Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway, 1950
Ernest Hemingway, 1950

Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899July 2, 1961) was an American novelist and short story writer. He was part of the 1920s expatriate community in Paris, coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized as the Lost Generation. Leading a turbulent social life, Hemingway married four times, apart from various romantic relationships he formed during his lifetime.

His work, which drew from his wide range of experiences in World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II, is characterized by terse minimalism and understatement; it exerted a significant influence on the development of twentieth century fiction. Hemingway's protagonists are typically stoic, courageous individuals who have been interpreted as reflections of his own character. Many of his works are now considered classics in the canon of American literature. Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, seven years before his death by suicide in 1961.


Early life

A baby picture, c. 1900
A baby picture, c. 1900

Hemingway was born at 8:00 A.M on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, in a six-bedroom Victorian house built by his maternal grandfather, Ernest Hall. Hall was an English immigrant and Civil War veteran who lived with the family when Ernest was born.

Hemingway was the firstborn son, second of six children to Clarence Hemingway, a physician, and Grace Hemingway, a homemaker with considerable singing talent who had once aspired for a career on stage. She was trained from her youth to sing opera and earned money through giving voice and music lessons as well as recitals. His mother was also devoutly religious, mirroring the strict Protestant ethic of Oak Park, a town which Hemingway would later refer to as one with "wide lawns and narrow minds"Template:Ref. His mother also feminized Hemingway in his youth, dressing him as a girl and calling him "Ernestine"Template:Ref.

While his mother had ambitions that her son would develop an interest in music, Hemingway adopted the interests of his father—hunting and fishing in the woods and lakes of northern Michigan. Owning a house on Michigan's Walloon Lake, his family would often spend summers vacationing in that state. These early experiences in close contact with nature would instill in Hemingway a lifelong passion for outdoor adventure and for living in areas of the world generally considered remote or isolated.

First writing experiences

During his years at Oak Park High School, in addition to being active as a boxer and a football player, he excelled academically, particularly in English classes. His first experiences writing came in high school, as he served as editor for both Trapeze and Tabula, the school's newspaper and literary magazine, respectively.

In 1916, when he was 17 years old, his professional writing career began when he earned a position as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star. While he remained part of the staff at that newspaper for only about 6 months, throughout his lifetime he referred to the admonition from the Star's style guide as a foundation for his manner of writing: "Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative"Template:Ref.

World War I until the Spanish Civil War

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A young Hemingway in his World War I uniform

Hemingway left his reporting job after only a few months, and, against his father's wishes, tried to join the United States Army to assist in the effort in World War I. He did not pass the medical examination due to poor vision. Later, he enlisted in the American Field Service ambulance Corps and left for Italy, then mired in the war. En route to the Italian front, he stopped in Paris. The city was under constant bombardment from German artillery.

Instead of staying in the relative safety of the Hotel Florida, Hemingway tried to get as close to the combat as possible. Soon after arriving on the Italian front, he began to witness the brutalities of the war; on his first day of duty, an ammunition factory near Milan suffered an explosion. Hemingway had to pick up the human remains, mostly of women who had worked at the factory. This first and extremely cruel encounter with human death left him shaken. The soldiers he met later did not lighten the horror; for example, one of them, Eric Dorman-Smith, quoted to him a line from Part Two of Shakespeare's Henry IV:

By my troth, I care not; a man can die but once; we owe god a death...and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the nextTemplate:Ref.

(Hemingway, for his part, would conjure this very same Shakespearean line in "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber", one of his later famous African short stories.) In another instance, a 50-year-old soldier, to whom Hemingway said, "You're troppo vecchio for this war, pop," replied, "I can die as well as any man"Template:Ref.

At the Italian front on July 8, 1918, Hemingway was wounded delivering supplies to soldiers, ending his career as an ambulance driver. The exact details of this attack are not known, but two facts are certain: Hemingway was hit by an Austrian trench mortar shell which left fragments in both of his legs, and he was subsequently awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor (medaglia d'argento) from the Italian government. Later transferred to the Italian infantry, he was seriously injured in combat.

