Ernest Hemingway Biography

Ernest Hemingway Biography

Ernest Hemingway played a major role in defining twentieth-century American literature, but his life, art, and image are so deeply intertwined that it is hard to separate them. This is because he had such high standards and because he insisted on a certain type of intense truth in his writing. Since he often wrote about the sort of experience that tested a man’s mettle, he repeatedly risked his life in high-adventure situations. Hemingway served as a Red Cross ambulance driver in World War I (where he was injured by both mortar and machine gun fire), reported on the Spanish Civil War and World War II, worked as a deep sea fisherman, and went on big game safaris throughout Africa. He was in two plane crashes while visiting Africa and was so badly injured in one that some newspapers reported he had been killed. All of this and more showed up in his writing.

Facts and Trivia

  • Hemingway won the Italian Silver Medal for Valor for his actions in World War I. (Even though he had over 200 pieces of mortar shell in his legs, Hemingway carried an injured soldier to medical help.)
  • While his work was well-received by critics almost from the start, Hemingway himself was the subject of much criticism for his morals and behavior. This led to a lot of verbal conflicts—and even some physical ones.
  • In the 1920s, Hemingway was part of a group of American expatriate writers living in Paris. There he socialized—and argued with and learned from—writers such as Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and T. S. Eliot.
  • Hemingway married four times, often falling for one woman while still married to another one.
  • After battling depression and poor health for several years, Hemingway shot himself in 1961—just as his father had in 1928.


(History of the World: The 20th Century)

Article abstract: Hemingway was one of the most influential writers in the twentieth century, both as a much-imitated stylist and as a larger-than-life celebrity.

Early Life

Born into a conservative, upper-middle-class family in Oak Park, Illinois, an affluent suburb of Chicago, Ernest Hemingway spent much of his life and early literary career trying to break away from the constraints of his youth. Hemingway’s father, Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, was a physician who had a great interest in hunting and fishing. The young Hemingway, whose father hoped that his son would eventually join him in his medical practice, became an avid outdoorsman at an early age.

During long holidays spent at the family’s summer home on Walloon Lake in northern Michigan, Ernest, who was not healthy as a youth, pushed himself to the limits of his physical endurance, as he did throughout much of his later life. He became an enthusiastic sportsman.

Grace Hall Hemingway, Ernest’s mother, was a cultivated woman, much interested in music. She dominated her husband, and Ernest realized early that his father was henpecked. Until her death, Grace Hemingway never had a positive word to say about her son’s work. She regarded Ernest’s writing as an embarrassment to the family because it dealt with a side of life that Grace considered seamy. Never able to win from his mother the approbation that he wanted, Hemingway was early attracted to older women who appreciated his work and who appreciated him. Three of his four wives were considerably older than he, and his first serious romantic encounter was with Agnes von Kurowsky, a nurse who tended him in Italy and was eight years his senior.

Hemingway completed high school in 1917, just as the United States was being drawn into World War I. He had no wish to go to college and was eager to serve his country. His defective vision precluded his serving in the armed forces, so after a summer at Walloon Lake, Hemingway, drawing on his experience in writing for his high school newspaper in Oak Park, went to Kansas City as a reporter for the Star, a celebrated daily newspaper of that era. He was to return to Oak Park only five or six times in his entire life after he made the initial break. In Kansas City, Hemingway served an intense journalistic apprenticeship for seven months before he left for Italy as a Red Cross ambulance driver in May, 1918.

Hemingway had been in Italy for less than six weeks when he was wounded at Fossalta di Piave on Italy’s boundary with Austria. Despite his wounds, he dragged an injured solider from the front line to safety. For this act of heroism, he was decorated.

After spending some time in an Italian hospital near Milan recovering from his wounds, Hemingway was sent home, where he was looked upon as a hero. He reveled in his newly won celebrity. After he regained his strength at Lake Walloon, Hemingway went to Chicago, where he held a variety of menial jobs. Soon he married Hadley Richardson, eight years older than he, and sailed with her for France, where he served as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. He arrived in Paris just as the city was reaching a postwar zenith of intellectual ferment and literary activity, and there he was to remain for the better part of the next decade, coming to know well such influential literary figures as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ford Madox Ford, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce.

Hemingway, handsome with his animated eyes, his ready smile, and his dark mustache, was soon the darling of Parisian literary society. His good looks and amiability won for him a legion of friends, many of whom ultimately came to see the darker side of his highly complex and often bewildering personality. Aside from his journalistic commitments, he began in Paris to work assiduously on his short stories and on a novel about the aimless postwar expatriates who lived a somewhat undirected existence in France and Spain. On a personal level, Hemingway was able to give purpose to his own life by writing about the aimlessness that characterized many of the Americans of his generation who lived in Europe at that time. He came to deplore the term he had popularized (borrowed from Gertrude Stein): the “lost generation.”

Hemingway’s first book, a collection of short stories interspersed with imagistic reflections, In Our Time (1924), was recognized by the literati as a work of considerable promise. Although the book was not a resounding commercial success, it was clearly the work of a serious author who had begun to master his craft.

Life’s Work

Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926), established him as an author of considerable significance, just as In Our Time had established him as an author of considerable promise. The Sun Also Rises, a book that was right for its time, depicts dislocated members of the postwar generation. Set in Paris and Pamplona, Spain, it featured Hemingway’s first extended treatment of one of his lifelong fascinations: the art of the bullfight. It was not merely the timeliness of The Sun Also Rises that established Hemingway as a serious artist; it was also the meticulous control that he exercised over his material and the care and authenticity of his spare descriptions that made both readers and literary critics realize that he was an author of extraordinary stature.

