Friday, September 28, 2012

Iceberg Theory

Wiki's link to the Iceberg Theory can be found here.
I shall now copy n paste the parts I care to remember :)

The Iceberg Theory (also known as the "theory of omission") is the writing style of American writer Ernest Hemingway.
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As a journalist he learned to focus only on events being reported, and to omit superfluous and extraneous matter. When he became a writer of short stories, he learned to write a surface story in which he omitted or hinted at the point of the story. Hemingway believed the true meaning of a piece of writing should not be evident from the surface story because the crux of the story lies below the surface. Critics such as Jackson Benson claim his iceberg theory, or theory of omission, in combination with his distinctive clarity of writing, functioned as a means to distance himself from the characters he created.
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After graduating from high school he went to work as a cub reporter ... where he quickly learned that truth often lurks below the surface of a story.He learned about corruption in city politics, and that in hospital emergency rooms and police stations a mask of cynicism was worn "like armour to shield whatever vulnerabilities remained"
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He explains: "I omitted the real end [of "Out of Season"] which was that the old man hanged himself. This was omitted on my new theory that you could omit anything ... and the omitted part would strengthen the story."[5]
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Hemingway biographer Carlos Baker believed that as a writer of short stories Hemingway learned "how to get the most from the least, how to prune language and avoid waste motion, how to multiply intensities, and how to tell nothing but the truth in a way that allowed for telling more than the truth."[6] Furthermore, Baker explains that in the writing style of the iceberg theory the hard facts float above water, while the supporting structure, complete with symbolism, operates out-of-sight.[6]
Iceberg theory is also referred to as the "theory of omission". Hemingway believed a writer could describe an action such as Nick Adams fishing in "Big Two-Hearted River" while conveying a different message about the action itself—Nick Adams concentrating on fishing to the extent that he does not have to think about the unpleasantness of his war experience.[7] In his essay "The Art of the Short Story", Hemingway is clear about his method: "A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless. The test of any story is how very good the stuff that you, not your editors, omit."[8]
From reading Rudyard Kipling he absorbed the practice of shortening prose as much as it could take. Of the concept of omission, Hemingway wrote in "The Art of the Short Story": "You could omit anything if you knew that you omitted and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood."[9] By making invisible the structure of the story, he believed the author strengthened the piece of fiction and that the "quality of a piece could be judged by the quality of the material the author eliminated."[9] His style added to the aesthetic: using "declarative sentences and direct representations of the visible world" with simple and plain language, Hemingway became "the most influential prose stylist in the twentieth century" according to biographer Meyers.[9]
In her paper "Hemingway's Camera Eye", Zoe Trodd explains that Hemingway uses repetition in prose to build a collage of snapshots to create an entire picture. Of his iceberg theory, she claims, it "is also a glacier waterfall, infused with movement by his multi-focal aesthetic".[10] Furthermore, she believes that Hemingway's iceberg theory "demanded that the reader feel the whole story" and that the reader is meant to "fill the gaps left by his omissions with their feelings".[10]
Hemingway scholar Jackson Benson believes Hemingway used autobiographical details to work as framing devices to write about life in general—not only about his life. For example, Benson postulates that Hemingway used his experiences and drew them out further with "what if" scenarios: "what if I were wounded in such a way that I could not sleep at night? What if I were wounded and made crazy, what would happen if I were sent back to the front?" By separating himself from the characters he created, Hemingway strengthens the drama. The means of achieving a strong drama is to minimize, or omit, the feelings that produced the fiction he wrote.[11]
Hemingway's iceberg theory highlights the symbolic implications of art. He makes use of physical action to provide an interpretation of the nature of man's existence. It can be convincingly proved that, "while representing human life through fictional forms, he has consistently set man against the background of his world and universe to examine the human situation from various points of view.

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