Missing image
Agnes von Kurowsky in Venice, Italy

After this experience, Hemingway convalesced in a Milan hospital run by the American Red Cross. There he was to meet a nurse, Sister Agnes von Kurowsky of Washington, D.C., one of 18 attending a group of 4 patients. Hemingway fell in love with Kurowsky, who was more than 6 years older than him, but this first relationship did not last. After he returned to the United States, she fell in love with and married another man.

Literary aftermath of WWI

First novels and other early works

Once discharged from the Italian army, Hemingway returned to Oak Park. In 1920, he took a job in Toronto, Canada at the Toronto Star as a freelancer, staff writer, and foreign correspondent.

About this time, Hemingway met Canada's young literary prodigy Morley Callaghan, who also was a cub reporter at the same paper. Callaghan, who respected Hemingway's work, showed his own stories to him and Hemingway praised it as fine work.

In 1921, Hemingway married his first wife, Hadley Richardson. The Hemingways decided to live abroad for a time, and, at the advice of Sherwood Anderson, they settled, along with Morley Callaghan and F. Scott Fitzgerald, in Paris; there Hemingway covered the Greco-Turkish War for the Star. After the 1922 publication and American banning of colleague James Joyce's Ulysses, Hemingway used Toronto-based friends to smuggle copies of the novel into the United States. Hemingway's own first book, called Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923), was published in Paris by Robert McAlmon. In the same year, during a brief return to Toronto, Hemingway's first son, John, was born. Busy supporting a family, he became bored with the Toronto Star and resigned on January 1, 1924.

Hemingway's American debut in literature is often associated with the publication of the short story collection In Our Time (1925). The vignettes that now constitute the interchapters of the American version were initially published in Europe as in our time (1924). This work was important for Hemingway, reaffirming to him that his minimalist style could be accepted by the literary community. "The Big Two-Hearted River" is the collection's best-known story.

After Hemingway's return to Paris, Anderson gave him a letter of introduction to Gertrude Stein. She became his mentor and introduced Hemingway to the "Parisian Modern Movement" then ongoing in Montparnasse Quarter; this was the beginnings of the American expatriate circle that became known as the Lost Generation, a term coined by Stein. The group often frequented Sylvia Beach's bookshop, Shakespeare & Co., at 18 Rue de l'Odon. Hemingway's other influential mentor was Ezra PoundTemplate:Ref, the founder of imagism. Hemingway later said in reminiscence of this eclectic group:

Ezra was right half the time, and when he was wrong, he was so wrong you were never in any doubt about it. Gertrude was always rightTemplate:Ref.

Hemingway's favorite restaurant in Montparnasse was La Closerie des Lilas. It was here, in just over 6 weeks, that he wrote his first novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926). The novel, semi-autobiographical in that it follows a group of expatriate Americans in Europe, was successful and was met with much critical acclaim. While Hemingway had initially claimed that the novel was an obsolete form of literature, he was apparently inspired to write one after reading Fitzgerald's manuscript for The Great Gatsby.

Hemingway divorced Hadley Richardson and married Pauline Pfeiffer in 1927. That year saw the publication of Men Without Women, a collection of short stories, containing "The Killers," one of Hemingway's best-known and most-anthologized stories.

In 1928, Hemingway's father, Clarence, troubled with diabetes and financial instabilities, committed suicide using an old Civil War pistol. This suicide was a great pain to Hemingway; he immediately traveled to Oak Park to arrange the funeral. Another suicide was of Harry Crosby, founder of the Black Sun Press and friend of Hemingway from his days in Paris.

