â” one in which the Â“tension between the awareness of th e inevitability of death and the wish to continue to beÂ” is the source of an indivi dualÂ’s anxiety in the face of death (8). The Â“existential conflictÂ” inherent in an individua lÂ’s certain aloneness a nd isolation in this world, according to Dr. Yalom, is Â“the tension between our awareness of our absolute isolation and our wish for contact, for protecti on, our wish to be part of a larger wholeÂ” (Yalom 9). Yet, if we realiz e Â“there is no preordained desi gn for us,Â” that Â“each of us must construct our own meaning in life,Â” then the Â“existential conflictÂ” inherent in the
117 lack of meaning in this world Â“stems from the dilemma of a meaning-seeking creature who is thrown into a universe that has no meaningÂ” (Yalom 9). In existential terms, freedom, according to Dr. Yalom, Â“refers to the absence of external structureÂ…. the human being does not enter (and leave) a we ll-structured universe that has inherent designÂ” (Yalom 8-9). What this means is that the individual is wholly Â“responsible forÂ— that is, is the author ofÂ—hi s or her own world, life desi gn, choices, and actionsÂ” (Yalom 8-9). Yalom notes that freedom in the existe ntial sense Â“has a terr ifying implication: it means that beneath us there is no groundÂ—not hing, a void, an abyssÂ” (Yalom 9). Thus, an individualÂ’s anxiety in the face of his/he r freedom is due to the Â“clash between our confrontation with groundlessnes s and our wish for ground and st ructureÂ” (Yalom 9). It is through a probing of a patientÂ’s anxiety and his/her conflict with these Â“givensÂ” of existence that serves as the point of depart ure for existential psychotherapy (Yalom 8). Existential psychotherapy focuses on the anxiety of the individual and his/her Â“being-in-the-worldÂ” because anxiety, Charles Guignon writes, Â“can make us realize that our normal tendency to throw ourselves into pub lically approved roles is actually a form of fleeing or evasion Â” (Guignon 198). What we are runni ng from is the fact of our finitude, a fleeing from the certainty of our ow n death. Yet, if we face our own death, if Â“we face up to our Â‘being-toward-death,Â’ we are for ced to confront the fact that it is up to us to make something of our lives as a wholeÂ” (Guignon 198-199). Thus, what anxiety brings us face to face with is the fact th at Â“our social roles are really anonymous, Â‘anyone-rolesÂ’Â”; we see that in Â“playing our normal public roles, we are not really ourselves Â” and that we are ultimately Â“responsib le for making something of our own
118 livesÂ” (Guignon 198). In anxiety, an individual confronts his/ her own Â“naked DaseinÂ” as being-towards-death, free, alone, and wit hout ground or meaning (Heidegger 394).72 For Heidegger, recognizing that we are finite beingsÂ—which reveals we are alone, free, meaning-making creaturesÂ—and accepting our responsibility for making something of our lives as a whole, Â“can bring about a transformation in our way of livingÂ”Â—i.e., authentically (Guignon 198). Charles Guignon explains: To become authentic, we must first accept the fact that we are ultimately responsible for what our lives are adding up to. If you face up to your finitude and take responsibi lity for your own existence, Heidegger thinks, you will achieve a le vel of clear-sightedness and intensity that was lacking in inauthentic everydayness. (199) What this means is that facing up to oneÂ’s own finite existence (facing up to oneÂ’s Â“being-towards-deathÂ”) reveals to the individu al that he/she is responsible for creating ground and meaning for his/her ow n life. It also reveals to the individual that his/her everyday modes of being absorbed in the worl d are inauthentic, a false basis for personal meaning. Thus, through facing up to oneÂ’s Â“being-towards-death,Â” an individual confronts his/her own Â“naked DaseinÂ” as gr oundless, alone, meaningless, and free; and it reveals the freedom and possibilities for the Â“selfÂ” beyond what Â“theyÂ” offer in Â“everydaynessÂ” (Heidegger 307, 394). 72 Â“DaseinÂ” is the word Heidegger uses for human being. The word itself is not complex, what is complex is what Heidegger envisions as what makes up a hu man being. See Charles Guignon and Derk PereboomÂ’s Existentialism: Basic Writings specifically the introduction to the selections of HeideggerÂ’s Being and Time p. 175-202.
119 In terms of the individual psyche, this pr ocess is a journey of self-discovery, a quest for oneÂ’s Â“trueÂ” or authentic Â“self,Â” a process in which the Â“selfÂ” vascillates between its authentic and inauthentic modes of being in what Jon Mill s calls Â“the endless searchÂ” for oneÂ’s Â“true selfÂ” (Mills). To di scover oneÂ’s Â“self,Â” to become an authentic Â“self,Â” is a struggle, a Â“violent processÂ” which requires an individual wrench him/her Â“selfÂ” free from the corrupted, public Â“everydaynessÂ” of Being and thus free oneÂ’s Â“selfÂ” to see beyond the limited possibilities society o ffers for the Â“selfÂ” (Mills). This is why authenticity is often envisioned as being profoundly immoralÂ—because authenticity calls for an awareness of the forces of oneÂ’s society that thwart individual growth and development, forces which seek to smothe r the individual in conformity. Thus the authentic individual, in theory, is ofte n interpreted as immoral, self-indulgent, irresponsible, deviant, and is often times considered either Â“madÂ” or at minimum psychologically Â“disturbedÂ” or Â“unsound.Â” This view of auth enticity is echoed in MailerÂ’s claim that Â“if youÂ’re not on the big capitalist teamÂ” they make Â“you think there is something wrong with youÂ” (Mailer, Â“Cour ageÂ” 128). Significantly, what both Mailer and Heidegger highlight is the tempting and co rrupting nature of m odern society and the individualÂ’s need to see through the trappings of society in or der to free oneÂ’s Â“selfÂ” from Â“complacent drifting through lifeÂ” (Guignon 197). Significantly, in An American Dream we see that the concerns of our Professor of existential psychologyÂ—Stephen Richards Ro jackÂ—are the concer ns of existential psychotherapy; in short, his recognition of his absorption in society leads him to a confrontation with the Â“givensÂ” of existen ce society has concealed from him. According
120 to Dr. Irvin Yalom, a probing of a patientÂ’s a nxiety over these Â“givensÂ” or certainties of existenceÂ—death, aloneness, freedom, and meaninglessnessÂ—Â“contain the seed to wisdom and redemptionÂ” (Yalom 5). We thus see Rojack repeatedly face his anxiety towards death, his aloneness, his freedom, and the lack of significant meaning in his life in an effort to find his Â“true self.Â” What Mailer sets up in the first installment is the notion that one must save oneÂ’s Â“selfÂ” from anni hilation first by recogni zing oneÂ’s inauthentic modes of everyday being and m ove toward more authentic po ssibilities for the self. Thus, what Mailer presents in his first installmen t reveals both Mailer and RojackÂ’s view of society as the enemy of the individual. It opp resses the individual a nd stifles individuality by endorsing certain roles and punishing indi viduals who choose other possibilities for themselves. Yet MailerÂ’s focus on what in American culture is psychologically oppressiveÂ—the imperative to strive for fame power, prestige, and immense wealth, for exampleÂ—leads Mailer to an assault on th e oppressive nature of one of our most cherished cultural myths: The American Dr eam. Through Rojack Mailer shows us that this myth is imbedded in our psyches, a myth which is part of our identities as AmericansÂ—singularly and collectivelyÂ—and wh ich, for Mailer, limits possibilities for every American. In fact, for Mailer, the fr eedom associated with The Dream is the antithesis of the authentic ex istential cry, Â“Freedom!Â”
121 MailerÂ’s Appropriation of the Psychology and the Philosophy Â“FallingÂ” into the Myth of The American Dream Heideggerian philosophy and psychology fi nds expression in what Mailer claims as his own American brand of existen tialism through MailerÂ’s invocation of the The American Dream and his presentation of the effect of that illusory Dream on the individual and the culture at large. The titleÂ— An American Dream Â—points to the disparity between The collective American Dream and An individual American Dream. Like Heidegger, Mailer not only shows how the individual ge ts lost in the collective Â“they-selfÂ” of society, but shows how an i ndividual American Dream is lost in and inseparable from the collective American Dream. AmericansÂ’ insistence that The American Dream is real, that America offers limitless possibilities for the self is, for Mailer, the binding myth of American e xperience. In fact, throughout the opening chapters of An American Dream Mailer reveals his be lief that this myth is imbedded in the American psyche, and he thus calls fo r a psychology not only to explain how this myth shapes American experience, but how it corrupts the American psyche. MailerÂ’s social-mindednessÂ—although few of his contem porary critics may agreeÂ—is evident in his concern that his fellow Americans need a psychology through which they can come to recognize AmericaÂ’s myths of itself and move toward a more authentic American experience, a sentiment that lies at the heart of the novel.
122 RojackÂ’s Â“Failure,Â” His Â“Fall,Â” and His Â“FreedomÂ”: An American Existential Perspective For MailerÂ’s American readers, Mailer seems to infuse a sense of irony in RojackÂ’s perception that de spite his status as a war hero and reci pient of the Distinguished Service Cross, his PhD in ps ychology, his term as a Congressman, and his popularity as a television personality, he Â“had come to decideÂ” that he Â“was finally a failureÂ” ( AAD 8). In terms of American cultural conceptions of success, Rojack has achieved more than most individuals dream of Â—he is a famous war hero and intellectual who has political power and wea lth. Yet this Â“dreamÂ” is just that: it is a mythic dream endorsed by the Â“theyÂ” of society. This Â“d reamÂ” is not RojackÂ’s dream; it is the inauthentic dream of others, a general cons ensus of success and happiness advanced and reinforced by the society in which Rojack is absorbed. This collective Â“dreamÂ” turns individual selves into Â“actor sÂ” in Â“anyone-roles,Â” like Rojack who confesses that he had looked into the Â“abyssÂ” of meaninglessness a nd realized that his Â“personality was built upon a voidÂ” (Guignon 198; AAD 7). By Â“fallingÂ” into this myth, by buying into this DreamÂ—that money, fame, and power are inex tricable bound to lif e, liberty, and the pursuit of happinessÂ—one conceals his/her Â“true selfÂ” in favor of The Dream. In RojackÂ’s view, he is Â“a failureÂ” because he has failed to become an Â“authenticÂ” self; that is, he realizes his lostness in socially approved ro les and thus recognizes his inauthentic modes
123 of Being. With this realization comes Roj ackÂ’s departure from politics, a departure necessitated by his feelin g that if he did not quit, he would be Â“separated fromÂ” his authentic self Â“foreverÂ” (7). Significantly, Rojack does not simply quit politics; instead, he runs on the Progressive ticket and loses. In short, Rojack shifts allegiance from mass society, representative of his pr ocess of pulling away from wh at he refers to as Â“that horde of the mediocre and the madÂ” ( AAD 2). Critical studies by American scholars that address RojackÂ’s perception of American cultu re oftentimes use psychoanalysis as a lens for understanding RojackÂ’s departure from ma ss American culture and his persistent struggle against forces that oppress him, a critical oversight that has led critics to conclude that Rojack is simply mad, in sane, an American psychopath on a violent rampage. Yet, critic John Wh alen-Bridge aptly notes that RojackÂ’s Â“self-knowledge indicates, however, that he is relatively sane, and the novel is full of suggestions that society has gone madÂ” (80). In RojackÂ’s and Mail erÂ’s existentialist view, society has gone Â“madÂ”Â—Â“theyÂ” blindly follow the paths and dr eams of the collective self and strive to conform to what society prescribes as the form ulas for happiness and success. In fact, it is through MailerÂ’s appropriati on of existentialoriented psychology and philosophy to American interests and concerns, that Mailer exposes The Dream as one of the myths through which society conceals the certainties of existence from the individual and thus alienates the individual from hi s/her Â“trueÂ” self. For Rojack and Mailer, this is madness, especially coming from a na tion that prides itself on individual freedoms and the individualÂ’s actualization of his/her own freed oms and dreams. Significantly, the disparity between the myth and the reality of The American Dream is that although the
124 freedom The American Dream c onnotes is existential and authenticÂ—that is, it promises individual freedom, liberty, life, limitless possibilities, and the pursuit of oneÂ’s own idea of happiness, in reality, The Dream is a myth that stands in conflict with the existential notions of freedom the myth purports to embody. For Mailer, this is the Â“core existential conflictÂ” of Â“BeingÂ” American (Yalom 8). As the point of departure for RojackÂ’s recognition of his in authentic modes of Â“BeingÂ” American, RojackÂ’s discovery of the myth of the Dream, embodied in his realization that he was a Â“failure,Â” brings Roj ack to the realization th at if he did not quit politics, he would be separated from his Â“true selfÂ” forever. This f ear of the annihilation of the Â“selfÂ” brings Rojack to confront the certainties of his own existence, Â“givens,Â” Â“ultimate concernsÂ” that societyÂ’s endorsement of the reality of The Dream has kept concealed from him (Yalom 8). Thus throughout the opening chapters of An American Dream we not only see RojackÂ’s recognition of his absorption in the myth of The Dream as an inauthentic mode of Being, but we al so see his attempt to navigate between his Â“trueÂ” or authentic Â“selfÂ” and his Â“false,Â” inauthentic modes of being absorbed in the public, social world. In fact, in the opening chapter of An American Dream Rojack shares his recognition of his inauthentic modes of be ingÂ—such as his secret ambition to return to politics, his role as a husband in a marriage that reads like a five-act play, and his realization that he was an Â“actorÂ” whose Â“p ersonality was built on a voidÂ”Â—modes that brings Rojack to conclude he Â“was finally a failureÂ” ( AAD 7-8). RojackÂ’s rejection of his manufactured, public Â“selfÂ” and his search for more authentic possibilities for the Â“selfÂ” outside of the roles and contexts offered by American
125 culture are at the root of RojackÂ’s crisis. This crisis is, in fact, an existential one, one in which Rojack suggests his Â“failureÂ” is bound to his realization that his Â“personality was built upon a void,Â” on nothingness, on a Dream which promises, but does not deliver, fulfillment and happiness ( AAD 7). This realization brings Ro jack to a confrontation with the Â“givensÂ” or certainties of existence, Â“core existential conflictsÂ” that existential psychotherapy addresses as both the source of a patientÂ’s anxiety and th e cure. In fact, as a Professor of existential psychology, RojackÂ’s perspec tive and his epistemology are bound to his belief that Â“the seeds of wisdom and redemptionÂ” are found within (Yalom 5). That is, through an exploration of his ow n anxieties over the certainties of existenceÂ— death, aloneness, freedom, and meaninglessnes sÂ—Rojack believes he will not only be able to resolve the tension between his auth entic and inauthentic modes of being, but will also discover his Â“true selfÂ” and thus be able to create authentic meaning and content for his life as a whole. Yet RojackÂ’s rejection of American culture as a false basis for personal meaning, his internal and external st ruggles to free himself from the pervasive force of AmericaÂ’s myth of freedom and limitle ss possibilities, and his repeated need to face up to his own death, has led decades of cr itics to conclude that RojackÂ’s perspective is bound to his World War II experience, an experience that leaves him death-obsessed and traumatized. In fact, cri tics continually cite RojackÂ’s admission of his Â“frightened romance with the phases of the moonÂ” and hi s conversation with the moon in particular, as indicative of RojackÂ’s descent into madness ( AAD 7). Yet RojackÂ’s Â“frightened romance with the phases of the moonÂ” not onl y reveals that RojackÂ’s perspective and epistemology are bound to Heideggerian notions of self and societ y, but it also reveals
126 that his Â“romanceÂ” is inevitably intertwined with his quest to discover his Â“trueÂ” or authentic Â“self.Â” RojackÂ’s Romance with the Moon: Â“Being-towards-deathÂ” and Â“BecomingÂ” Whole RojackÂ’s admission, Â“I wanted to depart politics before I was separated from my self foreverÂ” is, in part, due to what he ca lls his Â“secret frightened romance with the phases of the moonÂ” ( AAD 7).73 By distinguishing his Â“publicÂ” self from the Â“selfÂ” who is involved in a Â“frightened romanceÂ” with th e moon, Rojack simultaneously distinguishes his Â“false,Â” corrupted, inauthentic Â“selfÂ” from his Â“true,Â” Â“lost in a private kalaidescope of deathÂ” Â“selfÂ” ( AAD 7). For Rojack, his romance with the moonÂ—Â“frightenedÂ” because the full moon seems to be the catalyst for RojackÂ’s anxiety and fear over his own deathÂ— a Â“romanceÂ” because the full moon also reminds Rojack of the Â“wholenessÂ” he lacks in his inauthentic modes of BeingÂ—embodies Roja ckÂ’s Â“core existentia l conflictÂ” (Yalom 8). Through RojackÂ’s narrative we learn that this conflict is retrospectively rooted in RojackÂ’s World War II experience, an experi ence in which he faced death alone and without fear under the Â“fin e stainÂ” of a full moon ( AAD 3). RojackÂ’s narrative of his World War II e xperience is retros pectively colored by his current perspective as a Professor of exis tential psychology, but it is that perspective that gives current significance and meaning to what Rojack experienced when he was threatened with annihilation under the light of the full moon. What is most prominent in 73 Emphasis mine
127 RojackÂ’s memory of his combat experienceÂ—t he Â“perfectly blue and madÂ” eyes of the fourth German soldier, which Rojack describe s as eyes that go Â“deep into celestial vaults of skyÂ”Â—suggests that, for Rojack, there is a correlation between what he sees in the soldierÂ’s eyes and what he sees in the full moon. Rojack tells us that those eyes Â“contained all of itÂ”Â—the war, the struggle, death, and destructionÂ—a description that simultaneously suggests that what Rojack saw in those eyes was his own Â“basic situation in lifeÂ” as a war, a struggle (Yalom 207). Roja ck suggests that what he saw in those eyes that caused him to falter Â“before that stare, clear as ice in the moonlightÂ” was a glimpse of Â“the abyssÂ” of meani nglessness and groundlessness ( AAD 2, 5). The fact that Rojack Â“faltered,Â” Â“not knowingÂ” if he could continue to fight, signifies th e fleeting nature of authenticity ( AAD 5). Rojack tells us, Â“suddenly it wa s all gone, the clean presence of it the grace, it had deserted me in the instant I hesitated, and no w I had no stomach to go, I could charge his bayonet no moreÂ” ( AAD 5). Rojack hesitates because in those eyes he sees Â“that death is a creation more dangerous than lifeÂ”; he sees d eath is not Â“everyoneÂ’s emptinessÂ” (AAD 7). What Rojack suggests throughout his experien ce with the fourth German soldier is that through facing up to his own death with courage, Rojack gets a glimpse of Â“the abyssÂ” and sees that Being has a Â“null basisÂ”; that is, he suggests that what he sees is that his own existence is gr oundless and meaningless, that he is alone in this world and free to form his own basis for Being ( AAD 2; Heidegger 333). Rojack suggests that what facing d eath authentically re veals is not Â“zer o,Â” death is not Â“everyoneÂ’s emptinessÂ”; it is a gl impse of an individualÂ’s possi bilities for his/her own life outside of the Â“theyÂ” ( AAD 7).
