Disenfranchised Mothers and Maternity Insurance – Tracing Progressive Arguments in Ernest Hemingway’s Short Stories

Alina Schumacher


Ernest Hemingway’s corpus has often been analyzed towards its perceived focus on a masculine perspective and experience and has therefore taken its female characters as mere dependents and modifiers of this experience. While a number of critics have, in recent years, turned towards gender as a fruitful approach to Hemingway after all, the mother character especially has received very little scholarly attention still. In this essay I explore parallels between Hemingway’s short stories “A Canary For One” and “Hills Like White Elephants” and contemporaneous Progressive, reformist arguments by Olive Schreiner and Elsie Clews Parsons. I will investigate the relationship between mother characters and tropes of maternity in Hemingway’s short stories and the argumentative structures of contemporaneous Progressive texts, aiming to illustrate that the parallels I will point out allow a more differentiated analysis of the motherhood trope within this selection of Hemingway’s short fiction. This essay contends that the mother character in “A Canary for One” and maternity as a concept in “Hills Like White Elephants” together illustrate two instances of non-Progressive womanhood and thereby appear as a fictionalization of the circumstances out of which Schreiner and Parsons develop their progressive arguments towards female selfhood and individuality. 


Progressive Era; Feminism; Motherhood; Reception History; Selfhood

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5283/copas.275


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