Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Degree Discipline



When Ernest Hemingway was awarded, for The Old Man and the Sea, the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, the members of the board of directors in Stockholm agreed that Hemingway had long been a top contender for the prize. Readers and critics alike, perhaps, had considered many of his works worthy of such honor, and it was not surprising that The Old Man and the Sea garnered that honor. However many have wondered at that unspoken and possibly intangible "something" behind Hemingway's failure to win the prize with previous works. Many suggestions have been made as to the nature of that "something" and what has come to be known as "cynicism" has been prominent among them. For this reason, this study is an analysis of selected novels of Hemingway in an effort to delineate his "cynicism" and to show its effects, both good and bad, upon the Hemingway heroes.

Because of the opulence of Hemingway's writings, the analyses are limited to the following novels: (l) The Sun Also Rises. (2) A Farewell to Arms. (3) To Have and Have Not. (4) For whom the Bell Tolls, and (5) The Old Man and the Sea.

The term cynicism comes from the doctrine of a Greek school of philosophers who taught that virtue is the only good and that its essence lay in self-control and independence. Later Cynics became violent critics of social customs and current philosophy and held that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest. Although many of Hemingway's heroes lose their lives or are affected in some manner by violent death, they never become fatalist, that is they never seem to believe that all events are determined by necessity or fate. They continue to cling to the belief that self-interest alone motivates human conduct and they are ready and willing to accept the results however gloomy, distasteful, or final they maybe. It is for this reason that the term "cynicism," which in its connotation is all-inclusive of the strains of fatalism and defeatism found in the characters, is used here to characterize the attitudes of these heroes.

Committee Chair/Advisor

Frankie B. Ledbetter

Committee Member

John Lash

Committee Member

John Lash

Committee Member

Herbert L. Smith

Committee Member

Earl H. Jones


Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical College


© 2021 Prairie View A & M University

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Date of Digitization


Contributing Institution

John B Coleman Library

City of Publication

Prairie View





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