128 What is significant about RojackÂ’s descri ption of what he sees to be his first authentic experience is that the setting for this experience is a literal war, one that recalls the Â“violent processÂ” through wh ich an individual Â“selfÂ” attempts to wrench his/her Â“true selfÂ” free from the Â“falseÂ” everyday Â“selfÂ” and from the forces that oppress and thwart an individualÂ’s realization of a nd development of a Â“trueÂ” or authentic Â“self.Â” Rojack also espouses the view that facing oneÂ’s own death authentically and thus facing the facts of our existence in this world requires unfalte ring courage. In particular, what RojackÂ’s retrospective account of his combat experience re veals is that for Rojack, what he sees in the eyes of the fourth German soldier that ma kes him falter is what he later sees Â“in those caverns of the moonÂ” that makes him falterÂ—Â“the abyssÂ” ( AAD 2, 11). In fact, the glimpse Rojack gives us of his Â“secret frightened romanceÂ” with the moon reveals that what Rojack sees in the soldierÂ’s eyes he later comes to understand through his romance with the moon. RojackÂ’s description of hi s Â“frightened romanceÂ” with the moon, an experience Rojack describes as occurring on a balcony on the night of a full moon, serves to illustrate RojackÂ’s process of Â“BecomingÂ” authentic. RojackÂ’s description of this processÂ—of facing up to his Â“being-towa rds-deathÂ” through which he gains an understanding of the moon and is brought face-to-face with his own Â“raw BeingÂ”Â— recalls the process Heide gger discusses throughout Being and Time in terms of finding and Becoming oneÂ’s Â“trueÂ” or authentic Â“selfÂ” ( AAD 11-12). In particular, what this scene illustrates is what Heidegger discusses as Â“t he call of conscience,Â” a call which calls the individual hearer back to his/her Â“trueÂ” or authentic Â“selfÂ” (Heidegger 312).
129 What Rojack experiences in his percei ved conversation with the moon not only illuminates RojackÂ’s understanding of his own Â“b asic situation in life,Â” but is central to our understanding of RojackÂ’s fascination wi th the full moon (Yalom 207). In fact, RojackÂ’s description of the night he stared at the full moon, alone on a balcony, and heard a Â“voiceÂ” from the moon recalls the pr ocess through which Heidegger believes one discovers his/her own Â“true selfÂ” ( AAD 11). Rojack writes: I had a moment then. For the moon spoke back to me. By which I do not mean that I heard voices, or Luna and I indulged in the whimsy of a dialogue, no, truly it was worse than th at. Something in the deep of that full moon, some tender and not so innocent radiance traveled fast as the thought of lightning across our night sky, out from the depth of the dead in those cavern of the moon, out and a leap though space and into me. And suddenly I understood the moon. (11) RojackÂ’s description of what he experien ces when the moon speaks to him recalls HeideggerÂ’s description of Â“the cal l of conscienceÂ” (Heidegger 312).74 In fact, RojackÂ’s admission that although he did not actually hear Â“voicesÂ” in the literal sense, he gained an understanding of the moon, serves to illustrate what Â“the call of conscienceÂ” reveals to the individual Â“selfÂ” who hears the call. Embodied in RojackÂ’s perception that the Â“voiceÂ” he hears is the voice of the moon is HeideggerÂ’s notion that the Â“voiceÂ” one hears when being called Â“is unfamiliar to the everyday they-self; it is something like an alien voiceÂ” (Heidegger 321). Rojack attributes this Â“voiceÂ” to the moon not only because the Â“voiceÂ” is alien, but because the 74 See HeideggerÂ’s Being and Time p. 312-348 for his complete discussion of Â“the call of conscience.Â”
130 Â“voiceÂ” comes Â“from afar unto afarÂ”; it comes Â“from me and beyond meÂ” (Heidegger 316, 320). According to Heidegger the Â“voiceÂ” comes from the Â“t rue self,Â” the Â“selfÂ” that has been covered-up and alienate d through absorption in the Â“the y.Â” What is of particular significance is that Rojack makes the distincti on that he does not actua lly hear a Â“voiceÂ”; he does not Â“indulge in the whimsy of a dialogueÂ” with the moon ( AAD 11). RojackÂ’s admission that the Â“voiceÂ” said nothing recalls HeideggerÂ’s explicati on of what Â“the call of conscienceÂ” says. Â“The call,Â” according to Heidegger, Â“does not re port events; it calls without uttering anything. The call discourses in the uncanny mode of keeping silent Â” (322). Â“UncanninessÂ” or not feeling at home in the world, Heidegger writes, Â“is the basic kind of Being-in-the-world, even though in an everyday way it has been covered up. Out of the depths of this kind of Being, Dasein itself, as conscience, calls. The Â‘it calls meÂ’Â…is a distinctive kind of discourse for DaseinÂ” (322). Again, although Rojack notes that he did not actually hear a voice, he suggests that what leaped Â“through space and intoÂ” himÂ—the voiceÂ—brings him to Â“ understandÂ” the moon, an Â“understandingÂ” Heidegger distinguishes as well ( AAD 11). Heidegger writes: We take calling as a mode of discourse. Discourse articulates intelligibilityÂ…. Vocal utterance, howeve r, is not essential for discourse, and therefore not for the call either ; this must not be overlookedÂ…the Â‘voiceÂ’ is taken ra ther as a giving-t o-understandÂ… (316) For Heidegger, an Â“authentic understandi ngÂ… Â‘followsÂ’ the callÂ” (324). The voice, Heidegger writes, Â“calls Dasein back to its thrownness so as to understand this thrownness as the null basis which it has to take up in to existenceÂ” (333). As a Â“giving-
131 to-understand,Â” what the call reveals to the hear er is that he/she is Â“thrownÂ” into a world not of his/her own making, that he/she is groundless, alone, free, and responsible for creating her/her own ground and meaning (H eidegger 316). What Rojack suggests he understands of the moon is that the moon is the same Â“kind of BeingÂ” Rojack sees himself to be. The moon, like Rojack, is not at home in this world. In the moonÂ’s literal groundlessness, its Â“deadÂ” caverns, which go d eep into Â“the abyss of meaninglessness,Â” the phases through which the moon must pass to become Â“whole,Â” Rojack finds a kindred Being. Â“The only true journey of knowledge,Â” Rojack writes of the knowledge that leaped into him from the moon, Â“is from the de pth of one being to the heart of anotherÂ” ( AAD 11). RojackÂ’s understanding of the moon as the same Â“kind of BeingÂ” as he is, brings Rojack face to face with his own naked Dasein what Rojack calls his Â“raw BeingÂ” ( AAD 11-12). Rojack suggests that he authentically h ears the call and the result is an authentic understanding, not just of the m oon, but of his own Â“self.Â” Roj ack tells us that after he gained an understanding of th e moon, he Â“was nothing but open raw depths at that instant alone on the balcony, looking down on Sutton Place, the spirits of the food and drink I had ingested wrenched out of my belly and upper gut, leaving me in raw BeingÂ” ( AAD 11-12). He tells us at this mo ment he Â“could feelÂ” his Â“BeingÂ” (12). Rojack then Â“looked intoÂ” his Â“Being,Â” and saw Â“love ly light and rotting nerve an d proceeded to listenÂ” (12). What Rojack tells us he sees when he looks into the depths of his Â“raw BeingÂ” is the Â“lovely lightÂ” of possibilities for the Â“selfÂ” and the Â“rotting nerveÂ” of his certain physical demise, of his Â“being-towards-deathÂ” ( AAD 11). What is of particul ar significance is that
132 Rojack notes he Â“looked intoÂ” his Â“BeingÂ” and Â“proceeded to listenÂ” to his Â“raw Being,Â” to his Â“true selfÂ” (12). This suggests that Ro jack not only hears the call, but he listens, understands the call as coming from his Â“true selfÂ” and unde rstands his Â“true selfÂ” is calling him back from his absorption in the Â“they.Â” 75 Jon Mills explains: Dasein comes to find itself through the disclosure of conscience as an inner voice. The receptivity of the voice calls Dasen to a Â“giving-tounderstandÂ” the authentic se lf in which the call Â“pa sses overÂ” the they-self and finds its true home in its enlight ened understanding of itself. (12) This Â“enlightened understandingÂ” of the Â“selfÂ” is embodied in what Rojack understands when he looks into and listens to his Â“B eingÂ”Â—he understands his Â“BeingÂ” as a Â“null basis,Â” as groundless, alone, towards death, and free to form his own basis for Being. Rojack goes on to distinguish between Â“the partÂ” of him Â“which spoke and thought and had its glimpses of the landscap e ofÂ” his Â“BeingÂ” and his physical body. The Â“voiceÂ” which calls Â“Come to meÂ” is RojackÂ’s Â“true selfÂ” calling him back to his Â“selfÂ” ( AAD 12). Thus, Rojack believes his physical body would drop from the balcony, but his Â“true self,Â” would transcend his thrownness in this world, Â“would soar, would rise, would leap the miles of darkness to that moonÂ…. I knew I would flyÂ” (12). In this moment, Rojack faces his Â“being-towards-deathÂ”; that is, he faces the certain ty of his own death, sees open possibilities, feels the freedom th at accompanies the recognition that one can 75 According to Heidegger, the Â“authentic understanding which Â‘followsÂ’ the callÂ” is an understanding of oneÂ’s Â“lostness in the Â‘they,Â’Â” a recognition that oneÂ’s fals e, public Â“selfÂ” is distanced from oneÂ’s Â“true selfÂ” (333). This understanding reveals Da sein as a Â“null basis for its null projectionÂ” of future possibilities for the Â“selfÂ” (333). In short, one understands the Â“selfÂ” as Â“Being-towards-the-end Â”Â—Â“something which in the depths of its Being, every Dasein isÂ” (365). The call summons DaseinÂ’s self from its lostness in the Â“theyÂ” and calls the Â“selfÂ” to its Â“ownmost potentiality-for-Bei ng-its-SelfÂ”; the call brings the Â“selfÂ” out of its Â“hidingÂ–placeÂ” in the Â“theyÂ” and Â“gets broughtÂ” to its Â“SelfÂ” by the call (320).