The last important work associated with the period following World War I is Hemingway's second novel, A Farewell to Arms (1929). It details the romance between Frederic Henry, an American soldier, and Catherine Barkley, a British nurse, ending with her death in labor. The novel is heavily autobiographical in nature: the plot is directly inspired by his experience with Sister von Kurowsky in Milan; the intense labor pains of his second wife, Pauline, in the birth of Hemingway's son Patrick inspired Catherine's labor in the novel; the real-life Kitty Cannell inspired the fictional Helen Ferguson; the priest was based on Don Giuseppe Bianchi, the priest of the 69th and 70th regiments of the Brigata Ancona. While the inspiration of the character Rinaldi is mysterious, curiously, he had already appeared in In Our Time.

A Farewell to Arms was published at a time when many other World War I books were prominent, including Frederic Manning's Her Privates We, Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, Richard Aldington's Death of a Hero, and Robert Graves' Goodbye to All That. A Farewell to Arms's success rendered Hemingway essentially independent financially.

The (First) Forty Nine Stories

Several of Hemingway's most famous short stories were written in the period following the war; in 1938—along with his only full-length play, entitled The Fifth Column—49 such stories were published in the collection The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories. Hemingway's intention was, as he openly stated in his own foreword to the collection, to write more. It is unfortunate that this book is now often commercialized as just The Forty Nine Stories; the fact that Hemingway did not write many more stories subsequently does not detract from the original title but rather sheds an interesting light of nostalgia that could serve to represent Hemingway's taste, stoicism, and pessimistic outlook about life and death. Many of the stories that make up this collection can be found in other abridged collections, including In Our Time, Men Without Women, Winner Take Nothing, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Some of the collection's important stories of include Old Man at the Bridge, On The Quai at Smyrna, Hills Like White Elephants, One Reader Writes, The Killers, and (perhaps most famously) A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. While these stories are rather short, the book also includes much longer stories. Among these the most famous are The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.

Only one other story collection by Hemingway appeared during his lifetime, entitled Four Stories Of The Spanish Civil War; "The Denunciation" is the most notable story therein. The Nick Adams Stories appeared posthumously in 1972. What is now considered the definitive compilation of all of Hemingway's short stories is published as The Complete Short Stories Of Ernest Hemingway, first compiled and published in 1987.

Early critical interplay

Hemingway's early works sold well and were generally received favorably by critics. This success elicited some crude and pretentious behavior from Hemingway, even in these formative years of his career. For example, he began to tell F. Scott Fitzgerald how to write; he also claimed that the English novelist Ford Madox Ford was sexually impotent. Hemingway in turn was the subject of much criticism. The journal Bookman attacked him as a dirty writer. McAlmon, the publisher of his first non-commercial book said, according to Fitzgerald, labeled him "a fag and a wife-beater"Template:Ref and claimed that Pauline was a lesbian. Gertrude Stein criticized him in her book The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, suggesting that he had derived his prose style from her own and from Sherwood Anderson'sTemplate:Ref.

Max Eastman disparaged Hemingway harshly, asking him to "come out from behind that false hair on the chest." Eastman would go on to write an essay entitled Bull in the Afternoon, a satire of Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon. Another facet of Eastman's criticism consisted in the suggestion that Hemingway ought to give up his lonely, tight-lipped stoicism and write about contemporary social affairs. Hemingway did so for at least a short time; his article Who Murdered the Vets? for New Masses, a leftist magazine, and To Have and Have Not displayed a certain heightened social awareness.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Francisco Franco won the Spanish Civil War in the spring of 1939. Hemingway had lost an adopted homeland to Franco's nationalists, and would later lose his beloved Key West home due to his 1940 divorce. His novel For Whom The Bell Tolls was published in 1940; the long work, which takes place during the Spanish Civil War, tells of an American man named Robert Jordan fighting on the side of the Republicans as part of the International Brigade. It is one of Hemingway's most notable literary accomplishments.

Key West

Following the advice of John Dos Passos, Hemingway moved to Key West where he established his first American home. From his old stone house—a wedding present from Pauline's uncle—Hemingway fished in the Dry Tortugas waters, went to the famous bar Sloppy Joe's, and traveled ocassionally to Spain, gathering material for Death in the Afternoon and Winner Take Nothing.

