Perhaps it's worth beginning by confessing that I've become wary about broad generalizations such as "Hemingway's view of women is X" and "The critical reception of Hemingway's treatment of women is Y"--even as I recognize the value of such generalizations for crystallizing issues and provoking discussion. So, I'd want to add that while my discussion of Catherine counters the assessments of Fetterley and Bell, it also finds some merit in those assessments.
What's more significant to me about my engagement with Fetterley is my effort to locate the thematic functions in the progression of the narrative rather than in generalizations about the characters abstracted from the progression. In other words, I think what's problematic about the critical reception of Hemingway's representations of women is less in the content of its judgments than in its methodology. Much thematic reasoning works with the following method: "Catherine says X, therefore she embodies theme Y: my ideology finds theme Y problematic, therefore Hemingway is problematic." I'm suggesting that the reasoning work in a different way: "Catherine says X to W at such and such a time in the narrative; X is related to Y and Z and it performs mimetic, thematic, and synthetic functions P and Q. Based on this understanding and my own ideology, I make the following judgments of Hemingway."
What that suggests is that I'd need to go through a lot to explain my views of Brett, Pilar, and Margot. But I will say that the presentation of Margot bothers me most and that of Maria seems most fantastic. Brett and Pilar strike me as more like Catherine in their combination of what I find positive and negative. I also find Hemingway's representation of the woman's perspective in "Hills Like White Elephants" to be impressive.
The rhetorical interpretation of narrative is clearly a strategic interest in your discussion of "instabilities" and "tensions" in narrative progression. Might instabilities and tensions be also treated as motifs representing an author's sensibilities? Is there a work of Hemingway's (besides A Farewell to Arms) that exemplifies instabilities and tensions as functional and thematic concerns?
I think if we found a consistent kind of instability or tension across several narratives, then we'd have good evidence to conclude that they pointed to an author's sensibilities. Jane Austen typically deals with the unstable situation of a young woman having to make her way in the acquisitive early 19th-Century British marriage market. Hemingway frequently deals with the instability of a wounded man having to carry on not only after the wound but also with the knowledge that comes with the wound. FTA and SAR are an interesting pair from this in the later, we pick him up pre-wound--and interestingly, the knowledge is slow to come after the physical wound. As the priest says to Frederick when he first sees Frederick in the hospital, "Even wounded, you do not see it." By the end of the narrative, he knows what happens "if you bring too much to this world."
In speaking of thematic function and interpreting by cultural codes, you have distanced yourself from Robert Scholes in stressing, "I am reading for progression while Scholes reads for oppositions" (77). Can you offer a brief illustration of "reading for progression" in a Hemingway short story?
My essay on "My Old Man" tries to do this very thing. The story's movement is generated along two tracks: (1) the instabilities surrounding "old man" Butler's career as a jockey--his place at San Siro, his losing it after not going along with the fix in the Primo Commercio, the move to Paris, the problems with getting employment, the taking advantage of Gardner's tip in the Kzar-Kircubbin race, the buying of his own horse, the accident, and his death. (2) the tensions surrounding Joe Butler's naive narration: we see so much more in the narrative of his father's life than Joe does. Strikingly, Joe's naivete also clues us into a potential instability between him and his father. We recognize that Joe has a romanticized view of his father and recognize that at any point Hemingway can rid Joe of his illusion and activate the instability. Part of the genius of the story is that Hemingway activates the instability at the climax and then reestablishes a new stable situation--Joe loses his faith in his father. But that stability is also a sign of a new tension: Joe has overreacted and still doesn't have the balanced view of his father Hemingway has given us. Joe's overreaction is completely understandable, though, and as such adds to the poignance of the ending.
Hemingway has been referred to by one major critic as a writer who is effective, although limited with a "small bag of tricks." How do you feel about Hemingway's bag of rhetorical and narrative tricks? Is there one particular strategy or technique in his arsenal that you find particularly noteworthy?
Size of course is a relative thing. Compared to Shakespeare or Joyce, Hemingway's bag is modest. Compared to most others, his bag is quite large. In Our Time seems to me a remarkable first book for the range of its techniques: he is experimenting with double narration in "On the Quai at Smyrna," with homodiegetic narration in "My Old Man," with ordering and juxtaposition in just about all the stories and with compression and omission in the interchapters. I think that he continued to experiment with technique and expand his range throughout his career. Right now I'm struggling to write an essay on "Now I Lay Me," as story which does some very striking things with the manipulation of temporal perspective and with implied analogies.
What I find most noteworthy about Hemingway's technique is something that
the many readers and critics have talked about: the ways he has of
guiding readers' inferences. If you read Hemingway expecting him to do
all the work, you'll find him very boring. If you read him actively
looking to be challenged and engaged, and expecting to have to "finish"
the stories through your own inferential activities, you're likely to
find him fascinating.