133 form his own, meaningful basis for Â“Being.Â”76 Yet, RojackÂ’s authenticity is fleeting; when faced with the moment of choice, Ro jack stands face to face with his Â“core existential conflictÂ”; that is, he faces the conflict between his recognition that he canÂ’t Â“die yetÂ” because he has not Â“done his work Â” to become an authentic Â“selfÂ” and his recognition that he has thus fa r lived his life inauthentically and is thus Â“dead with itÂ” (13). In short, what Rojack understands is th at the life he has been living is inauthentic, that he has been corrupted by and absorbed in the Â“they,Â” that his existence is meaningless and groundless, and that he ca nnot die until he has Â“done his workÂ” of wrenching himself free from his Â“lostnessÂ” in the Â“theyÂ” (13). Rojack tells us he then Â“slipped back over the railÂ” a nd slips back into anxiety, wh ich Rojack describes as an Â“illnessÂ” (13). RojackÂ’s describes his anxi ety in the face of hi s realization of his inauthentic modes of being absorbed in the Â“theyÂ” as a Â“tensionÂ” between his authentic and inauthentic modes of being, one Â“whi ch develops in your bodyÂ” and Â“makes you sicken over a periodÂ” ( AAD 8). For Rojack, the Â“illnessÂ” is his tendency to be lost in the Â“theyÂ’; the Â“false selfÂ” is ill, sick, corrupted by its Â“fallenness.Â” Rojack describes Â“[t]his illnessÂ” as Â“an extinction,Â” a perception that reveals what RojackÂ’s Â“soulÂ” told him, so to speak, was that he must wrench his Â“selfÂ” free from the Â“theyÂ” or his Â“true selfÂ” will be annihilated, will be consumed by the cancer of the Â“they-selfÂ” ( AAD 13). Rojack describes how this Â“tensionÂ” and this Â“illnessÂ” return to him when he loses his courage to remain on the balcony, poised over Â“the abyssÂ” of meaninglessness. Rojack tells us that his Â“courage,Â” as it did during his combat expe rience, leaves him; he tells us that his 76 For Heidegger, the call reveals the Â“selfÂ” as Â“bei ng-towards-the-endÂ”Â—with limited time to embrace oneÂ’s authentic possibilities for the Â“selfÂ” and limited time to live a meaningful, authentic life (365).
134 Â“ambition,Â” his striving for authenticity and wholeness, and his Â“hopeÂ” for the possibilities for the future leave him and rise up to the moon beyond his grasp. In contrast to the Â“illnessÂ” Rojack speaks of, Rojack sees his authentic Â“courage,Â” Â“ambition and hopeÂ” as what is good or Â“nobleÂ” in him ( AAD 13). Rojack suggest s that without the Â“courageÂ” to face his death, without the cour age to accept the Â“selfÂ” as a Â“null basis,Â” nothing Â“nobleÂ” in him remains. That is, once Ro jack feels what is Â“nobleÂ” in him leave, the tension inherent in his Â“core existentia l conflictsÂ” over being-towards-death, alone, groundless, and free, are illustrated through hi s compulsion to call Deborah, the one thing that continues to impose meaning and provide a basis for RojackÂ’s life. Existential and Physical Violence : RojackÂ’s Struggle for Freedom RojackÂ’s need to call his estranged wife Deborah illustrates RojackÂ’s fleeing in the face of his aloneness, yet his need to see her after his experi ence on the balcony also reveals that for Rojack, Deborah is his Â“whol e.Â” Â“Without Deborah,Â” Rojack tells us, his Â“partsÂ” Â“did not add to any more than anot her name for the bars and gossip columns of New YorkÂ…probably I did not have the strength to stand aloneÂ” ( AAD 18). Rojack describes how all of a sudden Â“all of my substa nce fell out of me and I had to see her. I had a physical need to see her as direct as an addictÂ’s panic waiting for his drugÂ” ( AAD 19). Yet, when Rojack goes to see Deborah, the tension between his Â“selfÂ” as a Â“null basisÂ” and DeborahÂ’s oppressive and thwarti ng presence returns. This is illustrated through RojackÂ’s response to DeborahÂ’s stat ement that she did not love him anymore.
135 Rojack writes: Â“I thought again of the m oon and the promise of extinction which had descended on me. I had opened a voidÂ—I was now without center. Can you understand? I did not belong to myself any longer. Deborah had occupied my centerÂ” (27). The void Rojack openedÂ—that is, his understanding of his existence as a Â“null basisÂ”Â—brings Rojack to recognize his inauthentic modes of being and brings him to an understanding that he must wrench his Â“selfÂ” free from the fo rces that corrupt and distance him from his Â“true self.Â” What Rojack suggests in his re sponse is that Debor ahÂ—the embodiment of the corrupt, oppressive force of American cultu reÂ—is Â“fusedÂ” at the Â“centerÂ” of his being ( AAD 28). What Rojack understands is that with Deborah as his Â“center,Â” life is merely Â“a series of means-end strategies Â”; that is, Deborah serves a nd has served as the means to RojackÂ’s dreams (Guignon 196). Â“I thought the road to President,Â” Rojack writes, Â“might begin at the entrance to her Irish heartÂ” (2). As his Â“center,Â” at the Â“centerÂ” of RojackÂ’s dreams and aspirations in life, Deborah, like the culture Rojack rejects, threatens annihilation of RojackÂ’s Â“self.Â”77 Rojack couples this fear of annhiliation of his Â“selfÂ” with his literal fear of Deborah. She Â“was viol ent,Â” Rojack tells us, Â“I was afraid of her. She was not incapable of murdering meÂ” (23, 25) When RojackÂ’s thoughts return to Â“the moon and the promise of extinction,Â” Roj ack not only suggests a connection between Deborah and the moon, but also between Debor ah and the Nazi soldiers. In fact, for Rojack, Deborah, like the Nazi soldiers Rojack faced, presents a double threat, one that is both literal and existential. He fears literal de ath in that she, like the Nazi soldiers, is 77 Deborah threatens RojackÂ’s sense of Â“selfÂ” by suggesting he is a coward, an easily replaceable lover, and that without her, he is nothing. See pages 23-25.
136 capable of killing him; exis tentially, Deborah, like Nazi cu lture, threatens to and is capable of annihilating Ro jackÂ’s Â“true self.Â” Significantly, not only do the Nazi-soldiers literally threaten RojackÂ’s physical Â“being,Â” but the Nazis also re present the most corrupt and oppressive of cultures, a culture, if victorious in the war, would threaten to annhili ate RojackÂ’s Â“selfÂ”Â—his Â“selfÂ” in the eyes of the Nazis, nothing more than a mixed-race Jew. Like the Nazis, Â“Deborah had prejudicesÂ…. Her detestation of Jewish Protestants and Gentile Jews was completeÂ” ( AAD 34). Thus RojackÂ’s crisis over Deborah occupying his Â“centerÂ” is an existential crisis, a fear of existential annihilation of the Â“self,Â” as well as a literal one. Because Deborah threatens RojackÂ’s Â“selfÂ” literally a nd existentially, he viol ently struggles with her in order to transcend this Â“thrownessÂ”; th at is, he struggles to wrench himself free from the world in which he has been Â“throw n,Â” he struggles to free himself from his absorption in the Â“theyÂ”Â—which Deborah representsÂ—and free himself from her oppressive, corrupting, and pervasive force. A ccording to Jon Mills, when the authentic self Â“finds itself in its lostness,Â” it recovers Â“its authenticity in its freedomÂ” (Mills). Rojack not only illustrates this process, but during his literal physical struggle with Deborah he sees he must kill her to achieve his freedom. Throughout RojackÂ’s description of his physical struggle with Deborah, what Rojack experiences is a struggle for his freedom He describes the ment al picture he sees as his arm tightens around her neck: Â“I ha d the mental image I was pushing with my shoulder against an enormous door which woul d give inch by inch to the effortÂ” (31). Rojack writes:
137 I released the pressure on her th roat, and the door I had been opening began to close. But what I had had a vi ew of what was on the other side of the door, and heaven was thereÂ…an d I thrust against the doorÂ…and crack the door flew open and the wire tore in her throat, and I was through the door, hatred passing from me in wave after wave, illness as well, rot and pestilence, nausea, a bleak string of sa lts. I was floating. I was as far into myself as I had ever been and uni verses wheeled in a dream. (31) What Rojack sees on the other side of th e Â“doorÂ”Â—Â“heavenÂ”Â—is his freedom from the Â“they-selfÂ” within the Â“selfÂ”; he sees his fr eedom from Deborah who stands at the center of his Being ( AAD 31). What he catches a glimpse of is his freedom from his lostness in the Â“theyÂ”; what he sees is Â“heavenÂ”Â—his freedom from early forces and constraintsÂ— and the authentic possibilities for the Â“selfÂ” that transcends its thrownness in this world. Rojack describes his Â“transcendenceÂ”Â—hi s freedom from his lostness in the Â“theyÂ”Â—in terms of illness leaving him; hi s Â“transcendenceÂ” feels like Â“floatingÂ” ( AAD 31). Since Rojack has wrenched his Â“selfÂ” free from the Â“theyÂ” by killing Deborah, Rojack feels as he did on the balcony: groundless, free, as if he could Â“flyÂ” (12). He tells us he was Â“as far intoÂ” himself as he Â“had ever beenÂ” and his Â“flesh seemed new,Â” since by freeing himself free from the Â“they,Â” he tr anscends his Â“thrownnessÂ” and frees himself to form his own basis for Being (31-32). Furt her, after he frees himself from Deborah, Rojack is progressively freed from his public roles as he r husband, a t.v. personality, a professor, a psychologist, a nd a socialite. Significantly, we must see Â“selfhood,Â” according to Jon Mills, Â“as a development on a continuum of authenticity, in a state of
138 becoming, as emerging freedomÂ” (12). This view of the authentic development of the Â“selfÂ” is what Mailer illustrates throughout the opening chapters of An American Dream Yet what is of particular si gnificance is that what Roj ack struggles to achieveÂ—his freedomÂ—stands in direct opposition to the my th of Â“freedomÂ” embodi ed in the idea of The American Dream. Authentic American Freedom: MailerÂ’s View Because Mailer sees the pe rvasiveness of The American Dream as a form of psychological oppression, one that is uniquely American, his goa l to Â“clarify a nationÂ’s vision of itselfÂ” is achieved, in part, through MailerÂ’s exposure of the nation and its vision of itself an inauth entic (Wenke 3; Mailer, Cannibals 90).78 Significantly, what Mailer emphasizes is that the nation see itself from a different light, more clearly, both as individuals and as individuals within American culture. Specifically, what Mailer intends to clarify is that the idea of the Dream is r ooted in the history of American polticial and social life as American democracy. What Mailer sets up in the first chapter in particularÂ—RojackÂ’s struggle for authentic fr eedomÂ—serves to illustrate the pervasive force of the myth of The Dream and to show that to wrench oneÂ’s self free from oneÂ’s Â“lostness in das Man,Â” which oppresses and th warts the development of oneÂ’s authentic 78 Joseph Wenke writes in his Â“IntroductionÂ” to MailerÂ’s America : For MailerÂ’s subject is preeminently America: throughout his work he is involved in trying to discover our identity as a nation by relating the promise and the basement of the millennial idea of America to the complex ities of the contemporary American scene. In doing so, he has pursued through his writing what he believes to be the highest purpose of literature, which is to Â“clarify a nationÂ’s vision of itself. (3)
139 personality, identity, and values, involves a violent struggle. Significantly, RojackÂ’s struggle for authentic freedom recalls the f ounding ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of oneÂ’s own idea of happiness. In fact, what Mailer shows us is that RojackÂ’s struggle for authentic freedom does not differ from the Â“revolutionaryÂ” ideals America was founded upon; his violent struggle for his freedom is intertwined with AmericaÂ’s historical consciousness. Ro jack, like our Founding Fathers who violently struggled to free themselves from the oppressive constraint s of the British system, reenacts this warÂ— The Revolutionary WarÂ—in order to achieve what he sees to be the authentic freedom of our Forefathers. Mailer returns to the founding ideals of America as a nation and exposes the hypocrisy of The Dream. Significantly, MailerÂ’s recovery of the founding ideals of the country reflects HeideggerÂ’s noti on that authenticity is Â“a mode of existence that brings about a transformed understanding of oneÂ’s hist orical contextÂ” in which an individual Â“grasps the past of oneÂ’s co mmunity as a Â‘heritageÂ’ or Â‘legacyÂ’Â” (Guignon 202). Guignon explains: Â“According to Heidegger, the luci d awareness of oneÂ’s complicity in the Â‘cohappeningÂ’ of oneÂ’s community can lead to a way of existing he calls Â‘authentic historicityÂ’Â” (202). Guignon cites Martin Luther KingÂ’ s attempt to Â“recover an appreciation of the biblical id eals central to American culture in order to achieve equality for all humansÂ” as an example of what Heid egger means by Â“authentic historicityÂ” (202). Thus, MailerÂ’s attack on the my th of The American Dream is not merely a critique of The Dream at his present, historic moment. In f act, in order to make a Â“revolution in the consciousnessÂ” of his time, Mailer must hims elf understand and address the historical
140 consciousness of Â“BeingÂ” American and e xpose AmericansÂ’ Â“complicity in the Â‘cohappeningÂ’Â” of American culture. Yet what Ma iler sees as an inseparable part of AmericaÂ’s historical consciounessÂ—the idea l of The American DreamÂ—is itself founded on the democratic foundations of America as a sovereign nation. Thus, for Mailer, the foundation from which The Dream is born is not only bound to the struggle, the war our Founding FatherÂ’s fought to achieve the ideals of freedom and democracy, but is also rooted in the American religious experience which is historically prior, yet inextricably bound to AmericaÂ’s vision of itself and to th e formation of the my th of The Dream. Exposing the Myth of AmericaÂ’s Vision of Itself For Mailer, just as The American Dream embodies the historical consciousness of America to his present day and beyond, AmericaÂ’ s religious history pers ists in his present American culture. Our money, for example, cl aims Â“In God we trust.Â” We pledge our allegiance to nation and God as we are Â“one nation under God,Â” but indivisible, Â“with liberty and justice for allÂ” (The Pledge of Alligence). Our democracy is one with and endorsed by God; our economic vi ability is entrusted to G od; our nation, our collective and individual identities as Americans are Â“indivisibleÂ” fr om God. Thus, not only is the Dream inseparable from God, but what is significant is that AmericaÂ’s religious consciousness, although historically prior to our democracy and thus prior to the American myth of The Dream, is that it is based on another myth which dates back to the Christian worldÂ’s Â“discoveryÂ” of America. This myth, which is central to AmericaÂ’s
141 vision of itself as a land of opportunity and limitless possibilities, and which Mailer sees as inseparable from the myth of The Dr eam and from AmericaÂ’s historical and psychological consciousness, is our nationÂ’s vi sion of ourselves as American Adams in the Â“New World gardenÂ” of Â“limitless possibilitiesÂ” (Wenke 70). RojackÂ’s Â“FallÂ” and the Â“FallÂ” of Adam: Temptation, Evil, and the Allure of The Dream Although Mailer makes a clear connection be tween the loss of self that results from an individualÂ’s absorption in the myth of The American Dream and HeideggerÂ’s notion of blindly Â“fallingÂ” in to the culturally endorsed roles of the Â“they,Â” Mailer simultaneously imbues HeideggerÂ’s notion of Â“fallingÂ” with religious significance through his invocation of the Judeo-Chri stian myth of the Â“FallÂ” of Adam.79 Mailer brings this Christian myth to the forefront of modern American experience by invoking The American Dream and presenting its allure as a temptation even Adam could not withstand. In doing so, Mailer also engages with AmericanÂ’s unique view of themselves as American Adams, what Laura Adams aptly notes as the central my th of the American novel. This myth, Adams writes, is that of Adam in the New World Ga rden and his expulsion after the Fall, the reenactment of manÂ’ s encounter with an innocent land and the evil 79 See Laura Adams Existential Battles and Joseph WenkeÂ’s MailerÂ’s America for differing interpretations of the Adamic myth in MailerÂ’s works.
