Hemingway: the image and the shadow. What lay behind the dazzling public persona he created for himself? …
It must be remembered that the image is an essential part of the truth about Hemingway. Not only did he project an idealized picture of himself, but he usually succeeded in living up to it. He had aspirations towards goodness, towards something close to saintliness. When he fell short of his ideal in a fit of professional jealousy or in one of his black rages, he blamed himself and sometimes offered contrite apologies. He was truly a leader of men, foresighted in laying plans for them, incisive in judgement, resourceful and cool-headed in a crisis. He was an outstanding sportsman: an accomplished fisherman, a fair boxer, a good marksman in spite of his impaired vision, and a superb wing shot. He was truly generous to others with his time, and later in life with his money.
Beside or beneath these qualities, however, there were others that Hemingway tried to expunge from the picture. They were his shadow side, to borrow a term from Carl Jung, and they included sudden rages, hypochondria, fears of death that became a longing for death, and fits of depression that he called “black assed melancholy.” Often he was boastful, truculent, quick to take offense, and he nursed his grudges for a long time. He could no more tolerate rivals- literary rivals in particular- than could an old lion.
But what were the dangers that Hemingway faced at home? According to Jung, “A man cannot get rid of himself in favour of an artificial personality without punishment. Even the attempt to do so brings on, in all ordinary cases, unconscious reactions in the form of bad moods, affects, phobias, obsessive ideas, backsliding vices, etc. The social “strong man” is in his private life often a mere child where his own states of feeling are concerned.”["Anima and Animus," Ibid, par. 307. ]
Jung’s formulations cast even more light on Hemingway’s problems than do those of Freud. All sorts of Jungian terms seem to apply: not only persona and shadow side, but anima, archetype, and collective unconscious. Moreover, Jung took a special interest in the problem of aging men and women; particularly how successes and recognition no longer bring the pleasure they once did resulting in moodiness and depression. Jung would say previous goals have lost their capacity to mobilize psychic energy and is face with a confrontation with some other side of the personality, namely the feeling side which give rise to the neuroses.
What would Jung have said to Hemingway? In those later years Hemingway had attained most of his rational goals. Writing had always been his most central ambition and now he was the most famous writer in the world. After the two plane crashes in East Africa, from which he never recovered, he was granted the unique privilege of reading his own obituaries, and these compared in length with the later tributes to Winston Churchill. That same year, 1954, his position, so to speak, was sanctified by the award to him of the Nobel Prize, yet most of the time he was feeling as moody and depressed as the tycoons who made their pilgrimages to Bollingen and begged Carl Jung to help them. Would Jung have offered him the same sort of diagnosis? ( to be continued)….