One Man Alone: Hemingway and To Have and Have Not
One Man Alone: Hemingway and To Have and Have Not. Edited by Toni D. Knott. Foreword by Susan F. Beegel. Lanham, MD: University Press of America,1999. 250 pp. Cloth $56. Paper $35.
Toni D. Knott’s valuable collection-thirteen essays by seven scholars and a comprehensive bibliography of more than 250 items-constitutes the “first book-length treatment” of To Have and Have Not. The volume’s vision is Knott’s; six essays are hers. One of Robert F. Gajdusek’s two essays and a small part of Knott’s material have been published previously
Knott begins by recapitulating negative views of To Have and Have Not that continue. A fast-paced adventure (gangster?) story rife with hardboiled dialogue and depression-era “Haves” and “Have Nots” ends in garbled social comment. An aggressively individualistic Harry Morgan murders and commits other crimes to support his family, actions complicating reader acceptance. The novel fails to mesh new material’ successfully with the two published stories that are its base, weakening structure and point of view. The title is unclear. Much negative criticism arose initially from contemporary reaction to Hemingway’s lifestyle and recent work, especially Green Hills of Africa, seen to ignore the country’s economic hardships. Further, many objected to the depiction of intellectuals, persons of color, and women. Knott’s collection takes up these criticisms and more.
The first section documents history. Robert Trogdon reveals a Hemingway ubiquitous in print in 1937-thirty newspaper and magazine articles, four interviews, sixteen North American Newspaper Alliance dispatches reprinted broadly Knott discusses the cultivation of Key West tourism by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, island life among the Conchs and World War I vets, revolution in Cuba, and the omnipresent Gulf Stream. Randall Meeks uses the late nineteenth and early twentieth century concept of Social Darwinism to explain Morgan’s plight as a “Have Not” struggling in a world understood to be divided into predators and prey.
The second and longest section of One Man Alone claims the novel’s principal theme as the need to “connect” through love (and marriage). Gajdusek explores Morgan’s dying words: “No matter how a man alone ain’t got no bloody fucking chance.” Harry prefers working alone, trusting only his wife, recognizing the needs of”the other” only through her. Yet this commitment makes Harry a man and a “Have,” and shows that most of the novel’s apparent “Haves” are “Have Nots.”
Knott analyzes the issue of categorizing individuals into groups, usually “us vs. them:’ She discusses the novel’s complex title, directing attention to those who judge not by appearances but actions, those capable of connecting, of loving: Harry and Marie; MacWalsey and Helen Gordon; the happy family on the yacht. Reviewing the manuscripts, Tracy Banis continues the focus on love and marriage, also highlighting Harry and Marie, exploring the importance of Hemingway’s adding their domestic moments to the manuscript while deleting “many politically based scenes and chapters,” redirecting emphasis from “government, society, or the individual” (133). Carl Eby examines.Harry and Marie’s relationship through the author’s fetishism, explaining Hemingway’s attempt to use “physical love as a trope to critique precisely the social order” (167).
Knott’s delightful record of her first trip to Key West includes many Hemingway stops. The most affecting is her visit with the 82-year-old Shine, a black man who knew Hemingway when the author sparred with local fighters: Poor and unheralded, Shine today recounts Hemingway stories only for those he chooses.
The final section opens with Gajdusek’s exploration of Harry’s character through the ‘spoken word: Harry will not sacrifice himself for abstract concepts-turning down the Cuban rebels in the first scene, refusing to “connect” with them-but he will sacrifice himself for Marie and his family. Language and Harry’s love for Marie also form the subject of Larry Grimes’s essay focusing on magic. (Harry’s black crewman is a voodoo initiate.) Grimes analyzes Harry’s fears that characters can curse one another via loose lips or other verbal carelessness; examples include Bee Lips and, the reader understands, novelist Richard Gordon. (In her “Foreword,” Susan Beegel suggests Gordon as coprotagonist with Morgan; referring to Harry Walden in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (1936), she urges that Gordon, also “an artist in dissolution,” receive similar attention [x].) Knott examines Harry’s religious aesthetic: fidelity to the natural world and to Marie and his daughters, a pattern of “connecting” extensible to the entire human community.
The volume concludes with consideration of the manuscript. New areas of investigation beckon, such as the research Hemingway did for the novel, even as old interests continue: e.g., Hemingway’s deletions of unflattering likenesses in Gordon to novelist John Dos Passos and in Helene Bradley to wealthy socialite Jane Mason.
Susan Beegel is certainly correct that To Have and Have Not”richly deserves more critical attention than it has to date received” (ix). These.essays and bibliography constitute an excellent beginning and a resource for the future.
-John Fenstermaker, Florida State University
Copyright The Hemingway Review Spring 2000
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