142 within himself; its characteristic th eme that of the American Dream, its virtues, its flaws, and its effect on the American character. (Adams 23) But for Mailer, AmericansÂ’ vision of themselves as new world Adams is not only a central myth of the American novel; he sees th is myth as AmericanÂ’s cultural Â“heritage,Â” a Â“legacyÂ” for modern Americans (Guignon 202). Through MailerÂ’s recovery of the Adamic myth, Mailer reenacts this myth by connecting RojackÂ’s recognition of his Â“f allennessÂ” to a reco gnition of his own inauthentic modes of being, yet he also conne cts RojackÂ’s recognition of his Â“fallennessÂ” to a recognition of Â“evilÂ” within himself. Ro jack suggests that th is evil is a cancer, a cancer which consumes and annihi lates the Â“trueÂ” self. In fact, RojackÂ’s belief that Â“as your soul died, cancer began,Â” reveals that Roja ck connects the death of soul to the death of the Â“true selfÂ” ( AAD 68). The evil within, for Ro jack, is discovered through his recognition of his inauthentic m odes of being-in-the-world; that is, Rojack associates evil with the false, inauthentic Â“they-selfÂ” which consumes and threatens to annihilate what Rojack sees as what is good in himÂ—his s oul, his Â“true self.Â” Thus, not only do Mailer and Rojack connect authentic ity to Â“goodnessÂ”Â—to the Â“tru e selfÂ” and the soulÂ—they also connect inauthenticity to the Â“evilÂ” withinÂ—to the Â“false selfÂ’ and the corruption of the soul. Through Rojack Mailer suggests that an indivi dual must recognize his/her Â“fallennessÂ” and thus see the evil within his/he r self in order to expel the evil within. As Rojack shows us, this is an ongoing struggl e, a violent process, a process Rojack envisions as a war between his authentic and inauthentic modes of being, between what is Â“goodÂ” and Â“evilÂ” within his Â“self.Â” Mailer tr anslates RojackÂ’s personal war into an
143 external struggle against what is evil, oppressive, and corru pt in American culture, a struggle against the forces that threaten to annihilate RojackÂ’s Â“selfÂ” and his soul. For Rojack, this evil on earth not onl y manifests itself in the form of an oppressive American culture, but is also manifest in the form of Deborah, the temptress, the embodiment of The Dream and its empty promise of happiness. Through MailerÂ’s recovery of the Adamic myth, Mailer presents Deborah as the American Eve who tempts Rojack with the promise of power, money, status, and fame; she tempts him with the promise of Th e Dream: Â“the road to PresidentÂ” ( AAD 2). In doing so, Mailer associates RojackÂ’s temptation and his Â“fallÂ” with his blind absorption in American culture and with the corruption of his Â“selfÂ” and his Â“soul,Â” a corruption Rojack associates with Debora h, who tempted him with a lie.80 This lieÂ—of The American DreamÂ—is the lie of the serpent: the apple does not transfer the infinite knowledge of God to Adam or Eve, nor doe s The Dream provide infinite opportunities and possibilities for the indivi dual Â“selfÂ”; in fact, both corru pt those who believe the lie. Yet RojackÂ’s Â“loss of innocenceÂ” occurs when he comes to an awarene ss of the lie of The Dream and of his Â“failureÂ” in life. Maile r and Rojack envision Â“innocenceÂ” as an existential Â“innocence,Â” which has a negativ e connotation: Â“innocenceÂ” suggests blind absorption in the social world, the coveri ng-up and hiding of oneÂ’s Â“trueÂ” self. In existential and religious terms, after his Â“f all,Â” Rojack acquires knowledge of the evil within and of free will, and he comes face to f ace with his existential situation in life: he 80 In fact, Mailer not only presents Deborah as an Amer ican Eve, the temptress who is rife with the promise of power and possibilities, he also presents Kelley as the serpent-father who, through his incest with Eve, devours the innocence of the child-E veÂ—an image that appears on Kelly Â’s self-created coat of arms. Further, Kelly suggests to Rojack that DeborahÂ’s corruption has been passed on to Rojack, just as Eve passes her corruption onto Adam. See p. 232-238.
144 must choose his own basis for Â“BeingÂ”; he mu st choose whether his life will be lived for good or for evil. Mailer suggests through Roj ack that Adam became aware of his own existential situation in life after eating the apple: Adam became aware of his freedom, his free-will, his ability to make choices for hi s own life. Mailer s uggests the knowledge both Adam and Rojack acquireÂ—of the evil with in and of their freedomÂ—is a loss of innocence that is necessary to become self-awa re and to come to a heightened awareness of the world and of others. Through MailerÂ’s merging of philosophy with his recovery and translation of the Adamic myth, Mailer positions Adam as the first human being to come to an existential awareness of self and world. For Mailer, Adam is the first Â“BeingÂ” to lose his innocence and gain self-awareness th at innocence is ignoran ce; he is the first Â“BeingÂ” to become aware of his freedom to choose how he will live his life. Thus, Mailer not only recovers, but re-envi sions the Adamic myth in An American Dream as existential and as a literal a nd existential war on earth betw een the forces of good and evil within and without. By bringing the Christian myth of the Â“fallÂ” of Adam to the forefront of American experience, Mailer not only s uggests that as Americans this war between good and evil, between God and the Devil, is our Â“legacy,Â” but that our Â“legacyÂ” is existential (qtd. in Guignon 202). As our Â“leg acy,Â” like Adam and Eve we are Â“thrown,Â” as Heidegger puts it, into a world and a war not of our own making; but our choices and actions, as Mailer envisions, not only cont ribute to, but could end this war within ourselves and end this war on earth.
145 MailerÂ’s Vision of an American Existentialism of and for America MailerÂ’s vision of the existential foun dations of America builds on and departs from Heideggerian existentialism through his vi ews that 1) there is a God, and 2) that God depends on human action (Adams 38). It is at this point that MailerÂ’s existentialism departs from HeideggerÂ’s and takes on re ligious significance. Although HeideggerÂ’s existentialism is consistently secular, Mailer builds from HeideggerÂ’s view that Â“whether God is God is determined from within the cons tellation of BeingÂ”; that is, the existence of God depends on the individual (qtd. in Henry 4). Mailer builds from HeideggerÂ’s notion that God depends on the individual and Â“en larges the meaningÂ” of Heideggerian existentialism through his view Â“that God de pends on the outcome of human actionÂ” (qtd. in Adams 38; qtd. in Glenday 111-112). Ultimat ely, MailerÂ’s view is an outgrowth of Heideggerian existentialism. Mailer connects He ideggerÂ’s view of Â“fa llingÂ” to the Â“fallÂ” of Adam and envisions the tension between authenticity and inauthenticity as a war between good and evil in the individual. Fu rther, because authenticity depends on an individualÂ’s thoughts (i.e., hi s/her recognition of his/her inauthentic modes of being Â“fallenÂ” or Â“lostÂ”) and depends on individua l action (i.e., how the individual chooses to live his/her life and how the individual ac tualizes his/her authentic possibilities for Â“BeingÂ”), MailerÂ’s view Â“that God depe nds on the outcome of human actionÂ” could read, Â“God depends on the outcome of human thought and actionÂ” (qtd. in Adams 38; qtd. in
146 Glenday 111-112). Further, Mailer couples his view that ther e is a war between good and evil on earth with the view that God is engaged in a war with the Devil here on earth, a war for souls that began in The Garden of Eden. Throughout An American Dream, Rojack engages in this war on varying levels. This war exists internally and externally, existentially and literally. It involves expelli ng evil from within the self and expelling evil from the world, an evil on earth Rojack believes is embodied in the form of Nazi soldiers and in the form of Â“the DevilÂ’s daughter,Â” Deborah ( AAD 204) It is a religious war and a personal war for existential and literal freedom It is a national and cultural war in which the individual struggles for freedom from an oppressive government and social structure, a struggle against the increasingly totalitarian values of America that breed, nay demand, conformity and submission. On a nationalistic level, Mailer envisi ons this war as a Revolutionary War, one in which Rojack, like his forefathers, str uggles to free himself from an oppressive political, le gal, and social system, another American Â“legacyÂ” Mailer recovers and shows is as part of the expe rience of Â“BeingÂ” American in his present historic moment. The American Existential Experience and MailerÂ’s Vision of America For Mailer, our Â“legacyÂ” as children of a Revolutionary War is existential, a Â“legacyÂ” Mailer suggests we must recover in order to fully understand how we arrived and the present, historic mome nt, not just as individuals, bu t as a culture. Significantly, this legacy is and once was a revolution in the consciousness of its time, a revolution
147 which became a warÂ—a Revolutionary WarÂ—to achieve freedom from an oppressive British system. Yet not only was this freedom achieved through war, but the physical and spiritual characteristics of America itself provided the place and the context for the foundations of America and American Â’s new found existential freedom. Before AmericaÂ’s founding as a nation, America was a void, and abyss, a Â“null basisÂ” from which individuals could make a new start. Early Americans were freeÂ— infinite possibilities stood before them in this New World. They were free to form their own basis for Â“BeingÂ” as indi viduals and for Â“BeingÂ” Amer ican. From this foundation, American democracy was born. The existential vi sion of our forefathers is evident in our founding mottosÂ—Â“Life, Liberty, and the Pu rsuit of HappinessÂ” and Â“Freedom and Justice for AllÂ”Â—and in their vision of Amer ica as an uncorrupted and fertile land of opportunity. Mailer recovers these possibilitie s from our collective American past and reinforces the idea that we must understand wher e we were, are, and could be in order to take authentic action in the present and thus project new possibilities for the future, a future Mailer sees at his historic moment as moving toward the total annihilation of the individual. Through MailerÂ’s complex vision of the existential foundations of Â“BeingÂ” American, Mailer suggests that America and Americans need to recover the existential possibilities the individual a nd the nation were founded onÂ—before it is too late. This is the vision Mailer presents throughout An American Dream: he shows us what America once was, what it is in his present mome nt, and through RojackÂ’s extreme and violent response, Mailer shows us what could soon come to be. Mailer, in fact, does not promote
148 violence as many critics believe: he merely s hows us the possibilities for our future if Americans and America, itself, continues to smother individuals in conformity. It is through Rojack that Mailer expresses his view that Â“If society s tifles an individual, smothers him in conformity, then he cannot act in any moral wayÂ” ( PP 270). This is the morality and the philosophy of An American Dream Â—that we, as individuals, are responsible for facing-up to our own lives befo re we are so submerged in our inauthentic modes of Â“BeingÂ” American th at our struggle for freedom be comes a violent retaliation against the world in which we are absorb ed. For Mailer, the increasing violence and oppression visited upon the individual by the cultur e at large in his historic moment will either lead to the complete annihilation of the individual, of i ndividualism, and the vitality of the human spirit, or, as he shows us through Rojack, it will lead to a violent response from the individual. Through Rojack Mailer shows us how urgent our need to reform ourselves and our culture is. As indi viduals, we must accept our responsibility to strive to discover a more authentic way of living for our own futures as well as for the future of our nation. For Mailer there is much at stake. On a nationalistic level, what is at stake is the future possibilities of and for th e individual American as well as the nation as a whole; on a spiritual and religi ous level, what is at stake is the soul of humanity and the existence of God, all of which Mailer envi sionsÂ—past, present, and futureÂ—as bound to the existential experience that is unique to Â“BeingÂ” American. We mu st, Mailer suggests, recover the existential possibilities for ourselv es and our nation and we must strive to discover a more authentic way of living for ourselves and our culture. This is MailerÂ’s Â“American Dream,Â” if he has one: that auth entic individuals will contribute to the
149 formation of an authentic community, an au thentic culture, and an authentic American experience that will free us from the collectiv e and individual violen ce of the past and present. In MailerÂ’s view, the future of the individual, the nation, and God depend on it.
