Few names are more familiar than that of Ernest Hemingway, one of the U.S.’s most famous writers. Hemingway was a young man when the First World War broke out in Europe. He volunteered for the Red Cross and served with an ambulance corps in France. In July 1918, he was transferred to the Paive region of Italy where he was wounded. The poem, “Killed Paive” depicts the happenings on that day. Even though he sustained several wounds, Hemingway managed to carry an Italian soldier to safety. He recuperated in a hospital in Milan. It was there that he formed a relationship with an American Red Cross nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, a woman seven years his senior. Hemingway was just nineteen years old.
After his recovery, Hemingway returned to New York. In 1929, his highly acclaimed book, A Farewell to Arms, felt by many to be the best novel of the First World War, was released.
All the sweet pulsing aches
And gentle hurtings
That were you,
Are gone into the sullen dark.
Now in the night you come unsmiling
To lie with me
A dull, cold, rigid bayonet
On my hot-swollen, throbbing soul.
“To Good Guys Dead”
They sucked us in;
King and country,
And the rest.
Words and phrases,
They either bitched or killed us.
Reflective Questions: “Killed Paive” and “To Good Guys Dead”
- Who do you imagine to have been killed in the poem, “Killed Paive?”
- Who comes unsmiling in the night to lie with the speaker of the poem?
- In “To Good Guys Dead,” who coerced whom in the poem?
- What does Hemingway think about patriotism, democracy, and honor?