The World Breaks Everyone

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Here’s the quote in the paragraph where it lives:

But with Catherine there was almost no difference in the night except that it was an even better time. If people bring so much courage to the world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

7 thoughts on “The World Breaks Everyone”

  1. On point.
    And it hasn’t changed.
    If anything, it is more overt than ever.

    Very much story fodder: the masses despise excellence.

    • I don’t think that’s what he’s getting at here–this isn’t about hostile action from the mediocre, this is about what life does to people.

      The very good and very gentle kill themselves, both metaphorically and literally, trying to help everyone; the very brave die trying to save others.

      • Yes. About the only thing Hemingway had in common with Ayn Rand (who was the writer Felix’s comment immediately brought to mind) was that Gary Cooper starred in movie versions of their books.

      • I didn’t read it as direct personal attacks but the steady constant pressure to conform.Society has never tolerated outliers. Which Hemingway was. The weak break and conform, some fast, some slow, but the strong break only in appearance, hiding behind a facade of conformity but internally double down, and instead break from society, more secure than ever in themselves.

        Only fools go on quixotic crusades to ingratiate themselves, “prove”, themselves, to a system that will never accept them.

        He never submitted , did he?

        • He did. Hemingway submitted by writing For Whom the Bell Tolls in order to curry political favor. Philosophers are right to distinguish between physical courage and moral courage.

  2. I’ll call BS on Hemingway. What a dreary outlook. It’s a choice. Navigate yourself, or just drift along and complain.

    • He wasn’t complaining, he was explaining.
      Humans are tribal and tribes are judgmental. It’s how they enforce cohesion.

      Today’s cancellers are nothing new.
      People have always tried to browbeat outliers into conformity, be they flappers, beatniks, nerds, or STEMers. It started before the Mayflower and it’ll be around indefinitely, cliques without end. The excuses change but the MO doesn’t.

      In Japan they have a saying: The nail that stands out gets hammered.
      In the US, it is “don’t make waves!”, “go with the flow”, ” you’re not better…*, making others look bad…
      Every society has its own sayings and methods but the goal is the same: conformity.

      Thin about it: what are the culture wars but about enforcing conformity? “Our way, not yours.”

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