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Ernest Hemingway's Search for Glory

The Expansive Solution

Arrogant-Vindictive Type

Cyclothymic Personality Disorder

Basic Strategy

Ernest Hemingway's strategy to alleviate basic anxiety, or as Karen Horney called it, his search for glory, consisted of the pursuit of achievement through creativity, artistry, and skill, a reliance on strength of will, and self-sufficiency.

"'I'm the judge I'd like to appear before after I'm dead', he told Jos� Lu�s Castillo Puche in Madrid one day in 1959. If so, he'd be facing the sternest of final judges, for the Hemingway who was intolerant of the failings of others despised them in himself. His first wife, Hadley, once remarked to him, half in jest, that she thought he would like to be a king, with all the powers and denominations thereunto appending. Ernest replied in full seriousness that yes, he would like to be a king, a response which gave her the eerie feeling that she was 'sleeping with Napoleon Bonaparte'. Her observation struck exactly the right note, for it was a Napoleon, a king not by birth but by achievement, a master among men possessed of surpassing knowledge and skill, that Hemingway in his intense ambition was forever striving to become" (Donaldson, pg. 281).

Neurotic Needs

Of Horney's (1942, pp. 53-56) "Neurotic Needs"

8. The neurotic ambition for personal achievement:

  • Need to surpass others not through what one presents or is but through one's activities;
  • Self-evaluation dependent on being the very best--lover, sportsman, writer, worker--particularly in one's own mind, recognition by others being vital too, however, and its absence resented;
  • Admixture of destructive tendencies (toward the defeat of others) never lacking but varying in intensity;
  • Relentless driving of self to greater achievements, though with pervasive anxiety;
  • Dread of failure ("humiliation").

7. The neurotic need for personal admiration:

  • Inflated image of self (narcissism);
  • Need to be admired not for what one possesses or presents in the public eye but for the imagined self;
  • Self-evaluation dependent on living up to this image and on admiration of it by others;
  • Dread of losing admiration ("humiliation").

4b. The neurotic need to believe in the omnipotence of will (to use a somewhat ambiguous term, an introvert variety of 4 in highly detached people to whom a direct exertion of power means too much contact with others):

  • Feelings of fortitude gained from the belief in the magic power of will (like possession of a wishing ring);
  • Reaction of desolation to any frustration of wishes;
  • Tendency to relinquish or restrict wishes and to withdraw interest because of a dread of "failure";
  • Dread of recognizing any limitation of sheer will.

9. The neurotic need for self-sufficiency and independence:

  • Necessity never to need anybody, or to yield to any influence, or to be tied down to anything, any closeness involving the danger of enslavement;
  • Distance and separateness the only source of security;
  • Dread of needing others, of ties, of closeness, of love.

10. The neurotic need for perfection and unassailability:

  • Relentless driving for perfection;
  • Rumination and self-recriminations regarding possible flaws;
  • Feelings of superiority over others because of being perfect;
  • Dread of finding flaws within self or of making mistakes;
  • Dread of criticism or reproaches.

Idealized Image

"Hemingway's idealized image crystallized around a search for mastery, for a vindictive triumph which would lift him above others" (Yalom & Yalom, pg. 289).

"The division between the writer and the sportsman, the man at work and the man at play, formed only a part of a wider and more damaging fissure within Hemingway. This resulted, according to the argument of Irvin D. and Marilyn Yalom (the most persuasive of many psychological studies of Hemingway and his fiction), from Ernest's creation of, and attempt to live up to, an idealized self-image.

"Children conjure up such images, the Yaloms argue, when they meet lack of acceptance from their parents. Regarding parents as omniscient, such youngsters conclude there must be something terribly wrong with themselves; so, instead of developing their genuine selves, they set about constructing idealized images. According to the Yaloms' theory, Hemingway was such a child, and built up an idealized image 'crystallized around a search for mastery' which would prove his superiority to others. The ideal Hemingway was extremely virile, eternally faithful, absolutely courageous, and so strong as to be virtually impervious to the wounds of life. He was also a brilliant sportsman and consummate craftsman, possessed of wisdom beyond the ken of other men. Ernest sought to transfer to his idealized self those same marvelous attributes which, in a May 1950 letter, he assigned to his 'God'. That marvelous personage, he wrote, had painted many wonderful pictures and written some excellent books and fought Napoleon's most effective rearguard actions and cured yellow fever and sired Citation. He was the best god-damned God anyone had ever known. Above all, he was incredibly independent, sufficient unto himself. He was, in short, such a creature as never did or could live, and therein lay Hemingway's downfall. The godhood he aimed for eluded him forever -- though not for lack of trying" (Donaldson, pp. 260-61).