150 Chapter 5 Conclusion The American Existential Tradition: Tracing the Influence of Fitzgerald and Hemingway on MailerÂ’s Philosophy and Art In a 1964 interview published in the Paris Review Norman Mailer cites the authors from whom he has Â“learned the most from, technically,Â” as the interviewer puts it, as E.M. Forester, James Farrell, John Dos Passos, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe (18). Ye t the influence of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway on MailerÂ’s works goes beyond the realm of techniqu e; in fact, their philosophic visions of modernity, their tran slation of existentialisms to American interests and concerns, and their existential co ncerns with the effect s of an increasingly oppressive American system on the individual and the culture at large, reverberate throughout MailerÂ’s cultural criticism and his literary works. Although Hemingway is often cited as the literary ar tist who influenced Mailer the mostÂ—in part, due to the fact that Mailer repeatedly cites Hemingway in his worksÂ—in terms of MailerÂ’s philosophic vision of America, both Fitzgerald and Hemi ngway are central to MailerÂ’s vision of America and the American existential experi ence of his life and times. In fact, in An American Dream Mailer reveals his development of Â“a c oherent view of lifeÂ” in the form of his own American brand of existentia lism, a vision of the unique psychological
151 experience of Â“BeingÂ” American that grows from the American existential foundations laid by Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the first half of the 20th century ( Paris Review 18; Foster 220). Significantly, critical studies of Fitzge rald and Hemingway continually refer to these authors as innocents of philosophy even though eviden ce such as reading lists, letters, library collections, and the authorÂ’s works themselves reveal that Fitzgerald and Hemingway were, at least, minimally versed in the philosophic discourse of their time.81 Critics repeatedly discount works of ph ilosophy in HemingwayÂ’s reading collection, claiming that Hemingway most likely never r ead them; and, Fitzgera ldÂ’s copy of H.L. MenckenÂ’s The Philosophy of Frederick Nietzsche a work his letters and interviews reveal he highly valued as well as his admission that Nietzschean ideology had a profound influence on his thought and writing in his early to mid twenties, are rarely considered in critical studies of FitzgeraldÂ’s canon of works (Bruccoli, Conversations 44, 83).82 Yet, as Ronald Berman notes, becau se Â“the decade of the twenties was philosophically explosive,Â” it is hard to im age that Fitzgerald and Hemingway, who were both known to emphasize their reading of a range and variety of works as essential to their art, would have overl ooked the main intellectual cu rrents of their timeÂ—the 81 Richard Foster and Manfred Putz are among the scholars who discuss Fitzgerald and HemingwayÂ’s existentialism, yet they both argue that Fitzgerald and Hemingway were not versed in philosophy. Specifically, see FosterÂ’s article Â“Mailer and the Fitzgera ld Tradition,Â” p. 229 and PutzÂ’s Nietzsche in American Thought and Literature, p. 7. 82 Works of philosophy found in HemingwayÂ’s reading collection such as The Twilight of the Gods (1911), Thus Spake Zarathustra (1926), Problems of Philosophy (1926), Time and Man (1928), Nietzsche en Italie (1929), Philosophy 4 (1929), as well as philosophically founded texts such as the works of Andre Gide and Fydor Dostoevsky, just to name a few, reveal that He mingway was, in fact, interested in the philosophic currents of his time from the teens into the thirties. See Michael ReynoldÂ’s HemingwayÂ’s Reading, 19101940. As for Fitzgerald studies, David Ullrich is one of the few scholars who investigates the specific influence of Nietzschean ideology on FitzgeraldÂ’s works. Specifically, see his article on FitzgeraldÂ’s short story Â“The Ice PalaceÂ” entitled Â“Memorials and MonumentsÂ…Â”
152 explosion of European philosophy on the Amer ican scene. If Fitzgerald and Hemingway had not commented on every facet of culture in both their fiction and their non-fictionÂ— from history, politics, and social issues to l iterature, art, and prevai ling ideologies of their historic momentsÂ—their innocen ce of the philosophic currents of their time would be more likely, even a reasonable assumption. Yet, European philosophies were being translated, explicated, and appropriated to Am erican interests and concerns, not only in the highest intellectual circles, but in acad emia, in social criticism, in cultural commentary, in journals and on the pages of some of AmericaÂ’s most popular magazines. Significantly, the two American authors whom I find to have the most developed and articulate existential visions of modern times and who ta ke responsibility through their art for working out the philosophical dilemmas of modernityÂ—Fitzgerald and HemingwayÂ— have yet to be fully understood as two of the most important early l iterary voices who get to the core of the existential experience of Â“BeingÂ” American, voices whose reverberations are felt by Mailer in his younger years a nd are still felt today. FitzgeraldÂ’s Philosophi c Vision of America Hailed Â“as the interpreter of the youth of the Jazz age, Â” the Â“spokesmanÂ” of Â“the dancing, flirting, frivoling, lightly ph ilosophizing young AmericaÂ” and as the Â“delineatorÂ” and liberator of Â“the American girl,Â” by the close of 1922, Fitzgerald was the authoritative voice of an age and a generation (Bruccoli, Conversations 82, 75). He not only names and defines his ageÂ—the Jazz AgeÂ—but also captures the vitality of this age
153 like no other author of his time. Although the vi sion of modernity Fitzgerald presents in his early short stories and novels earns Fitzgera ld instant renown as of one of the most important chroniclers of Jazz Age America, cr itics who have recognized the existentialist impulse in FitzgeraldÂ’s work see Fitzgerald not only as a chronicler but more importantly as a thoughtful and insightful social critic who is wo rking out the Â“dilemmas of philosophyÂ” in his art. (Berman, World 9).83 Significantly, only a handful of scholars have examined the depth to which FitzgeraldÂ’s thought and writing is influenced by the philosophic currents of his time. Fitzgerald scholar David Ullrich, for example, identifies the existentialist impulse in FitzgeraldÂ’s early works in FitzgeraldÂ’s focu s on identity and cultural memory as socially constructed. Ullrich argues that this existe ntialist impulse is embodi ed in FitzgeraldÂ’s existentialist critique of AmericaÂ’s tendency to erect Â“memorials and monumentsÂ” as a way of shaping cultural memory, regional and personal identity, and thus Â“assuring conformity and thwarting the possibility of envisioning Â‘individualityÂ’Â” (Ullrich, Â“MemorialsÂ” 2). FitzgeraldÂ’s early concer n with AmericaÂ’s creation of mythologies through which the identities of the individua l, communities, regions, and the nation are shaped, and what Richard Foster identifies as FitzgeraldÂ’s charactersÂ’ Â“search for selfhoodÂ” in a culture which th reatens to annihilate the individual, forms the basis of FitzgeraldÂ’s early Â“Â‘existentia lÂ’ visionÂ” of modern, American experience (228). Foster, in 83 In The Great Gatsby and FitzgeraldÂ’s World of Ideas, Ronald Berman argues that the characters in The Great Gatsby Â“are working out a dilemma of American philosophyÂ” (36). Although Berman does discuss the influence of Nietzschean philosoph y on FitzgeraldÂ’s art and thought, he attributes this influence to American cultural critic H.L. Mencken and his transl ation of Nietzschean philosophy to an American context.
154 fact, implies that FitzgeraldÂ’s Â“Â‘existentialÂ’ visionÂ” of modernity positions Fitzgerald as the first modern American author to interpret American experience existentially.84 In fact, Fitzgerald is heralded as Â“the first aut hor to chronicle the younger generation at the moment when youth was becoming supreme a nd defiant,Â” an assessment that not only points to FitzgeraldÂ’s extreme sense of contem poraneity and his keen social eye but also points to FitzgeraldÂ’s historic moment, th e moment when the modern sensibility was born, when the Victorian public conscience is replaced by the modern epistemological shift to subjectivity, the moment when the American youth rebelled against the values of the increasingly conformist modern so ciety in which they lived (Bruccoli, Conversations 60; Berman, Fitzgerald 53). FitzgeraldÂ’s complex vision pos itions him as a chronicler and an existentialist, the philosophy he explores and espouses inseparabl e from the historic moment he puts in motion through his art. In fact, throughout hi s early short stories and novels, Fitzgerald addresses and captures the existential center of his times by showing how the individualist values of Americans conf lict with the increasingly oppressive and conformist values of the culture at large. FitzgeraldÂ’s Â“The Ice Palace,Â” for example, serves as critique of the American political and social structures that seek to ensure individualsÂ’ loyalty to regional and national values and thus ensure individualsÂ’ conformity (Ullrich, Â“MemorialsÂ” 2). In Â“The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,Â” Fitzgerald presents a stark picture of the implications of AmericaÂ’s emphasis on the value of wealth: 84 Although Foster claims FitzgeraldÂ’s existentialism is a recovery of the American existentialism critic Martin Green attributes to Ralph Waldo EmersonÂ—wh o Green calls Â“the classical voice of a curiously American Â‘existentialismÂ’Â”Â—FitzgeraldÂ’s existential vision, which grows in depth and dimension in the early to mid 1920s, is a Neitzschean -inspired existential-philosophic vi sion of the Jazz Age and the Jazz Age scene (Foster 219; Green 53).
155 wealth and the protection of oneÂ’s wealth, Fitzgerald suggests, had become the most important individualist endeavor more important than human life. Although Fitzgerald critiques different aspects of American cu lture in these storie s, they both reveal FitzgeraldÂ’s existentialist view that the values American cu lture espouses are antithetical to the individual; in fact, he s uggests that the direction Ameri can culture is heading is not only toward the death of the in dividual, but to the eventual death of American culture. Fitzgerald repeats this se ntiment in his early novels This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and Damned (1922) through presenting charac ters who are lost, who are broken both physically and spiritually a nd thus unable, impotent to act, what Fitzgerald envisions as the implications of his cultureÂ’s desire for conformity: the death of the creative spirit and vitality of the individual. Yet FitzgeraldÂ’s vision of m odernity, as pessimistic as it may seem, does retain a sense of hope for the individual and for American culture. For Fitzgerald, the first step is to come to a heightened awareness a nd understanding of self and world. At the end of FitzgeraldÂ’s Â“The Ice Palace,Â” for example, Sally Carrol Happer comes to what David Ullrich iden tifies as an Â“existential aw arenessÂ” of selfÂ—Â“that real growth is inevitable and painfulÂ” (Ullrich 9). This Side of Paradise closes with Armory BlaineÂ’s admission that he knows himself, not hing more, suggestive of ArmoryÂ’s growth and his existential awareness of self. Â“DiamondÂ” ends with Kismine and John who escape the island to avoid Â“executionÂ” for their knowledg e of the secret diamond at the source of KismineÂ’s family wealth. Fitzgerald sugge sts that Kismine and John come to an awareness that love and human connection ar e more fulfilling than wealth; they also come to an awareness of the implicati ons of revering wealthÂ—the death of the
156 individualÂ—a sentiment Fitzge rald punctuates by the deat hs of those who visit and inhabit the island. And although The Beautiful and Damned ends with a sentiment similar to Â“DiamondÂ”Â—the perception th at that wealth is more important than human lifeÂ—it also ends by lauding courage and an indivi dualist ethic through Anthony PatchÂ’s proud vision of himself. He does not Â“submit to mediocrityÂ”Â—Â“ I didn't give up,Â” Anthony says to himself, Â“and I came through!Â” ( BD 795). For Ullrich, the importance of FitzgeraldÂ’s early short stories and his first novel, This Side of Paradise is that they reveal FitzgeraldÂ’s formation of a Â“complex philos ophy of culture,Â” a philosophy Ullrich claims Fitzgerald had already developed by 19191920, a philosophy Ullrich argues informs FitzgeraldÂ’s critique of Amer ican culture in his later works. Although I agree that the philosophy of culture Fitzgerald espouses in his early works recu rs throughout his canon, FitzgeraldÂ’s own admissions th at NietzscheÂ’s works, as well as MenckenÂ’s Nietzscheaninspired social commentary of the 1920s had a profound influence on his thought and writing in the first half of the 1920s, suggests that Fitzgera ld was still formulatingÂ—or refiningÂ—his existentialist philos ophy of culture and the indi vidual in the years leading up to The Great Gatsby In fact, FitzgeraldÂ’s 1922 clai m to Maxwell Perkins that he wants Â“to write something new Â” suggests Fitzgerald thinks he has something new to write, something that is not only different from his own wo rks, but something different from the artistic endeavors of his contemporaries (qtd. in Lehan, Limits 28). Critics such as Richard Lehan argue th at the new novel Fitzgerald had already begun to envision in 1922, what would become The Great Gatsby Â“was to be consciously differentÂ” ( Limits 28). In fact, in a 1924 interview Fitzgerald reveals one of
157 the ways in which Gatsby was to be different from current trends in American literature. In this interview Fitzgerald claims a shift in the intellectual and literary climate of his time and presents his observation that, Â“five years ago the new American novels needed comment by the authorÂ…. But now that ther e is a intelligent body of opinion guided by such men as Mencken, Edmund Wilson, and Van Wyck Brooks, comment should be unnecessaryÂ” (qtd. in Bruccoli, Conversations 68). What Fitzgerald suggests in this interview is that not only was he well-verse d in the American cultu ral discourse of his timeÂ—much of which was Nietzsche-inspiredÂ—b ut that this discourse was not limited to intellectual and literary circ les; it dominated American publ ic discourse. Berman cites a series of essays Mencken wrote in the years 1920-1927 in which Mencken questioned Â“the nature of democracyÂ” and offered his view of Â“some of its current problemsÂ” (Berman, World 9). Ronald Berman writes that in these essays Mencken captures Â“the sense of opposition between individuals and grou ps of the early twentiesÂ” and formulates Â“one issueÂ” Berman sees as Â“central to F itzgeraldÂ’s writingÂ”Â—the inadequacy of the Â“legal aristocracyÂ” as the ruling class in America.85 Critic Robert Emmett Long attributes MenckenÂ’s influence on FitzgeraldÂ’s vision in Gatsby to MenckenÂ’s Â“concern with the illusion of national mythÂ” and the Â“worship of Â‘success,Â’Â” as well as his written attacks on Â“our great national myth of Â‘successÂ’Â” and the optimism that stood behind it ( Achieving 38). Mencken repeatedly expresses themes Berm an and Long see as part of the fabric of 85 I have discussed what Nietzsche refe rs to as the Â“legal aristocracyÂ” at length in Chapter 2. In short, in NietzscheÂ’s class system, the Â“legal aristocracyÂ” is th e class of inherited wealth, prestige, and power, and is also the class Nietzsche despises th e most since they reinforce and perp etuate the forces in society that thwart individual growth, development, and expression.
