Classic Hemingway novel slapped with ‘content warning’

Mar 12, 2022
Ernest Hemingway has been slapped with a warning. Source: Getty

A Scottish University has placed a content warning on Ernest Hemingway’s Pulitzer prizewinning novel The Old Man and the Sea to avoid upsetting university students over a graphic fishing scene.

University of the Highlands and Islands also issued warnings for Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein and Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, claiming the warnings are “there to enable the students to make informed choices.”

“Our students engage widely with classic works across all levels of the degree,” the university said.

Author of Ernest Hemingway, A Biography, Mary Dearborn told The Sun the warnings were “total nonsense.”

“The world is a violent place and it is counterproductive to pretend otherwise. Much of the violence in the story is rooted in the natural world. It is the law of nature,” she said.

University of Exeter Professor Jeremy Black added that “many great works have included references to fishing, whaling, or hunting.”

“Is the university seriously suggesting that all of this literature is ringed with warnings?” he said.

Hemingway’s classic isn’t the only piece of literature to be given a content warning in recent years, with classic children’s books such as The Wizard of Oz, Dr Seuss and Little House on the Prairie were slapped with a trigger warning for featuring harmful content as part of a Cambridge University project.

Words, phrases, and images that are considered racist or related to slavery or colonialism were given a content warning at the beginning of each text. The project was funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council.

In a statement to The Daily Mail, Cambridge University said the aim of the project is to make content “less harmful in the context of a canonical literary heritage that is shaped by, and continues, a history of oppression”.

Funding documents for the project state, “trigger warnings, with indications of harmful content for intersectional identities, will protect researchers, children, and general readers from offensiveness or hurt that can emerge in otherwise safe search queries or acts of browsing”.

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