Missing image
Ernest Hemingway's writing desk in his Key West home

Death In The Afternoon, a book about bullfighting, was published in 1932. Hemingway had become a bullfighting aficionado after seeing the Pamplona fiesta of 1925, fictionalized in The Sun Also Rises. In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway extensively discussed the metaphysics of bullfighting: the ritualized, almost religious practice. In his writings on Spain he was influenced by the Spanish master Po Baroja (when Hemingway won the Nobel Prize, he traveled to see Baroja, then on his death bed, specifically to tell him that he thought Baroja deserved the prize more than him).

A safari in the fall of 1932 led him to Mombasa, Nairobi, and Machakos in the Mua Hills. 1935 saw the publication of Green Hills of Africa, a narrative about hunting Kudu. The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber were the fictionalized results of his African experiences.

Some health problems characterized this period of Hemingway's life: an anthrax infection, a cut eyeball, a gash in his forehead, grippe, toothache, hemorrhoids; kidney trouble from fishing in Spain, torn groin muscle, finger gashed to the bone in an accident with a punching ball, lacerations (to arms, legs, and face) from a ride on a runaway horse through a deep Wyoming forest, and a broken arm from a car accident.

World War II and its aftermath

The United States entered World War II on December 8, 1941 and for the first time in his life, Hemingway took an active part in a war.

Aboard the Pilar, now a Q-Ship, Hemingway's crew was charged with sinking Nazi submarines threatening the coasts of Cuba and the United States. As the FBI took over Caribbean counter-espionage, he went to Europe, first as war correspondent for Collier's magazine.

At Villedieu-les-Poles, France, Hemingway threw three grenades into a cellar where SS officers were hiding. It was the first time he had killed a man. Seemingly encouraged, he declared he would be an unofficial intelligence unit. Later, he acted as an unofficial liaison officer at Chteau de Rambouillet, and afterwards, formed his own partisan group which took part in the liberation of Paris. Some have argued that Hemingway was trying to emulate the characters he had created in his fiction.

After the war, Hemingway started work on The Garden of Eden, which was never finished and would be published posthumously in much abridged form in 1986. At one stage he planned a major trilogy which was to be comprised of "The Sea When Young", "The Sea When Absent" and "The Sea in Being" (the latter eventually published in 1953 as The Old Man and the Sea). There was also a "Sea-Chase" story; three of these pieces were edited and stuck together as the posthumously published novel Islands in the Stream (1970).

Hemingway's first novel after For Whom the Bell Tolls was Across the River and Into the Trees (1950), set in World War II Venice. He derived the title from the last words of General Stonewall Jackson. In Across the River and Into the Trees, his now-divorced third wife appeared as the third wife of the protagonist, Adriana Ivancich, as in his lover Renata (which means "Reborn" in Latin). The novel received poor reviews, many of which accused Hemingway of bad taste, stylistic ineptitude and sentimentality. Perhaps the last charge was most true, and fit an emerging pattern: Hemingway was growing old.

Later years

One section of the above-mentioned sea trilogy was published as The Old Man and the Sea in 1952. That novella's enormous success satisfied and fulfilled Hemingway, probably for the last time in his life. It earned him both the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, and restored his international reputation.

Then, his legendary bad luck struck once again; on a safari he was in two successive plane crashes. Hemingway's injuries were serious; he sprained his right shoulder, arm, and left leg, had a grave concussion, temporarily lost vision in his left eye and hearing in his left ear, had paralysis of the sphincter, a crushed vertebra, ruptured liver, spleen and kidney, and first degree burns on his face, arms, and leg.

As if this were not enough, he was badly injured one month later in a bushfire accident which left him with second degree burns on his legs, front torso, lips, left hand and right forearm. The pain left him in prolonged anguish, and he was unable to travel to Stockholm to accept his Nobel Prize.