158 FitzgeraldÂ’s Gatsby In fact, Long claims that it is through FitzgeraldÂ’s writing of Gatsby that Fitzgerald Â“fi nds his visionÂ” (Long, Achieving 180). FitzgeraldÂ’s vision in Gatsby what I see as a complex mi xture of history, politics, religion, social issues, and philosophy, not only embodies th e cultural and philosophic dilemmas of his time, but separates Fitzgerald from the literary-arti stic endeavors of his contemporaries. For example, where postwar writersÂ—as a wholeÂ—tended to write pessimistically about the state of American democracy and American culture, content to expose and criticize AmericaÂ’ s myths of success, equality, and unhindered individual freedom, FitzgeraldÂ’s Gatsby departs from this body of opinion and shows Fitzgerald views American culture as capable of recons tructing itself more authentically. In fact, FitzgeraldÂ’s pessimism toward American cu lture is evident in his early works, a pessimism retained in Nick CarrawayÂ’s di sdain for the blind masses and the Â“legal aristocracy,Â” yet in Gatsby as critics such as Martin Green and Wright Morris argue, FitzgeraldÂ’s philosophy is posit ivistic, optimistic, affirmativ e in nature (Foster 219). Further, what is also distinctive a bout FitzgeraldÂ’s ph ilosophic vision in Gatsby as Ronald Berman aptly notes, is found in Fitz geraldÂ’s presentation of Â“the dilemmas of philosophy in anecdotes of social life,Â” philo sophies that Berman argues are inspired by the philosophic discourse of FitzgeraldÂ’s time ( World 9). These philosophies, which Â“seemed simple to Mencken and to other editorialists,Â” Berman writes, Â“became more complexÂ” in the Â“novelistic formÂ” of Gatsby ( World 9). The complexity of FitzgeraldÂ’s existential-philosophic vision of modernity, according to Wright Morris, is found in FitzgeraldÂ’s optimistic-absurdi st vision of contemporary ex perience. This vision, Morris
159 claims, positions Fitzgerald as Â“the first Am erican to formulate his own philosophy of the absurd,Â” a philosophy that takes shape during FitzgeraldÂ’s conscious attempt to write something new, something different from th e works of his contemporaries and from his own early artistic endeavors, something cont emporary that also captures the Â“dilemmas of philosophyÂ” and presents a remedy for living in Jazz Age modernity (Berman World 9; Morris, Â“The Function of NostalgiaÂ” 26-27). Although FitzgeraldÂ’s philosophic vision, as I ha ve traced thus far, is existentially Nietzschean in origin, a vision that radically Americanizes and adds depth to the existing American-oriented Nietzschean musings of fellow chroniclers such as H.L. Mencken, we can not fully understand Fitz geraldÂ’s absurdist vision by relying exclusively on a Nietzschean frame. In fact, Nietzsche is onl y part of NickÂ’s story and FitzgeraldÂ’s complex philosophy. Yes, Nick is an aspiring Nietzschean, yet Nick never suggests that GatsbyÂ’s sees as he does. In fact, as Nick comes to see more of how Gatsby sees, Nick comes to realize that GatsbyÂ’ s faithÂ—like that of Sren KierkegaardÂ’s Â“young swain who falls in love with a princess,Â” yet knows the impossibility of this loveÂ—is a faith in the absurd. It is GatsbyÂ’s vision, his commitment to Daisy, his faith, hope, and courage in the face of impossibility that not only reinvigorat es NickÂ’s faith, but forms the basis of the absurdist vision Fitzgerald presents in Gatsby To understand FitzgeraldÂ’sÂ—what beco mes NickÂ’sÂ—absurdist vision of contemporaniety is to understand Gatsby as an outsider to the Nietzschean civilization Nick envisions as his own. He is Â“exempt fromÂ” NickÂ’s usual Â“scornÂ” because Nick comes to see that Gatsby, unlike Myrtle a nd George Wilson, is not blind or deluded;
160 instead, he is aware from the outset that he was in DaisyÂ’s house by Â“colossal accidentÂ” (156). Because of his fear, th at his Â“invisible cl oak of a uniformÂ” might fall off at any moment and Daisy may find out that he was not Â“a person from much the same strata as herself,Â” Gatsby Â“made the most of his timeÂ” with Daisy, an admission that suggests the Â“penniless young man without a pastÂ” is awar e of the impossibility of winning Daisy (156). GatsbyÂ’s questÂ—to amass great wealth and create a past for himself in order to win DaisyÂ—is, in part, achieved. He risks ever ythingÂ—his life and his creation of Â“Jay GatsbyÂ”Â—for the possibility of achieving what was once, and may still be, the impossible. For Nick, it is GatsbyÂ’s infinite hope, his faith that the absu rd is possible, that makes GatsbyÂ’s vision different from his own. I have discussed NickÂ’s admiration for GatsbyÂ’s absurdist vision in length in the Fitzgerald Review in terms of Gatsby as KierkegaardÂ’s Â“greatÂ” knight of faith. As my understand ing of both Kierkegaard and Fitzgerald has continued to grow, there are, of course, points in the article I would explicate more precisely, but my messa geÂ—FitzgeraldÂ’s messageÂ—is the same: FitzgeraldÂ’s viewÂ—that Â“hope keeps the worl d beautifully aliveÂ”Â—f orms the basis of FitzgeraldÂ’s absurdist vi sion (qtd. in Lehan 72).86 It is this element of GatsbyÂ’s character that Nick describes as his Â“r omantic readiness,Â” his Â“extraord inary gift for hope,Â” and his Â“sensitivity to the promises of lifeÂ” (6). It is GatsbyÂ’s stri ving, his Â“extraordinary gift for 86 What is see to be FitzgeraldÂ’s absurdist philosophy is bound to the fact that we live in a world absent of absolute Â“TruthsÂ” and absolute objectivity, thus our choices, commitments, beliefs, values, and standards are not based on any rational, clearly demarked foundations. We must make choices in spite of the irrationality of life; we must make commitments in spite of the impossibility of achieving our ends; we must decide meaning and purpose for our lives in spite of the absence of meanin g and direction in this world. In short, we must commit ourselves to our choices, we must choose what we think is best for our lives, and we must have faith that our choices, our commitments, and our values will prove to be the right ones. The absurdity of life is that we must make choices and commitments without knowing whether we have made the right choices.
161 hopeÂ” and his courage in the face of his advers aries (i.e., Tom and the social forces that block the upward mobility of the American self-made man) that Nick admires (6). It is GatsbyÂ’s hope and the authentic vitality of his creative spirit, not a Â“flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the Â‘creative temperamentÂ’Â” that Nick suggests separates Gatsby from the major ity of men (6). Yet, what is unique about Gatsby, what separates him from Â“the herdÂ” is that Gatsby embraces his creative spirit and gives direction to his vitali ty through his commitment to Daisy.87 In fact, Gatsby embodies the American spirit Fitzgerald sees as part of the American character that can save the individual and culture from the direc tion it is heading: toward the death of the individual and the creative spir it, and thus the death of wh at Fitzgerald sees to be uniquely American. Thus, Gatsby embodies FitzgeraldÂ’s hope ful vision for the individual: that hope, faith, commitment, and courage will keep the world Â“beautifully a liveÂ” (qtd. in Lehan 72). This is what Nick memorializes through writing The Great Gatsby : he memorializes the one uniquely American characteristic that has survived the timesÂ—the vitality of the American spiritÂ—and shows his generation that there are authentic possibilities for the individual who gives authentic di rection to this vitality of spirit. It is this uniquely American spirit that Nick sees in Gatsby a nd that he feels Â“respons ibleÂ” for sharing with his generation, a spirit whose physical embodi ment is destroyed by the Â“carelessÂ” and 87 Although GatsbyÂ’s commitment to Daisy is often disc ussed in terms of GatsbyÂ’s tragic failure to see DaisyÂ’s corruptionÂ—i.e., her valuing of wealth, aris tocratic status and powerÂ—what Nick venerates is GatsbyÂ’s absurdist faith that he can overcome the fo rces of society that thwa rt individuals who pursue interests outside their class of birth. What makes Gatsby Â“greatÂ” is his vitality, his courage, his faith, and his commitment, even though the direction he gives to his creative spirit is ofte n regarded by critics as a tragically misplaced direction.
162 irresponsible, but a spirit Nick suggestsÂ—na y, ensuresÂ—will live on in the hearts and minds of his fellow and future Americans. Through FitzgeraldÂ’s creation of his own c oherent view of American culture and the individualÂ’s place in culture, Fitzgera ld puts his philosophy in motion through Gatsby with the intention of clarifying Â“a nationÂ’s vision of itselfÂ” (Mailer, Cannibals and Christians 98).88 What Fitzgerald seeks to clarify is that the direction American culture is heading is toward the death of the individual. What can save us, Fitzgerald suggests, is to see more clearly, to retain a sense of hope, to grow, to be responsib le, not Â“careless.Â” For Nick, Gatsby both serves as an example and a warning to modern Americans: his hope, faith, courage, and commitment are laudable, but his vision lacks th e hardy skepticism Nick practices in his pursuit of Â“truth.Â” Gatsby, as Nick envisions him, has an absurdist faith in the impossible; but, for Nick, wh at Gatsby sets his sights onÂ—DaisyÂ—is not worthy of his love, his hope, and commitmen t. Although FitzgeraldÂ’s own belief Â“that hope keeps the world beautifully aliveÂ” is illustrated through Gatsby, Fitzgerald also shows us that we must break all illusions and come to see the world more clearly and truly; we must take responsibility for devel oping and refining our own vision. In fact, it is GatsbyÂ’s hope, his vitality, his creative spirit, as well as what Nick sees as GatsbyÂ’s inability to see self and world clearly, that st irs NickÂ’s creative spirit and inspires him to take responsibility for Gatsby and for sh aring his own heightened awareness and understanding of the world with his fellow Am ericans. It is GatsbyÂ’s vitality and hope that inspires Nick to give direction to his own creative spirit, a commitment to the 88 For Mailer, the highest purpose of literature is Â“to clarify a nationÂ’s vision of itself,Â” a vision Mailer consciously strove to achieve through An American Dream ( CC 98; Adams 31; Wenke 3). I see FitzgeraldÂ’s vision in Gatsby to have the same purpose.
163 memory of Gatsby through which he simultaneou sly creates art, beco mes an artist, and espouses an Â“art of livingÂ” for modern times. HemingwayÂ’s Philosophic Vision of America HemingwayÂ’s vision of modernity is comm only attributed to the formation of his own philosophies of life, death, and art in what has come to be known as HemingwayÂ’s Â“characteristic philosophyÂ”Â—the Â“Hemingw ay CodeÂ” and HemingwayÂ’s Â“Code HeroesÂ” (de Madariaga 18).89 Decades of critics have explored HemingwayÂ’s development of his Â“Code HeroÂ” in his early worksÂ—from Nick Adams, Jake Barnes, and Fredric Henry to his early portraits of the Spanish mata dorÂ—and have described both HemingwayÂ’s philosophy and that of his characters as exis tential-oriented. Wayne Kvam, who explores the popularity of HemingwayÂ’s early works in Germany in the twenties, notes that Â“existentialist critics naturally felt immediate kinship with a writer who recognized death as the only absolute,Â” a sentiment Kvam interprets as a major theme of HemingwayÂ’s early works (Kvam 154). John Killinger attributes Hemi ngwayÂ’s early Â“literary popularityÂ” to his Â“extreme sense of contempor aneity,Â” which Killinger notes reflected the Â“rigorous philosophical movementÂ” of his timeÂ—existentialismÂ—and like Kvam, Killinger recognizes HemingwayÂ’s repeated e xploration of death in his early canon of works as HemingwayÂ’s attempt to Â“reduce the problem of existence to its lowest common denominatorÂ” (21-22). Jose Cast illo-Puche claims the Spanis h bullfight as essential to 89 See Philip YoungÂ’s 1959 Ernest Hemingway and his 1963 Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration for the first discussions of HemingwayÂ’s Â“CodeÂ” and Â“Code Heroes.Â”
164 HemingwayÂ’s formation of a coherent philoso phy; he claims that after Hemingway saw his first bullfight in 1923, the bullfight Â“was to remain fixed in him and indelible, the basis of his elemental philosophy which he would carry with him throughout his lifeÂ” (qtd. in Broer, Spanish Tragedy 55). In fact, Castillo-Puche writes, Â“From the very first momentÂ” Hemingway Â“tended to see in the ma tador a superhuman power that was more than religiousÂ—something almost divineÂ” (206 ). Lawrence Broer insi ghtfully notes that Â“in the image of the matadorÂ” Hemingway Â“found a symbol of the best a man can be in a violent and irrational worldÂ—a model of manhood and integrity after which he would pattern his major fictional heroesÂ” (Broer, Spanish Tragedy vii). This pattern began in embryonic form in 1923 when Hemingway sa w his first bullfight and immediately recognized the Â“transcendental va lue of the bullfightÂ” (Broer, Spanish Tragedy 55). In the nine years between HemingwayÂ’s first bullfight and hi s publication of his Spanish bullfight manifesto, Death in the Afternoon Hemingway writes of the Spanish bullfight in articles and in essays, in prose and poetry fo rm. Yet, Miriam Mandel notes that HemingwayÂ’s first piece on the Spanish bullfight was written before he saw his first bullfight. Mandel writes: Â“When Mike Strater, Gertrude Stein, and Alice B. Toklas spoke to him about the bullfight, he immediately rec ognized its literary possibilitiesÂ” and wrote Â“The First Matador Got the Horn,Â” which Mandel notes Â“reads like an objective, journalistic eyewitness account, but it is a mix of hearsa y, imagination, and reading, a crafted exercise in voice and point of viewÂ” ( Companion 7-8). After Hemingway saw his first bullfight on March 27, 1923, he imme diately began sharing his first-hand experiences and his insights into the Span ish bullfight with his American readers
165 (Mandel, Â“The Birth of HemingwayÂ’s Aficin Â” 142-143). In 1923 Hemingway published three essays on the bullfight: Â“Bullfighting, Sport, and Indus try,Â” Â“World Series of Bull Fighting a Mad, Whirling Carnival,Â” and Â“T ancredo is Dead.Â” In the same year, Hemingway writes poetry and prose on the bullf ight: Â“Maera Lay StillÂ” was published in In Our Time, and his poetry, Â“The Soul of Spain w ith McAlmon and Bird the PublishersÂ” and Â“Part Two of the Soul of Spain with McAlmon and Bird the PublishersÂ” were published the following year. In 1924 Hemi ngway produced more bullfight poetryÂ— Â“The Poem is by MaeraÂ” and Â“[Some da y when you are picked upÂ…]Â”Â—and in 1926 he writes Â“To a Tragic Poetess.Â” The bullfight in HemingwayÂ’s fict ion includes Â“The UndefeatedÂ” (1925), The Sun Also Rises (1926), Â“Banal StoryÂ” (1927), which is another tribute to Maera, and Â“The Mother of a Queen,Â” which was composed in 1931-1932 and published in Winner Take Nothing in 1933 (Mandel, Companion 13). In these yearsÂ—1923-1932Â— not only does Hemingway bring the bullfight to Americans and serve as his readersÂ’ guide to Spain and Spanish culture, he also guides them through Â“Trout Fishing in Europe,Â” th rough fishing expeditions between Key West and Havana; he brings them the American e xpatriate experience in Paris and repeatedly brings them back to the war on the Italian front using all genres of writing available to him. But what Hemingway finds in Spain grea tly differs from what he finds in other cultures of the worldÂ—Paris in cluded. What Hemingway finds is a country, a people, and a national spirit, untouched by the First Wo rld War and free from the overcrowding and modernization that Hemingway saw spoiling hi s own native land as well as some of his favorite cultures of the world. Spain serves as a contrast to America where the Â“valuesÂ”
166 of courage, bravery, honor, and patriotism hol d little or no significant meaning for the individual. What Hemingway grasps to be th e dilemmas inherent in Â“BeingÂ” AmericanÂ— his is a generation rendered impotent by war directionless, disillusioned, a Â“lost generationÂ” smothered by the conformist va lues of American cultureÂ—he finds the answers to in Spain. What Hemingway finds in Spain is esteem for th e individual. In fact, it is the rebel, the individualist, the artist, who is celebrated in Spain and celebrated through the national art of the Spanish bullfight. It is a country which encourages the growth of the individual and cherishes what is uniquely their ownÂ—their culture, their view toward life and death, the sculptural ar t of the Spanish bullfight. It is in this contextÂ—SpainÂ—that Hemingway, by contrast, co mes to see what is universal in the particulars of Spanish culture. They, like He mingwayÂ’s post-war gene ration, live with the thought of death everyday. By the time Hemingway starts writing Death in the Afternoon HemingwayÂ’s distrust of his own cultureÂ—which he sees as espousing abstract material values that distort identity and thwart the individu al by smothering him/her in conformityÂ—has brought Hemingway to a deep appreciation of th e spiritual superiority of Spain. It had all the essential characteristics of an authentic, individualistic culture that America did not. Its values, firmly set and visibly perfor med through the Spanish bullfight, Hemingway tells us, are embodied in one wordÂ—Â“pundonorÂ” ( DIA 91).90 It was a culture that faced death everyday with a vitality of spirit Hemingway saw as essential to the life of the 90 Â“Pundonor,Â” Hemingway tells us, Â“means honor, probity courage, self-respect and pride in one wordÂ” (91). In terms of the matador, Hemingway emphasizes the fact that he Â“is not always expected to be good, only to do his bestÂ” by adhering to the highest standards of bullfighting, by working closely with the bull, and by performing honorably in the bull ring.
