Hemingway's Use of Repetition

Passage from Ernest Hemingway's "In Another Country"

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961). (Anthony Potter Collection/Getty Images)

The first two paragraphs of Ernest Hemingway's short story "In Another Country" illustrate the author's effective use of repetition and polysyndeton. In The Art of Fiction (Viking, 1992), David Lodge notes that "repetition on this scale would probably receive a black mark in a school 'composition,'" but that Hemingway "breaks the rules" deliberately--to convey a sense of experience as it was experienced, "using simple, denotative language purged of stylistic decoration."

Hemingway's stripped-down style has often been imitated for comic effect, as demonstrated in our glossary entry for parody.

from "In Another Country"*

by Ernest Hemingway

In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more. It was cold in the fall in Milan and the dark came very early. Then the electric lights came on, and it was pleasant along the streets looking in the windows. There was much game hanging outside the shops, and the snow powdered in the fur of the foxes and the wind blew their tails. The deer hung stiff and heavy and empty, and small birds blew in the wind and the wind turned their feathers. It was a cold fall and the wind came down from the mountains.

We were all at the hospital every afternoon, and there were different ways of walking across the town through the dusk to the hospital. Two of the ways were alongside canals, but they were long. Always, though, you crossed a bridge across a canal to enter the hospital.

There was a choice of three bridges. On one of them a woman sold roasted chestnuts. It was warm, standing in front of her charcoal fire, and the chestnuts were warm afterward in your pocket. The hospital was very old and very beautiful, and you entered through a gate and walked across a courtyard and out a gate on the other side.

There were usually funerals starting from the courtyard. Beyond the old hospital were the new brick pavilions, and there we met every afternoon and were all very polite and interested in what was the matter, and sat in the machines that were to make so much difference.


* "In Another Country" first appeared in Ernest Hemingway's short-story collection Men Without Women (Scribner, 1927). In 1998 it was reprinted in The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (Scribner).

Also See:
Ernest Hemingway's Star Style