Exploring Writing Styles: Hemingway and Faulkner

Categories: Barn Burning

The early twentieth century witnessed the emergence of a new America, giving rise to a multitude of talented writers, each contributing distinct styles that reflected their individuality and illuminated the prevailing tone of their works. Notable among these authors were Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, realist writers whose concerns about the evolving American landscape were manifested through their unique narrative techniques.

Hemingway's Conciseness and Faulkner's Complexity

As the nation transitioned from the post-Civil War era, which heavily influenced Faulkner, to the 1920s, the backdrop for Hemingway's short stories, both authors shared a common focus on the transformations within America.

A comparative analysis of their writing styles reveals striking differences in sentence structure, word choice, and character development, despite an underlying similarity in tone.

In Faulkner's works, such as "Barn Burning," intricate sentence structures laden with hyphens and colons unfold a tapestry of details about characters and settings, some seemingly insignificant to casual readers. For instance, Faulkner describes the sound of a father's footsteps with meticulous detail: "Now he could hear his father’s stiff foot as it came down on the boards with clockwise finality, a sound out of all proportion to the displacement of the body it bored and which was no dwarfed either by the white door before it as though it had attained to a sort of vicious and ravening minimum not to be dwarfed by anything…" Faulkner's penchant for detail, even in seemingly trivial aspects, adds depth to his narrative.

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Conversely, Hemingway employs short, direct sentences that communicate his ideas with clarity and precision.

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Despite the contrast in sentence structures, both authors manage to convey a similar tone in their works, often culminating in a shared sense of melancholy. The choice of sentence structure becomes a powerful tool for shaping the overarching tone of their respective stories.

Word Choice as a Narrative Device

Beyond sentence structure, the word choice employed by an author plays a pivotal role in shaping a reader's interpretation of the narrative. Faulkner, known for his elaborate vocabulary, often selects words laden with symbolism, contributing to the intricate layers of his stories. In "A Rose for Emily," Faulkner carefully crafts sentences that resonate with deeper meanings, setting the tone for the entire narrative.

Conversely, Hemingway opts for a simpler lexicon, expressing his ideas in a straightforward manner. The uncomplicated nature of his word choice allows readers to grasp the essence of his stories without the need for extensive interpretation. While Faulkner's complexity adds richness to his narratives, Hemingway's simplicity fosters accessibility and immediacy.

Character Development and Unifying Tone

Besides sentence structure and word choice, the authors' approaches to character development contribute significantly to the overall tone of their works. Faulkner's intricate detailing extends to character nuances, adding layers to the personalities within his stories. This complexity resonates with the broader themes of societal changes and personal struggles.

Hemingway, on the other hand, focuses on the essence of characters, often leaving much unsaid. The simplicity in character portrayal aligns with the concise nature of his sentences. Despite these differences, both authors masterfully infuse a somber tone into their narratives, creating a poignant resonance that lingers with the reader.


In conclusion, the exploration of writing styles between Hemingway and Faulkner unveils a rich tapestry of contrasting techniques, from Faulkner's intricate sentence structures and complex word choices to Hemingway's concise sentences and straightforward vocabulary. Despite these differences, the authors converge on a shared tone, weaving narratives that resonate with the evolving landscape of early twentieth-century America. The depth of Faulkner's details and the simplicity of Hemingway's expression together contribute to a nuanced understanding of the era, making both authors indispensable contributors to the literary mosaic of their time.

Updated: Dec 15, 2023
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Exploring Writing Styles: Hemingway and Faulkner. (2016, Sep 06). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/hemingway-vs-faulkner-writing-styles-essay

Exploring Writing Styles: Hemingway and Faulkner essay
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