Nick Adams and the "Idealized Self"

Neurotic Pride

"There is the man driven by pride, which he often defined as a deadly sin yet embraced as his personal and well-loved daemon. He was proud of his manhood, his literary and athletic skills, his staying and recuperative powers, his reputation, his capacity for drink, his prowess as fisherman and wing shot, his earnings, his self-reliance, his wit, his poetry, his medical and military knowledge, his skill in map reading, navigation, and the sizing up of terrain" (Baker, pg. viii).

Neurotic Claims

The neurotic needs of an individual can become neurotic claims to which he feels entitled.

"Cautious about letting friend or lover come too close, he kept his distance by demanding of them an impossibly rigorous code of behavior and greeting their every deviation with an intolerance often conveyed by his sardonic wit" (Donaldson, pg. 278).

"But what he asked of people, whatever their nationality, is suggested by a conversation in Across the River and into the Trees, where Renata and her Colonel Cantwell discuss the merits of the restaurateur and hotel-owner Cipriani. 'Cipriani is very intelligent', Renata observes. 'He's more than that', the colonel replies. 'He's able'. Toward those who were not and did not make themselves able, Hemingway refused to be tolerant. He extended no mercy to those who slowed down or could not stay the course. For the mature Hemingway, there were simply no excuses. 'If you're any damned good at all', he told his brother, 'everything is your own damn fault'" (pg. 281).

Tyrannical Shoulds

Hemingway seems to have pursued a very strict discipline of conduct that literary critics called the "Code." This "Code" provides a good example of a system of tyrannical shoulds.

Here is how Laurie E. Rozakis (pp. 240-41) describes Hemingway's famous "Code."

"Remember that Europe had been blown apart in World War I. After being exposed to the horrors of war, people were searching for meaning.

"Not just those who had seen action but also those who had kept the home fires burning were filled with despair�making them a "lost" generation. It seemed that all hope was gone; even God and religion offered little sanctuary. From this despair, Hemingway fashioned his famous code of behavior.

"Hemingway bases his work on these philosophical premises:

  • Accept that there are no guidelines, no rules, for life.
  • Face reality: See things exactly as they are, no matter how difficult, rather than as you might wish them to be. (Especially the Long Good-bye, Death.)
  • Contain your despair and self-pity by sheer will power. Give into despair only in private or in the company of another member of the breed, someone who thinks the way you do.
  • Don't make trouble for others.
  • Impose some meaning on a meaningless universe by achieving form through ritual.
  • Don't judge others; instead, view the unenlightened with "irony and pity"

"According to Hemingway's code, a man must establish his own values by facing life courageously and acting honestly in terms of this reality. As a result, the Hemingway hero's main attribute is courage. He doesn't dodge reality through religion or lies. Further, he avoids self-pity because it is dishonest. Following this code enables the Hemingway hero to maintain his essential manhood and dignity, despite the brutal reality he confronts"

Donaldson (pg. 278) puts Hemingway's code in perspective:

"The code hero, usually a foreigner like Ruiz or the bullfighter Pedro Romero in The Sun Also Rises, came to represent the ideal which Hemingway measured himself and others against, to their inevitable disadvantage."


"When the idealized image is severe and unattainable, as it was for Hemingway, tragic consequences may result: the individual cannot in real life approximate the superhuman scope of the idealized image, reality eventually intrudes, and he realizes the discrepancy between what he wants to be and what he is in actuality. At this point he is flooded with self-hatred, which is expressed through a myriad of self-destructive mechanisms from subtle forms of self-torment (the tiny voice which whispers, 'Christ, you're ugly!' when one gazes at a mirror) to total annihilation of the self" (Yalom & Yalom, pg. 290).

Karen Horney: Intrapsychic Strategies of Defense

Carlos Baker (1969). Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.

Scott Donaldson (1977). By Force of Will: The Life and Art of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Viking.

Karen Horney (1942). Self-Analysis. New York: W. W. Norton.

Laurie E. Rozakis (1999). The Complete Idiot's Guide to American Literature . Indianapolis IN: Alpha.

Irvin D. and Marilyn Yalom. "Ernest Hemingway -- A Psychiatric View," Archives of General Psychiatry, 24 (June 1971), pp. 485-94. Reprinted in Irvin D. Yalom (1998). The Yalom Reader. New York: Basic.

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