The Torrents of Spring

This article is about the novella by Ernest Hemingway. For the novella by Ivan Turgenev, see Torrents of Spring.
The Torrents of Spring front cover art

The Torrents of Spring is a novella written by Ernest Hemingway, published in 1926. Subtitled "A Romantic Novel in Honor of the Passing of a Great Race", Hemingway used the work as a spoof of the world of writers. It is Hemingway's first long work and was written as a parody of Sherwood Anderson's Dark Laughter.


Set in northern Michigan, The Torrents of Spring concerns two men who work at a pump factory, World War I veteran Yogi Johnson and writer Scripps O'Neill. Both are searching for the perfect woman, though they disagree over this ideal.

The story begins with O'Neill returning home from the library to find that his wife and small daughter have left him, explaining that "It takes a lot to mend the walls of fate." O'Neill, desperate for companionship, befriends a British waitress, Diana, at the beanery where she works and asks her to marry him immediately. However, he soon becomes disenchanted with her British accent and her penchant for strange footwear. "Her feet ain't sweet so what's the reet?" he muses in doggerel verse as he loafs about the laundry.

Diana makes an attempt to impress her spouse by reading books from the lists of The New York Times Book Review, including many forgotten pot-boilers of the 1920s. But O'Neill soon leaves her (as she feared he would in when she first met him) for another waitress, Mandy, who enthralls him with her store of literary (but possibly made up) anecdotes. O'Neill takes mescaline and hallucinates that he is President of Mexico. He appoints a third waitress, Ruby, as his vice president and plots to "undo the losses of damnable the Battle of Veracruz."

Yogi Johnson, who has become depressed after a Parisian prostitute leaves him for a British officer who makes her dress in a German soldier's uniform, has a period during which he anguishes over the fact that he doesn't seem to desire any woman at all, even though spring is approaching, "which turns a young man's fancy to love." At last, he falls in love with a Native American woman who enters a restaurant clothed only in moccasins, the wife of one of the two Indians he befriends near the end of the story, in the penultimate chapter. Johnson is cured of his impotence when, viewing the naked squaw, he is overcome by "a new feeling" which he hastens to attribute to Mother Nature, and together they “light out for the territories.”


It was widely believed that Hemingway wrote The Torrents of Spring in an effort to get out of his contract with his publisher Boni & Liveright, though Hemingway denied this. They held the right of first refusal for his next three books, one of which was to be a novel, with the proviso that the contract would be terminated if one of the three were rejected.[1] By rejecting Torrents, Boni & Liveright terminated the contract. In his letters, Hemingway shows a passionate affection for his novella. He corresponded with Sherwood Anderson in May–July 1926, stating that his motivation for writing his first long work was more motivated by his refusal to "pull punches" and encourage sub-par work out of Anderson—as his peer—and not to simply get out of a contract with Boni & Liveright.[2]

Written in ten days, The Torrents of Spring was a satirical treatment of pretentious writers. Hemingway submitted the manuscript early in December 1925, and it was rejected by the end of the month. In January Max Perkins at Scribner's agreed to publish The Torrents of Spring in addition to Hemingway's future work.[3] The Torrents of Spring was published by Scribner's in May, 1926. The first edition had a print-run of 1250 copies.[4]

At the urging of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Max Perkins and Scribner's agreed to publish it because it came paired with "The Sun Also Rises."

Critical reception

Hemingway received a mixed reaction to the novella that was sharply critical of other writers. The work is generally dismissed by critics and seen as vastly less important than The Sun Also Rises, published in the same year. His wife Hadley believed the characterization of Anderson was "nasty"; Dos Passos considered it funny but did not want to see it published; while F. Scott Fitzgerald considered the novella a masterpiece.[5] The Torrents of Spring has little scholarly criticism as it is considered to be of less importance than Hemingway's subsequent work.[4]


  1. Mellow 1992, p. 317
  2. Baker 1981, pp. 205, 210, 218
  3. Mellow 1992, p. 321
  4. 1 2 Oliver 1999, p. 330
  5. Meyers 1985, p. 168


  • Baker, Carlos H. (1981). Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 0-684-17658-0. 
  • Berg, A. Scott (1979). Max Perkins: Editor of Genius. New York: Washington Square Press. ISBN 0-671-46847-2.
  • Mellow, James R. (1992). Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. New York: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-37777-3. 
  • Meyers, Jeffrey (1985). Hemingway: A Biography. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-42126-4. 
  • Oliver, Charles M. (1999). Ernest Hemingway A to Z: The Essential Reference to the Life and Work. New York: Checkmark. ISBN 0-8160-3467-2. 

External links

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