“Plagued With More Sore Throats Than The Average Opera Star”: The Origins And Significance Of Hemingway’s Fascination With The Throat

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Lilly Pilkington (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: https://library.appstate.edu/
Carl Eby

Abstract: Violence to the throat continually pops up in Hemingway’s works, most often by surprise. Take “Indian Camp” when the new father slits his own throat: Nick “pulled back the blanket from the Indian's head. His hand came away wet. He mounted on the edge of the lower bunk with the lamp in one hand and looked in. The Indian lay with his face toward the wall. His throat had been cut from ear to ear. The blood had flowed down into a pool where his body sagged the bunk. His head rested on his left arm. The open razor lay, edge up, in the blankets” (CSS 69). Or To Have and Have Not when someone’s throat is slit as an example of what happens to snitches, “All right. It was a close-up picture of the head and chest of a dead nigger with his throat cut clear across from ear to ear and then stitched up neat and a card on his chest saying in Spanish: ‘This is what we do to Lenguas Largas’” (39). In A Farewell to Arms, a barber threatens Frederic with a razor after accidentally mistaking him for an Austrian. He writes, “‘Ho ho ho,’ the porter laughed. ‘He was funny. One move from you he said and he would have—’ he drew his forefinger across his throat” (98). Even in his early newspaper story “A Free Shave,” this violence makes its appearance in the form of a threat, “The young barbers looked at one another significantly. One made an expressive gesture with his forefinger across his throat. “He’s going upstairs,” said a barber in a hushed voice” (BL 6). However, having the throat slit is not the only way that Hemingway kills his characters with such violence. Choking was another way that he killed his characters. In A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry’s newborn son is choked to death before he is even born: “Maybe he was choked all the time. Poor little kid. I wished the hell I'd been choked like that” (350).Hemingway’s story “After the Storm” opens right after a drunken fight in which the protagonist is choked almost to death: “I slipped and he had me down kneeling on my chest and choking me with both hands like he was trying to kill me. . . . I couldn’t swallow for a week. He hurt my throat bad” (CSS 283). And in Hemingway’s manuscript for his early, and little-discussed and as yet unpublished, short story “How Death Sought Out the Town Major of Roncade,” Vergara, the mayor of Italian village Roncade, is killed by the lone ranger, Sarsi, who chokes him in the middle of the night: “Then he took a hand grenade from his pocket and squeezed it into the breast pocket of Vergara’s pyjamas. Then he squeezed Vergara’s throat very gently until the town major awoke staring. . .” (KL/EH item 477a, 4). All of this evidence points to this idea: Hemingway was fascinated, and almost obsessed, with the throat and violence to it.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Pilkington, L. (2020). “Plagued With More Sore Throats Than The Average Opera Star”: The Origins And Significance Of Hemingway’s Fascination With The Throat. Unpublished Honors Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2020
Ernest Hemingway, throat, castration anxiety, letters, historical, fetishism, psychoanalytic

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