167 individual and to the life of a nation. The philosophy that grows from what Hemingway sees to be the superior qualities of Sp anish culture is a ph ilosophy through which Hemingway attempts to clarify the vision of his nation, of his fellow Americans. This philosophy calls for a new awareness, a new unders tanding of self and world; it calls for a new consciousness for the individual American and for the nation as a whole. The basis of this philosophy, that we must, as Susan B eegel puts it, Â“look realistically at war and death, andÂ…abandon all romantic notions of them,Â” concentrates on individual experience and feeling and on what Sidney Fi nkelstein refers to as the Â“essential questionÂ” of individual Â“existenceÂ” (Beegel, Â“That Always AbsentÂ” 75; Finkelstein 294). In the act of writing Death in the Afternoon the voice of an American adventurer and a chronicler of American experience becomes the cultivated voice of a spokesmanphilosopher for modern times whose focus is not merely American existence, but human existence. In Death in the Afternoon HemingwayÂ’s existentialism and his coherent view of life as a whole takes shape. Hemingway shows that individuals must renounce capitalistic values and concentrate on th eir own individual ex istence. He presents a Â“philosophy of life in the lap of deathÂ” and illustrates this philosophy thro ugh the matador, an individual Lawrence Broer sees as the new Â“embodiment Â” of HemingwayÂ’s Â“Code Hero,Â” a hero Kathy Willingham sees as Â“grounded in the ex istential be-ing in the worldÂ” and who strives for Â“existential authenticityÂ” thr ough his creation of the art of the Spanish bullfight (Reynolds 41; Broer, Spanish Tragedy 46; Willingham 34, 37). For HemingwayÂ’s American audience, because th e bullfight and correlatively the philosophy
168 Hemingway had been formulating, was radi cally foreign to the American mind, to understand the bullfight Hemingw ay calls for a new awareness and a new understanding, not just of the bullfight, but of self and world. Hemingway tells readers they must learn to Â“see clearly and as a wholeÂ”; they must rese rve all judgments until they have seen the things he has spoken of for themselves; they mu st create their own standards, decide what is Â“goodÂ” and Â“badÂ” and let nothing confuse these standa rds; and they must allow themselves to feel, not what they have been Â“taught to feel,Â” but must see their own feelings and emotional reactions as epistemologically valid ( DIA 2). In short, he emphasizes that readers must take responsibility for their own perceptions, feelings, and morality and for their own thoughts and actio ns. Through teaching readers how to see, judge, and feel the Spanish bullfight, Hemi ngway attempts to bring readers to a heightened awareness and understanding of th eir own existential situation in lifeÂ—as towards death. For Hemingway, this situation re quires that we break all illusions and face the stark realities of life, that every indivi dual be brave in his/her own way, that every individual take respons ibility for creating meaning and c ontent for his/her own life as a Â“whole,Â” and that every individu al face his/her own death in or der to live life with clarity, integrity, purpose, and meaning; in short, one must face the r eality of death with earnestness or pundonor in order to live life earnestly What American critics often consider a fatalistic philosophy, a death-haunted, morbid fascination with the darker side of life, existentialist crit ics see as a prophetic optimism and an absurdist vision that places He mingway in the ranks of a Â“guide for his generation,Â” a Â“prophet of those who are without faithÂ” (Kvam 29; Fadiman 64).
169 HemingwayÂ’s is a philosophy of the absur d, a philosophy in which one must Â“think deathÂ” and think of Â“it as your lot,Â” and do Â“what death is indeed unable to doÂ—namely, that you are and death is also,Â” a philosophy that calls for a union of the temporal and the eternal, of life and death, a philosophy th rough which the individua l recognizes that life must be lived with passion and intensity and with clarity and purpose since death may come at any moment (Kierkegaard, Â“At a GravesideÂ” 75). For Hemingway, to unite the temporal and the eternal is to choose an overarching meaning for oneÂ’s life as a whole and to live with and renew this commitm ent every day. Like the matador, who faces death on an almost daily basis, who makes a commitment to his work and his art and strives to unite the temporal and eternal in his art, Hemingway is also committed to unite the temporal and the eternal in his art. Li ke the matador, and like Hemingway, we must have courage and faith in the face of death to commit to an overarching purpose for our lives as a Â“whole.Â” The basis for Hemingway Â’s absurdist philos ophy of lifeÂ—that we must unite life and death, the temporal and th e eternal, in order to express the eternal in our livesÂ—finds its most articu late expression in the greatest of the matador-artistsÂ’ union of Â“life and deathÂ” throu gh their art, a living illust ration of the necessity of pundonor and earnestness at a time when the faith and courag e of HemingwayÂ’s generation faltered.
170 Fitzgerald and Hemingway: American Existentialists Like the existentialists w ho Â“rose in revulsion against th e corruption of values in capitalist societyÂ” and whose Â“basic conviction was that the evils it pe rceived were to be ascribed to the very concept and existen ce of society,Â” Fitzgerald and Hemingway recognize the inadequacy of American demo cracy in an increasingly commercial and consumer culture and reject the capitalistic va lues, identities, and norms prescribed by and reinforced through the increasingly oppressi ve social and political structures of American culture. For Fitzgerald and Hemingway what is at stake is the individual, the creative spirit, and the life of the nation. This sentiment echoes throughout both authorsÂ’ early works, a sentiment manifest in their por traits of lost, direc tionless, impotent, and emotionally unfulfilled characters. Signi ficantly, both Fitzgerald and Hemingway expatriated themselves in 1924 and 1921 respec tively since they felt America no longer provided an environment for the authentic grow th of the individual or for the cultivation of the creative spirit, someth ing Europe, and Paris in part icular, not only offered, but encouraged and held in high esteem. Although Fitzgerald and Hemingway sought an environment that encouraged artistic experimentation and ha d a vital intellectual and artist ic scene in which they could cultivate their own art, they never ab andoned America or their hopes for America entirely. In fact, both Fitzgerald and Hemi ngwayÂ’s repeated expl orations into the
171 dilemmas of American modernity and their at tempts to find an authentic remedy for the individualÂ—i.e., how to live in modern ityÂ—reveals that thei r concern with the inadequacy of American democracy and American culture goes beyond their own personal concern of finding an environment that encourag es individual growth and expression. Although Fitzgerald and Hemingway Â’s concern for the individual American and for the nation as a whole is evident in th eir early portraits of wounded, directionless, and impotent Americans who are smothered in co nformity and lost in a value system that speaks for them, not to them, by the time Fitzgerald is writing The Great Gatsby and Hemingway is writing Death in the Afternoon they have each developed a philosophy, a coherent view of life through which the indivi dual and the nation can be revitalized and given authentic direction. Their philosophies, which embody an indivi dualistic ethic and an existential-artistic vision of the creative sp irit and of life and art, are only part of what distinguishes The Great Gatsby and Death in the Afternoon from Fitzgerald and HemingwayÂ’s earlier works. In fact, Fitzge rald and Hemingway both admittedly set out to create something new in The Great Gatsby and Death in the Afternoon and do so by responding toÂ—and also by subtly defyingÂ—the l iterary currents of th eir time. They defy the Eliot cultÂ’s cry Â“Art for ArtÂ’s Sake!Â” in favor of creating art that is social-minded, didactic, and useful. Importantly, Fitzgerald and HemingwayÂ’s Â“artÂ” is not subordinate to their subtle and indirect didacticism; the existential Â“art of liv ingÂ” they espouse in The Great Gatsby and Death in the Afternoon comprise part of the artistic genius of these authors. In fact, in The Great Gatsby and Death in the Afternoon Fitzgerald and Hemingway not only focus in on the univers al, existential-phil osophic concerns of
172 existence, but the perspective they espouse is that of the Â“ar tist,Â” of the creative spirit who breathes life into art and makes art out of life. Unde rstanding and engaging their perspective is so essential to Fitzgerald and HemingwayÂ’s philosophies that they both begin their narratives by introducing readers to their narrative points of view; they give their readers a direction from which they can begin to refine a nd cultivate their own, personal vision and their own Â“art of livingÂ” for modern times. But the philosophies Fitzgerald and Hemingway espouse throughout The Great Gatsby and Death in the Afternoon are not merely existential-oriented; in fact, the philosophies they espouse are absurdist, philosophies that re quire the individual to have th e courage to risk everything in the face of impossibility to win back life and love. Where Fitzgerald puts his absurdis t philosophy in motion through GatsbyÂ’s commitment to what he knows to be an impossible love affairÂ—he knew he was in DaisyÂ’s house by Â“colossal accidentÂ”Â—He mingway puts his absurdist philosophy in motion through the Spanish matadorÂ’s commitment to creating art in the face of death, an absurdist vision in which the matador must have the courage to do the impossibleÂ—unite life and death. For Fitzgerald and Hemingway, courage, commitment, hope, and faith are the materials for the impossible to become possi ble, an absurdist and optimistic vision for modernity through which they simultaneously get to the core of the ex istential experience of existence and espouse an Â“ar t of livingÂ” in the face of absurdity. This requires, as Fitzgerald and Hemingway emphasize, a new vision, a new awareness, and a new understanding of our existentia l predicament in life, a vision through which Fitzgerald
173 and Hemingway address the universal human dilemmas of modernity and show us they are our own. Fitzgerald and HemingwayÂ’s conscious stri ving to find solutions to the dilemmas of modernity for themselves and for their fe llow and future Americans position Fitzgerald and Hemingway as guides for their generation. Yet, they do not only provide existentialist critiques of th eir American moments, nor do th ey merely capture the texture and feel of these moments; instead, The Great Gatsby and Death in the Afternoon serve as responses to and offer remedies for the existential predicament of Â“BeingÂ” American in their time. They guide their generation not just through the particulars of American experience with a sense of contemporaneity of ten considered unmatched in their time, but they guide their generation through the pro cess through which one negotiates their own existence and creates significance and mean ing for their own lives as Â“a whole.Â” In The Great Gatsby and Death in the Afternoon both Nick and Hemingway offer themselves as explorers, pioneers of places foreign to them and to most Americans, not just geographically, but philosophica lly, psychologically, and spiritu ally. They are explorers of the human psyche, of the materials of ex istence, of the authentic possibilities for themselves, for their contemporaries, and for their nation. But first and foremost they are Â“artists,Â” in the literal and th e existential sense. In fact, it is thr ough their merging of philosophy and art that Fitzgerald and Hemi ngway add depth and dimension and give a meaningful direction to their art.
174 Mailer and the Fitzgera ld-Hemingway Tradition Like Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Mailer repeatedly voices his concern for the psychological and existential we ll-being of his fellow Ameri cans throughout his canon of works. His concerns are Fitzgerald and HemingwayÂ’s: they are concerned with the annihilation of the creative spir it, in part due to the rising po wer of the totalitarian power structures of society that thwart development, growth, and creative, artistic, and individualistic expression. Like Fitzgerald and Hemingway, Mail er believes that cultural reform begins with the individual, and he be lieves in the possibility of an authentic American experience supported by an authentic American culture.91 It is this existential and absurdist impulse in Maile rÂ’s canon of works that brings Richard Foster to the insight that Â“MailerÂ’s work constitutes an imaginativ e advancing of FitzgeraldÂ’sÂ”Â—and we must add HemingwayÂ’sÂ—Â“kind of visionÂ” (Foster 224). Nowhere is this more evident than in MailerÂ’s An American Dream where Fitzgerald and Hemingw ay are referenced, invoked, and literally woven into the fa bric of MailerÂ’s novel. In the opening paragraph of An American Dream RojackÂ’s invocation of FitzgeraldÂ’s short story, Â“The Diamond as Big as the R itz,Â” simultaneously brings FitzgeraldÂ’s critique of Amer icaÂ’s cult of success and his preoccupation with the illusion that wealth, status, and presti ge bring happiness to the forefront of the narrative. By 91 Mailer has even drawn up plans for constructing cities that would contribute to the authentic development of individuals and the culture as a wh ole. See MailerÂ’s Â“Rebuilding the Cities,Â” which is collected in John P. RasmussenÂ’s The New American Revolution; the Dawning of the Technetronic Era
175 invoking Â“Diamond,Â” Rojack not only points to his own early obsession with status and wealth, but he also suggests that in his own cultural moment the materialistic values Fitzgerald sought to expose and denounce in the 1920s still have a hold on the American consciousness in his time. Significantly, Ro jack invokes Â“DiamondÂ” in reference to DeborahÂ—Â“a girl,Â” Rojack writes, Â“who woul d have been bored by a diamond as big as the RitzÂ” ( AAD 1). In this context, RojackÂ’s refe rence to Â“DiamondÂ” not ony points to Gatsby Â’s Daisy Faye, a perpetually bored young aristocrat who once tossed a $100,000 string of pearls into the trash, but it also s uggests that Deborah, like Daisy, is a member of the American aristocracy with the social, political, and economic power and connections to provide access to Â“The Dream.Â” Through this reference, Rojack thus positions himself as a post-modern Gatsby whose pursuit of Â“The DreamÂ”Â—Â“the road to PresidentÂ”Â—is entangled with his pursuit of an American heiress ( AAD 1-2). Richard Foster identifies the correlation between GatsbyÂ’s Daisy and RojackÂ’s Deborah: both serve Â“as promissory images of value a nd possibility,Â” an assessment punctuated by GatsbyÂ’s description of DaisyÂ’s voice as Â“full of moneyÂ” a nd RojackÂ’s description that Deborah Â“smelled like a bankÂ” ( Gatsby 127; AAD 34). Yet where MailerÂ’s critique of American culture and RojackÂ’s vision of Deborah as his access to Â“The DreamÂ” are Fitzgeraldian, RojackÂ’s reco llection of his World War II experience and his deathhaunted point of view are Hemingwayesque. RojackÂ’s reference to Â“a particular hi ll in ItalyÂ” echoes HemingwayÂ’s own war experience on the Italian front, as well as Hemingway characters Jake Barnes and
176 Frederic HenryÂ’s near-death experien ces and woundings on the Italian front.92 RojackÂ’s woundsÂ—to his thigh and pelvisÂ—are the w ounds Hemingway and Jake Barnes received in Italy. Yet, unlike BarnesÂ’ wound, Rojack Â’s wound does not leave him physically impotent, although Rojack suggests that he experiences temporary psychological and existential impotence. Rojack writes: Â“where any other young athlete or hero might have had a vast and continuing recreation with se x, I was lost in a priv ate kaleidoscope of deathÂ” ( AAD 7). Significantly, RojackÂ’s pelvis is sp lit, which is not only suggestive of RojackÂ’s split selvesÂ—what he distinguishes as Â“the dist ance betweenÂ” his Â“publicÂ” self and his Â“lost in a private kaleidoscope of deathÂ” selfÂ—but it is a wound that will heal ( AAD 7). Like Hemingway, the death-haunted Roj ack not only studies his own near-death experience and repeatedly faces-up to the possi bility of his own death, he also publishes a study of death. This studyÂ—Â“The Psychol ogy of the HangmanÂ”Â—Â“a psychological study of the styles of execution,Â” like HemingwayÂ’s study of death in Death in the Afternoon is a study of Â“violent death,Â” the forum of th e executioner, the only place Rojack can study death in America ( DIA 2). Significantly, RojackÂ’s claim that his study of death would Â“turn Freud on his head,Â” echoes what Susan Beegel identifies as HemingwayÂ’s rejection of Freudian interpretations of the Spanish bullfight in Death in the Afternoon in favor of an existential interpretation of the experien ce of death and of the Spanish bullfight ( AAD 17; Beegel HemingwayÂ’s Craft of Omission 61).93 92 See HemingwayÂ’s The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms. 93 Susan Beegel writes of HemingwayÂ’s dislike for Waldo FrankÂ’s Â“infatuation with the works of Sigmund Freud, manifested in passages like this description of a bullfightÂ”: And now another change in the beauty of their locked encounter. The man becomes the woman. This dance of human will and brutish power is the dance of death no longer. It is the dance of life. It is a searching symbol of the sexual act. The bull is
177 In the opening pages of An American Dream Mailer presents RojackÂ’s Fitzgeraldian awareness of the myth of The Ameri can Dream through RojackÂ’s realization that he is a Â“failu re,Â” and he presents RojackÂ’s view toward death, the study of violent death, and his own death, as Hemingw ayesque. Yet the focus of the first few pages of RojackÂ’s narrative is under the guise of explaining his Â“frightened romance with the phases of the moon,Â” which Rojack tells us was full the night he met Deborah and full the night he killed four German soldiers. Th e symbolic value of the moon for Rojack is both Fitzgeraldian and Hemingwayesque; it is RojackÂ’s own personal correlative and catalyst for his heightened awareness and unders tanding of his existentia l situation in life. Like Doctor Eckleburg, who looms large over a vast wasteland and reminds Nick of the need to break all illusions and see more clearly, the full moon not only watches over what Rojack envisions to be an American wa steland, but the moonÂ’s light, like Doctor EckleburgÂ’s corrective spectacle s, illuminates RojackÂ’s vi sion. Yet the full moon does not merely clarify RojackÂ’s vision of self and world; it is the catalyst for RojackÂ’s understanding of the need to transcend his ex istential situat ion in life as towards death. For Rojack, the full moon also functions much as the Spanish bullfight does for Hemingway: it reminds him he must see Â“cl earlyÂ” and, like the full moon, Â“as a wholeÂ”; it reminds him of the need to face-up to his own death, since the full moon, which is Â“towards-the-endÂ” of being full, reminds Roj ack of his own existential situation in life ( DIA 278; Heidegger 299). In fact, he recogn izes the full moon as a kindred being, one male; the exquisite torero, stirring and uns tirred, with hidden ecstacy controlling the plunges of the bull, is female. (qtd. in Beegel, HemingwayÂ’s Craft of Omission 61). See also Waldo FrankÂ’s Virgin Spain p. 235.
