Growing up during a time in American history when much of the country was still an unspoiled wilderness, it is no wonder Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner both show a particular awe for nature and a preoccupation with wilderness as a symbol. Wilderness is an important theme in Hemingway's The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber' and The Sun Also Rises, and in Faulkner's Go Down, Moses. While Hemingway expands his concept of wilderness to stretch from the hills of Spain to the savannas of Africa, Faulkner concentrates on the woods of Mississippi. Despite their varied locations, Hemingway and Faulkner have strikingly parallel understandings of the spiritual implications of wilderness. For both, the wilderness is a space of spiritual education and sacred initiation into manhood. It is differentiated for the profane world, embodying a sense of purity and evoking a strict moral code.
[...] As Bill semi- ironically states: the woods were God's first temples.”Another clue to the specialty of these hills is the Englishman Harris' reaction, again understated: don't know what this all means to In this novel and others the wilderness set apart as special and significant. Often, the wilderness is significant because it is a place where important initiations take place. Both Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and Ike's sections in Go Down Moses Old People”, “Delta Autumn”) are stories of initiation. [...]
[...] Ike must purify himself in order to enter the sacred space of the wilderness and see Old Ben, the bear. He cannot carry the objects of civilization, which are characterized as “tainted”. First, upon Sam's advice, he goes without a gun. Then he discovers that that is not enough: he must journey into the woods without a watch and compass as well. Here, the wilderness is established as a place of purity. Both Ike and Francis' guides are described in such a way that links them physically with the wilderness in which they reside. [...]
[...] Wilson originally stereotypes Macomber as the “great American a national stereotype that has appeared before in Hemingway (Henry as in Farewell to Arms) but one that is also particular to Macomber's own uninitiated state. Macomber must learn something from Wilson and the wilderness. Old People” and Bear” from Faulkner's Go Down Moses deal with a series of initiations of Ike as he learns to hunt from (appropriately named) Sam Fathers. Beginning from childhood we see Ike grow into a man, and we see him take the experiences he has in the sacred space of the woods and apply them to the outside world. [...]
[...] What Macomber learned in the wilderness would have carried over to the rest of his life, had it continued. Ike's lesson also carries over to his life outside the woods. His experience in the wilderness shapes his understanding of property, which directly affects his decision to renounce the legacy of the McCaslin plantation. For him the wilderness is “bigger and older than any recorded document” and white is “fatuous enough to believe he had bought any fragment of and the is “ruthless enough to pretend that any fragment of it had been his to convey”. [...]
[...] Both Faulkner and Hemingway treat wilderness as a symbol for purity and a means of accessing deep and profound knowledge. It is a setting for initiations into manhood whose effects on the initiated individuals are profound. These views are uniquely grounded in their historical context. By the 1930's the American wilderness was rapidly disappearing, especially in the south. After the trauma of a world war and economic depression the American psyche could no longer be described as innocent. In both of these stories, the wilderness retains an association to innocence until that innocence is corrupted. [...]
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