Comparison of Hemingway and Coover

“And then instead of going on to Arusha they turned left, he evidently figured that they had the gas, and looking down he saw a pink sifting cloud…like the first snow in a blizzard” (Hemingway, 1036)

“Your children are murdered, your husband gone, a corpse in your bathtub, and your house is wrecked” (Coover, 239)

The stories in “The Babysitter” couldn’t all have happened due to logistical problems some events pose. For example, on page 218 Jimmy goes to the bathroom and soaps the babysitter’s back, but later it is Mr. Tucker who soaps her back and is interrupted by Jimmy saying “I have to go to the bathroom” (225). Similarly, when Mr. Tucker goes back to the house to supposedly get aspirin, in one case he and the babysitter immediately embrace (218), but in another scenario it goes awkwardly wrong. “If you want to check on the kids, why don’t you just call on the phone?” (224). In the last act on page 239-40, Coover provides two drastically different endings. In one, the babysitter wakes up and Mrs. Tucker is pleasantly surprised that the dishes are done. In the other, the babysitter and Mrs. Tucker’s children are dead. Instinctively, we know both chain of events couldn’t have happened. However, we are not told which one is the correct version and moreover, it’s not important. One storyline is not meant to be reality and the others a myriad of unrealities. Rather, there is no distinguishing between reality and fantasy. By having the narratives broken up and dispersed around each other, we are meant to think that they all could have happened; that reality and fantasy are integral and inseparable.

The idea of reality and fantasy being indistinguishable is in Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” to a lesser degree. We know Harry never physically wrote about his adventures and observations, yet internally we feel as if he has partly written them through the monologues in his head. Everything that happens in the present is in normal font, whereas Harry’s brooding about the past occurs in italics. We know his plane ride didn’t really happen, as Harry dies beforehand and inconsistencies such as the plane not needing to be refueled hint that these events did not occur in the physical world. However, this part of the narrative is not in italics, thus we are led to believe that in some way or form, whether it was a hallucination or spiritual redemption, Harry did see Kilimanjaro.

Both authors tackle relations between the external world and the internal space of the mind. For Hemingway, the line between reality and imagination is one to be delicately crossed, whereas for Coover, the line doesn’t exist at all.

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