178 that is groundless, alone in this world, and heading Â“towards-the-endÂ” of Â“Being-awholeÂ” (Heidegger 299, 280).94 What Rojack understands is that he needs to see his Â“selfÂ” Â“clearly and as a whole,Â” and he must create structure and meaning for his life Â“as a whole,Â” both of which are embodied in He mingwayÂ’s vision of the Spanish bullfight ( DIA 278).95 Thus, the full moon functions much as Hemingway suggests the bullfight does for himÂ—it reminds him of the need to f ace his own death and to see his life and the life of the world Â“clearly,Â” truly, and as Â“a wholeÂ” ( DIA 278). Further, RojackÂ’s description of his World War II experience suggests that he knows, like the matador, that transcendence comes with f acing oneÂ’s own death with pundonor and like HemingwayÂ’s matador, Rojack experiences this transcende nce when Deborah charges him Â“like a bullÂ” ( AAD 30). The most direct, and I think most obvious, reference to Hemingway in An American Dream is the scene in which DeborahÂ’s adm its to Rojack of a bullfighter lover in her past. DeborahÂ’s Â“admission,Â” that sh e was once in love with a bullfighterÂ—Â“NoÂ… someone far better than a bullf ighter, far greaterÂ”Â—comes at the end of DeborahÂ’s almost methodical attempt to psychologically emascu late Rojack (28). She calls him a Â“bloody whimperer,Â” questions his courage and status as a war hero, Â“confessesÂ” to sexual acts with other lovers, and mentions her affair w ith a great manÂ—a bullfi ghter or greater (23, 94 See HeideggerÂ’s discussion of Â“Being-towards-the-end,Â” Â“Being-towards-death,Â” and Â“Being-a-wholeÂ” in Being and Time Division Two, Section I (p. 279-304). 95 Although the full moon is RojackÂ’s personal correlative for facing death and reminds him of his need to transcend his thrownness in this world, Mailer points to the full moon as a complex cultural configuration, as well. For example, it evokes superstitions, full moon lore, magic, witchcraft, the feminine, and suggests it has healing qualities ,as well as the power to inspire madness, just to name a few of the cultural conceptions of the full moon in MailerÂ’s time. Further, RojackÂ’s Â“romanceÂ” with th e moon is historically pertinent in the wake of KennedyÂ’s Â“Man on the MoonÂ” Address in 1961. Rojack, like America and the recently assassinated John F. Kenned y, aspires to understand the moon ( AAD 11).
179 28-30). Those familiar with HemingwayÂ’s can on of works will recall Brett AshleyÂ’s affair with bullfighter Pedro Romero and Jake BarnesÂ’ physical emasculation. Rojack, unlike Barnes, suggests he can not Â“take itÂ” and slaps Deborah in the face. Faced with existential death, he lashes out at Deborah. Her response: she charges him Â“like a bullÂ” ( AAD 30). Yet DeborahÂ’s psychological emascula tion of Rojack escalates to a physical threat when Deborah tries, as Roj ack puts it, to Â“mangleÂ” his Â“rootÂ” ( AAD 30). Faced with existential and l iteral emasculation, threatened with the end of creative possibilities for the self, Rojack, like the matador, delivers Â“a cold chopÂ” to Â“the back of the neck,Â” which drops Deborah Â“to a kneeÂ” (30). Rojack then hooks his arm around her neck; yet Deborah, Rojack tells us, Â“had almost the stre ngth to force herself up to her feet and lift me in the airÂ” (30). At this moment Rojack kills Deborah like a bull: he cracks her neck like the bullÂ’s spinal column is severed in a cl ean kill. This clean kill brings Rojack, like the matador, to transcend his thrownness in this world, which Roj ack suggests through his vision of Â“heaven,Â” the feeling of Â“n ew grace,Â” and the Â“honorable fatigueÂ” he describes (31-32). RojackÂ’s struggle with De borah is the life and death struggle of the matador and the bull. He knows the matadorÂ’s transcendence and the courage it takes to face the bull, but Rojack also comes to understandÂ—as HemingwayÂ’s Catherine Barkley, Frederic Henry, and FitzgeraldÂ’s Nick Carrawa y understand, that courag e is also required in love; that love is a commitment, a vow; a commitment Rojack hopes and envisions he can make to Cherry. What Rojack envisions on the balcony at KelleyÂ’s is that he must make a commitment to Cherry; he must risk ever ythingÂ—i.e., his lifeÂ—for Cherry. The full moon
180 takes on Fitzgeraldian and Kierkegaardian significance when Kelly invokes Kierkegaard and then Rojack attempts to walk the para pet for love. Like Gatsby, who Nick suggests continually reaffirms his vow and commitm ent to Daisy, Rojack knows he, too, must have the courage to risk ever ything to win Cherry. He must walk the parapet, he must choose while Â“poised over the a byss of meaninglessness,Â” and at this moment create and overarching meaningÂ—as a Â“good husbandÂ” and a Â“good fatherÂ”Â—and structureÂ—a marriage, a familyÂ—for his life. Like Gatsby, Rojack must risk everything for love. But Rojack also understands that he must wa lk the parapet twice, he must make KierkegaardÂ’s double movement of faith, once to give up Cherry and once to win Cherry back. But Rojack, like Gatsby, is thwarted : Gatsby by Tom and Wilson and Rojack by Kelly, who tries to push Rojack off the para pet with ShagoÂ’s umbrella. Because Rojack fails at the moment of choice, because he is thwarted in his attempt to walk the parapet twice, he loses Cherry, a loss Mailer punctuates with CherryÂ’s violent death. Left without a viable base for meaning or structure in his life, Rojack leaves America, what he envisions to be both the vast wasteland of the desert and the glittering and alluring, but corrupt American city of Las Vegas. Rojack envisions that the only environments in America that exist now that the frontier is closedÂ—the barren wast eland and the corrupt citiesÂ—are not environments that nurture, nor contribute to, the authentic growth and development of the individual. RojackÂ’s rejec tion of American culture is due, in part, to RojackÂ’s desire to be free and brave, someth ing he can not do in a pl ace that is no longer Â“the land of the free and th e home of the brave.Â” Thus, An American Dream ends with Rojack heading for an environment capable of nurturing the growth and expression of the
181 creative spirit, a place where he can embrace hi s freedom and cultivate his courage: he heads for the Â“green breastÂ” of Guatemala and the Yucatan ( Gatsby 189). Like Hemingway, who favors Spain and Spanish cu lture, its national art of the Spanish bullfight, and its virgin lands to the over crowded, modernized face of America and American culture, Rojack heads for Guatem alaÂ—another home of the bullfightÂ—and toward Â“virgin landÂ”Â—the unspoi led jungles of the Yucatan. The Â“Art of LivingÂ” Existentially: Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and MailerÂ’s Call for an Authentic American Experience Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and MailerÂ’s emphasis on subjective epistemology are similarly embodied in their perspective that we need to break all illusions and come to see self and world more clearly and as a whol e. They call for a heightened awareness of self and world through which individuals can begin to create their own meaning and structure, their own Â“art of livingÂ” in their times. They s how us the importance of living artistically, of creating life as art, of becoming an artist a sentiment punctuated by their narratorsÂ’ process of creating art and Â“BecomingÂ” artists.96 We must, as Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer s uggest, strive not to conform, but to create. For these authors, the authentic growth and devel opment of the individual, the n eed to give direction to the 96 Significantly, both Nick and RojackÂ’s narratives serve to illustrate the process through which one becomes an artist. Although their paths highly differ, what is consistent is that their experiences, their awareness and understanding of self and world, inspir e both Nick and Rojack to create literary art in the form of their narratives. Hemingway, on the other hand, is a literary artist, but one who strives to become a superior artist. Hemingway strives not just to create art, but to create endu ring art, a striving for immortality in a world without an afterlife.
182 vitality of the human spirit, and the need for the expression of the creative spirit, should be the common goal of humankind. In fact, the most important thing they ask readers to do is to take responsibility for what their own lives are amounting to; they urge readers to take responsibility for themselves as artists a nd to see their lives as works of art. But as artist, voices of their own generations, F itzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer do not only take responsibility for their own lives as artist, they also feel a sense of responsibility to their readers and their nation. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer present their readers with an Â“art of livingÂ” for their times, for their readersÂ’ own, undeniab ly subjective lives. They show us that we must, as Nietzsche advises, break from Â“the herdÂ” and create our own morality and our own scheme for living. We must, as Kierkegaar d advises, stand for from Â“the crowdÂ”; we must come to understand ourselves, commit to an overarching purpose for our lives, and live life Â“This very day!Â” (Â“At a GravesideÂ” 83). We must, as Heidegger advises, free ourselves from the Â“they,Â” we must strive for a more authentic existence for ourselves, for others, for the formation of an auth entic community, and correlatively, for an authentic American experience. We must, as Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer espouse and illustrate, make a commitment to and for our lives and thus give direction to the vitality of our creative spirits. We must take responsibility for our own lives and continually strive to see self and world more clearly, truly, auth entically and as a whole. Importantly, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, a nd MailerÂ’s messages position them as more than mere chroniclers of America and American experience: they serve as prophets, healers, and guides for their generations, fo r Americans then and now. In FitzgeraldÂ’s
183 Gatsby Fitzgerald guides us through the Jazz Age, through modern New York and through the dilemmas of modern vision. In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway guides us through his study of death, through Spain and Sp anish culture, and attempts to show his readers how to experience the spiritual and tr anscendental value of the Spanish bullfight for themselves. In An American Dream Mailer guides us through the philosophical and psychological experience of Â“BeingÂ” Ameri can, just as Fitzgerald and Hemingway accomplished in their time. Mailer guides read ers through the Â“psychological frontierÂ”Â— the only frontier in America, Mailer claims, th at has not been used up, that has yet to be explored (qtd. in Adams 71). Yet Fitzgera ld, Hemingway, and Mail er not only explore and guide us through the existential center of their times; they do so by merging philosophy and art and capture the depth and dimensions of the dilemmas of human existence for their times. In fact, the dept h in which Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer capture the texture and feel of their respect ive historic human moments is not only what gives their art its enduring quali ty, but is the genius of their art. Their art not only serves to provide existentialist critiques of thei r American moments, but also, and more importantly, serve as responses to and offer remedies for the existential predicament of Â“BeingÂ” American in their time. By doi ng so, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Mailer become more than chroniclers who ca pture the psychological and philosophic experiences of Â“BeingÂ” Ameri can in their times; they b ecome the prophets of their generations, healers for Â“those who are without faithÂ” (Fadiman 64).
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196 About the Author JÂ’aim Sanders received her BachelorÂ’s Degr ee in English and Textual Studies from Syracuse University in 1989. She completed her graduate work in Literature with a concentration on Existential Ph ilosophy at the University of South Florida in 2007. She is an active member of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, the Ernest Hemingway Society, the Norman Mailer Society, the national College English Association, and the Florida chapter of the College English Association. Sh e is currently collaborating with Florida Studies scholars and educators on Faces of Florida: Critica l Studies of the Sunshine State a cultural studies textbook intended to serve educators and students across the English curriculum. She has previous published articles on FitzgeraldÂ’s The Great Gatsby HemingwayÂ’s To Have and Have Not and on approaches to teaching literature in the English classroom. She has presented papers on a variety of subjects ranging from the philosophical influences on the works of Fitz gerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, and Mailer to approaches to teaching literature across the English curriculum. She is the recipient of awards for teaching, academic, and professiona l excellence from the University of South Florida, as well as a reci pient of grants funded by the Fitzgerald and Hemingway societies.