A glimmer of hope came with the discovery of some of his old manuscripts from 1928 in the Ritz cellars, which were transformed into A Moveable Feast. Although some of his energy seemed to be restored, severe drinking problems kept him down. His blood pressure and cholesterol count were perilously high, he suffered from aortal inflammation, and his depression, aggravated by alcoholism, had probably already started.

He also lost his Finca Viga, his estate outside Havana he had owned for over twenty years, and was forced to "exile" to Ketchum, Idaho, when the situation in Cuba began to escalate.

His very last years, 1960 and 1961, were marked by severe paranoia. He feared FBI agents would be after him if Cuba turned to the Russians, that the "Feds" (Burgess (9.), p. ??) would be checking his bank account, and that they wanted to arrest him for gross immorality and carrying alcohol. (The FBI was in fact surveilling Hemingway due to his activities in Cuba.)

Hemingway was upset by perfectly normal photographs in his Dangerous Summer article. He was receiving treatment in Ketchum for high blood pressure and liver problems—and also electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for depression and his continued paranoia.

Hemingway was friendly with the World War II British General Eric Dorman-Smith, who was a godfather to one of his children.


Hemingway attempted suicide in the spring of 1961, and received ECT treatment again, but this was unable to prevent his suicide on July 2, 1961—at 5:00 P.M., he died as a result of a self-inflicted shotgun blast to the head. Prior to his suicide, Hemingway is known to have blamed his loss of self on ECT.

Hemingway donated his entire Cuban estate to Fidel Castro. He is interred in the Ketchum Cemetery in Ketchum, Idaho. The local public elementary school there is named in his honor. In 1996, his granddaughter, actress Margaux Hemingway, would take her own life; she is interred in the same cemetery.

Influence and awards

The influence of Hemingway's writings on American literature was considerable and continues to exist today. His terse prose style is known to have inspired Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, Douglas Coupland and many Generation X writers. Hemingway's style also influenced Jack Kerouac and other Beat Generation writers. J.D. Salinger is said to have wanted to be a great American short story writer in the same vein as Hemingway. The writer James Oliver Rigney, Jr., adopted his pen name, Robert Jordan, from the name of the main character of For Whom the Bell Tolls. In Latin American literature, Hemingway's impact can perhaps best be seen in the work of Gabriel Garca Mrquez, who, for instance, often uses the sea as a central image in his fiction. Indeed, the influence of Hemingway's style was so widespread that it may be glimpsed in most contemporary fiction, as writers draw inspiration either from Hemingway himself or indirectly through writers who more consciously emulated Hemingway's style. In his own time, Hemingway affected writers within his modernist literary circle. James Joyce called "A Clean, Well Lighted Place" "one of the best stories ever written".

Science fiction novelist Joe Haldeman won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for his novella, The Hemingway Hoax, a story which explored the effect that Hemingway's lost stories might have had upon 20th century history.

Awards and honors

During his lifetime, Hemingway was awarded with:




Short story collections

Individual short stories

In film


  1. Template:Note From Childhood ( at The Hemingway Resource Center.
  2. Template:Note Three different sources disagree on how long this habit of his mother's lasted. A note from a PBS lecture series ( states that it lasted for two years; Grauer (,2540,15,00.html) claims she stopped when he was 6; Juan's analysis ( suggests that her treatment continued "well into his teens;" he also claims that at times she would attempt to liken Hemingway to his older sister Marcelline.
  3. Template:Note A large list of such anecdotes are compiled at the centennial commemoration page of the Kansas City Star (
  4. Template:Note Burgess, 1978, p. 24.
  5. Template:Note Ibid.
  6. Template:Note On August 10, 1943, Hemingway typed a letter to Archibald MacLeish discussing Pound's mental health and other literary matters.
  7. Template:Note In a conversation with John Peale Bishop, quoted in Hemingway, Cowley, ed, 1944, p. xiii.
  8. Template:Note Burgess, 1978, p. 57.
  9. Template:Note Ibid.


External links


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