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Mentorship as a Challenge

“It is like a picture that a painter paints and then he cannot hang it when he has a show and nobody will buy it because they cannot hang it either” (Hemingway). In this quote from Hemingway’s essay “Miss Stein Instructs,” the author shows the nature of mentorship he received in his early years. As Stein provides critique to one of Hemingway’s texts, and he chooses not to argue with her, Hemingway aims to both be guided by his mentor and retain his unique vision for his texts. Stein also notes that it cannot be commercialized, challenging Hemingway’s writing approach. Here, Hemingway defines mentorship as a way of critiquing and guiding individuals and their work to improve it. This term is problematic because mentorship can be multidimensional and include various elements, such as guidance, critique, advice, sharing the expertise, and challenging one to produce better work. It is essential to define mentorship because a mentor can have an immense impact on one’s life and career. The current definition of mentorship defines it as help from another individual, however, both Hemingway and I argue that mentorship is guidance from a more experienced individual, therefore, my definition includes an extension to the current definition.

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Mentorship is guidance that one person provides to the other in different circumstances. I think that mentorship is an integral part of people’s lives because, since childhood, we learn from others, our parents, and caregivers. Next, in school, the best teachers are those who can go beyond merely retelling the material. Instead, the best teachers are the ones who can guide their students and show them the unexpected aspects of a subject. We are mentored at work by our superior, which helps us quickly integrate ourselves into the workplace, understand the culture of an organization, and successfully build a career. As such, mentorship, in many cases, can be viewed as one person guiding the other. However, I think an essential element of mentorship is a challenge – a task or a conversation topic that a mentored individual may find challenging.

In the “Moveable Feast,” Hemingway describes his journey while becoming a writer, the struggles and issues he faced, and how he chose to write. An essential aspect of Hemingway’s development as a writer was mentorship from a more experienced colleague in Paris. In Hemingway’s work, he portrays mentorship as a relationship between him and Gertrude Stein. The latter teaches him about art and critiques his work. Moreover, they have more personal conversations, for example, about homosexuality. Hemingway listens and uses her advice in cases when he agrees with her opinion and expertise and challenges her views in other instances, reflecting the true nature of mentorship.

In some cases, mentorship can mean support provided by an experienced person to an apprentice, displayed in the way Miss Stain welcomed Hemingway and his wife in her home. Hemingways’ journey to becoming a writer shows that even the most talented and acclaimed people need a mentor to develop their inherent capabilities. Although Miss Stein has more experience and wealth, Hemingway relies on his own understanding of the world and his writing when using Stein’s mentorship. In a traditional sense, Stein becomes Hemingway’s mentor because she offers him hospitality and sound advice. However, she also mentors him in other aspects of life, apart from professional writing, which challenges the traditional understanding of mentorship. Therefore, in the “Miss Stein Instructs,” Hemingway describes the ways in which Stein guided him during his life in Paris, serving as the writer’s mentor.

Although Stein challenged Hemingway’s work a lot, clearly pointing out the works of the writer that she did not enjoy, he used this critique as guidance. As Hemingway explains, Miss Stein “treated us as though we were very good, well mannered and promising children.” This suggests that Hemingway recognizes that he had many flaws as a young writer, but Miss Stein tolerated them. This aspect of mentorship, the ability to provide critique, and explain it is another critical element of the practice, as well as the mentor’s capability to maintain a good relationship with the mentored, is also essential. This episode shows that a mentor should see the potential of a person and not only their flaws and mistakes.

Often mentorship involves a mentor confronting the individual and pointing out some issues with their works or approach to working to challenge their views. This can be seen in the quote from Hemingway’s essay in the epigraph, where Miss Stein argues that some of Hemingway’s works are inaccrochable. Moreover, she argues that writing in that manner is wrong, which unarguably is a strong critique for a young writer from a more experienced colleague. This episode shows that mentorship often may be complicated because one has to voice their opinion or even confront the person being mentored for them to learn and develop. This is a challenge for both parties because Hemingway and Stein have different views on writing stories, however, Stein has more experience, which Hemingway respects.

Mentorship is not merely a help from an experienced person because it implies a more complex relationship between a mentor and his apprentice. When listening to Stein’s critique for one of his stories, Hemingway tried to explain his choice of words for the story by arguing that using the words that people actually use is the right way of writing stories. Although the two did not debate on this topic, this episode shows how the views of the mentor and mentored can differ. Sten here displayed guidance, which is an essential element of mentorship when using the traditional definition of this term. However, Hemingway decided not to change his writing style, despite the advice, showing that a mentored individual should rely on his own perceptions and views, especially in conflicts-provoking situations.

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Guidance is an integral part of the mentorship, a way of showing an apprentice what the best thing to do in a particular case is. Another example of mentorship in Hemingway’s work is Stein’s advice to buy paintings instead of clothes. In this episode, Hemingway argues that even if he did not buy any clothes, he would not be able to afford any of the well-renounced paintings. Here, Stein explains that he should purchase paintings by someone of his age and military service. The idea is that there is always a new and good painter who is just beginning his artistic journey, and their paintings are inexpensive. Since in the “Miss Stein Instructs,” Hemingway describes his admiration for art and how he went to museums to get inspiration from artwork, this advice is valuable for the young writer. Therefore, in this example, Hemingway demonstrates the traditional approach of defining mentorship as guidance – Miss Stein shares her experience and knowledge.

Although mentors serve as guides to their apprentices, sometimes the latter can refuse to use their advice. For example, Hemingway applied Stein’s advice with caution, which is reflected in the following quote – “in the night we were happy with our knowledge we already had and other new knowledge,” which is Hemingway’s reflection after a conversation with Miss Stein in a park. Despite the prevailing view that mentors know everything and can help anyone become great, I think that the role of the person being mentored is overlooked. A mentored individual has to rely on their own feelings and perceptions to use the advice of their mentor and disagree when necessary. Despite these inconsistencies, it is vital that the mentor critiques a person in a way that can challenge them to produce better work, which can only be done if the mentor sees the potential of this person. Hence, mentorship is multidimensional and includes elements beyond guidance, requiring both the mentor and the mentored to build and maintain a good interpersonal relationship that will facilitate growth.

Based on the evidence from the “Movable Feast,” both Hemingway and I define mentorship in a similar manner. Mentorship can be defined as receiving guidance and help from others, usually people who are more experienced or qualified. However, in a broader sense, mentorship incorporates challenging the ideas and approaches to both parties’ work and agreeing that the views of the mentor and the mentored can differ. Although Hemingway respected Stein and her experience, he used some of her advice while choosing to ignore the other.

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