Ignorance is bliss. True happiness lies in simplicity. We have all heard these sayings at one point or another in our lives. Apparently, the same held true for Ernest Hemingway,as he appears to have taken them to heart. Ernest Hemingway's perception of that which was beautiful was always that which was simple. And what could possibly be any simpler than nature itself? It lacks the clutter and complexity of men and technology always prattling about and disrupting things. Nature is simple, violent, untamed, and above all, pure. It cannot be contaminated by the wiles of man, for if it were, then it would cease being nature. That is another reason that I believe Hemingway was infatuated with it; it cannot be touched. It cannot be tainted.
"To live according to natural law, this realease of the imagination. In discovering truth we create beauty." As I said before, Hemingway believed that nature was the ultimate.
It was simple, it was beautiful, it was clean. It was perfection. For Hemingway, nature was good. It epitomized all that he stood for. Places with the clutter of men invariably led to pain and suffering or death. Hemingway was really big on simplicity in his works. Everything was simple, from his style, to his characters (ie: Catherine - simpleton if I ever saw one). I think that he likened civilization to a giant machine. The larger and more complex it got, the more things it did. However, when something gets larger and more complex, then that increases the chances and the areas that something can break down. In A Farewell to Arms Hemingway said that the world will break you. It may not be today or tomorrow, but it will break you, and if it can't break you, then it will kill you. In any event, the world always wins, because it doesn't play fairly. Einstein said that, "Not only does God play dice; but the dice are loaded." Not just pretty words, eh? It sums up how Hemingway felt about the world. He knew that no matter how hard you fought, the world would always win in the end. But nature was a way out. It wouldn't save you, but it could give you a blessing (or a curse) depending on how you look at it. It makes it so that you do not HAVE to think. Of course you carry on thought processes, but true deep thought is bound, gagged, and tied to a chair. You didn't have to think about your inevitable loss or demise. You could get away from it all, for a short while at least; in essence, running, but not hiding.
Also, something that Hemingway used nature to deal with extensively was the ever-present nothing. The nothing is a derivative of the movement known as existentialism that developed after the first world war. Many began to think, after witnessing the scope and horror of World War I, that life truly had no purpse to it. Nature was, for Hemingway and for Nick ("In a Big Two Hearted River") a Clean, Well-Lighted Place (The title of another of Hemingway's lesser known works, pardon the pun). A place where you could get away from it all, where you wouldn't have to THINK about your life. As many philosophers have said, this world is a harsh one. You have happiness or you don't, you have friends and lovers or you don't, you have money or you don't, and for those people who don't, there must be a place where they can seek a false sense of comfort, like a quiet cafe in Spain. You will notice that I said false. Yes, it feels good while you are there, but when you walk out the door, or go back home, as you inevitably must, you face the nothing again.
That being said, I think that Hemingway believed that nature is a truth. Well, more of a half-truth. Nature's simplicity allows it to be closer to the truth than one might actually think. In A Farewell to Arms one could always rely on nature for insight into the plot. The rain was always a big indicator of how things were going. If you look, you will see that every single time something extraordinarily bad either happened or was going to happen, it was raining. Some have argued that rain is not a bad symbol in this book. I disagree. Rain was always doing something destructive in AFTA, either knocking the leaves off of trees or creating mud sloughs for people who had to walk outside, or it was lashing at people's faces. Besides, think realistically for a second. Who likes being outside during a storm. I don't. Who would enjoy having rain pelting you and stinging your face all the time? And who could forget the bat that paid Frederick and Catherine a visit? A bat flying into thier room was certainly not a good omen in any sense. Bats have been harbingers of doom in many cultures, and I think that that particular element was incorporated into this story.
Of course, nature is not limited to being a chronicle of a death foretold. It is something that one can touch. In A Farewell to Arms Hemingway attacked the ideals of honor, valor, loyalty, and other like-minded things. These things, Hemingway argued, were nothing. Honor is incapable of feeding your children. Loyalty will not keep your wife warm while she waits in bed for you, fearing for your life every night that you are fighting the war. Hemingway put little stock in such things. Have you ever seen a ball of valor, or a bit of altruism? No. His point was that if you stacked those things on a scale with the bodies of all who had been killed in the war, it wouldn't even make a bloody dent in the tipping of the scales. Nature, on the other hand, could be grasped and seen and tasted and felt. Nature was something TANGIBLE. It was real. It was the rock that Hemingway could sit on and it was an anchor for Nick's soul in "A Big Two-Hearted River." Perhaps that was why it was a clean well-lighted place for Hemingway.
Men have always strived for naming things. Labeling them so that they think they have control of things. However, I think that this is just a cover for things that they don't want to see. Someone once said, "In discovering the truth, we create beauty." I explained one interpretation of that line. However, I think that there is a double meaning to it. It deals with the Nothing. When we realize what it is, we create beauty so that we don't have to see what's truly there. Nature is alot. Alot of something. But can't somthing also be nothing? I think so. When one truly thinks about it, sure nature is teeming with life, but what is it beyond that. Wide open spaces. Vast, empty areas. It's a whole lot of nothing. Nature is so peaceful because you are so close to the Nothing when you immerse yourself in it. I think that man is unable to cope with that, and thusly we have labelled nature to be beautiful. We call it a clean well-lighted place, that last barrier against the nothing. It's not our best defense against it, you understand. It is merely the final one. In many books (Heart of Darkness, for example) what was truly found at the heart of nature? Nothing. Sometimes the best place to hide is right out in the open.