Short Story Cycles

Writing ritual, resisting resolution: The short story cycles of Hemingway and Steinbeck

The article argues that Hemingway and Steinbeck used fishing and marine biology to resist narrative resolution, exploring war's effects on the psyche in their short story cycles.

This article argues that writing about fishing and marine biology allowed Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, respectively, to express a resistance to narrative resolution. Hemingway’s In Our Time ([1925] 1980) addresses the meaning and aftermath of World War I, while Steinbeck’s Cannery Row (1945) responds to World War II by not talking about it at all. Both books submerge war to discuss its effects on the psyche and landscape and seek solace by depicting rituals that have meaning but do not insist on finality. In this, fishing and specimen collecting provide non-teleological models for cognition and writing that resist the tyranny of resolution. Steinbeck and Hemingway render that celebration of open-endedness and process in the short story cycle because it allows them to meditate on the ongoing ritual of thinking and, by extension, writing.


By Jennifer J. Smith (2013): “Writing ritual, resisting resolution: The short story cycles of Hemingway and Steinbeck” in Short Fiction in Theory & Practice, Volume 3, Issue 2, Oct 2013, p. 175 – 191



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