The Sun Also Rises was followed by A Farewell to Arms (1929), which was published in the year that Hemingway divorced his first wife, Hadley, who had borne him one son, John. The protagonist of A Farewell to Arms is an American disenchanted with a society that could let something such as World War I happen. He finally deserts the Italian army, in which he has been serving and which is in disarray. His disenchantment is intensified by the death of his lover in giving birth to their child.

In the years following A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway became an increasingly romantic figure, a rugged outdoorsman who spent much time attending bullfights in Spain, hunting big game in Africa, and fishing the waters off Key West, Florida, where he bought a home in which he resided when he was not traveling. Out of this period were to come such books as Death in the Afternoon (1932), an extended discourse on bullfighting in which Hemingway gives valuable insights into his own creative processes, and Green Hills of Africa (1935), which remains one of the most sensitively written books about big game and those who hunt it.

Out of Hemingway’s Key West experience came his novel To Have and Have Not (1937), a mediocre book whose action takes places in Cuba and Key West during the Great Depression. Hemingway’s next book, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), is an optimistic novel that calls for the unity of humankind. The book is set in Spain during the Civil War, which Hemingway had seen at first hand as a correspondent with strong Loyalist sympathies. For Whom the Bell Tolls was to be Hemingway’s last novel for ten years, after which he published Across the River and into the Trees (1950), an overly sentimental novel of little distinction.

Meanwhile, in 1940, Hemingway divorced Pauline Pfeiffer, his second wife and the mother of his sons Patrick and Gregory, after thirteen years of marriage. He married Martha Gellhorn, a writer, almost immediately and was married to her until 1945. Then he married Mary Welsh, also a writer, to whom he remained married for the remainder of his life.

When Hemingway returned from covering the Spanish Civil War, he bought Finca Vigia, a quite modest estate not far from Havana, Cuba, and this was to be his home until 1959, when the political situation under Fidel Castro forced Hemingway out of the country. He then bought a home in Ketchum, Idaho, where he was to spend the remaining years of his life.

During World War II, Hemingway first served as a correspondent in China, then, from 1944 until the end of the war, as a correspondent in Europe, crossing the English Channel on D-Day with the Twenty-second Regiment of the Fourth Infantry Division, with which he saw considerable combat in Normandy and later at the Battle of the Bulge. He also devised the Crook Factory, which, in 1943, undertook some ill-conceived and abortive missions on his boat, The Pilar, to try to destroy German submarines in the waters off Cuba.

Hemingway’s excursion into drama was with a play about the Spanish Civil War, The Fifth Column (1938). It was published in The Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories (1938), a collection which includes such celebrated stories as “The Killers,” “The Snows of Kilamanjaro,” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”

Hemingway had a writing slump after World War II that plagued him for the remainder of his life. Across the River and into the Trees brought vitriolic reviews, and some critics thought that this book marked the end of Hemingway’s literary career. He published The Old Man and the Sea (1952) two years later, however, and this short, tightly controlled novel about Santiago, an old fisherman who almost dies during a three-day encounter with a marlin, helped to salvage his deteriorating reputation. In 1953, this book won for Hemingway the Pulitzer Prize and was also instrumental in his being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.

The Old Man and the Sea was Hemingway’s last novel, although two earlier, unfinished novels, Islands in the Stream (1970) and The Garden of Eden (1986), were published posthumously. The last of these was constructed by Scribner’s editor Tom Jenks from more than fifteen hundred manuscript pages that Hemingway left on his death. Also published posthumously was A Moveable Feast (1964), a memoir which details Hemingway’s life in Paris during the 1920’s and which has much of the power and grace of his early work.

Hemingway began to suffer increasingly from depression and anxiety after World War II, and he was twice hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic for electric shock therapy. On July 2, 1961, after returning to Ketchum from his second hospitalization, Hemingway ended his life with a shotgun blast.


At a time when much writing was florid and verbose, Ernest Hemingway stripped language to the bare essentials for expressing fundamental thoughts and rendering the most accurate descriptions possible. Although he dealt with complex thoughts and emotions, Hemingway labored to achieve directness and simplicity of expression. From Gertrude Stein, he learned the effectiveness of verbal repetition as a means of achieving the rhythms of language. From Ezra Pound and from his early experience as a journalist, he learned to write exactingly, using accurate verbs and nouns, depending little on adjectives and adverbs.

Hemingway’s best work demonstrates careful control, close observation, accurate depiction, and the highest level of artistic integrity. It glorifies the dignity in life as seen in the works that deal with bullfighting, big-game hunting, fishing, war, drinking, brawling, and camaraderie. Hemingway’s concept of courage as grace under pressure underlies his finest writing.

As the fourth American author to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, Hemingway brought renewed attention to his country as a source of fine writing. Often a deeply troubled person, Hemingway went through life trying to demonstrate a courage that perhaps he was not convinced he really possessed. His increasing need to project a macho image stemmed from deep psychological sources which were intimately connected to his artistry.


Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1969. Focuses on the origin, development, and reception of Hemingway’s writing. Information drawn largely from primary sources, including more than twenty-five hundred letters. Written at the invitation of Scribner’s, Hemingway’s publisher since 1926. Deals more with events than with ideas.

Baker, Carlos. Hemingway: The Writer as Artist. 4th ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972. A solid consideration of Hemingway’s literary technique. Baker is knowledgeable but detached and objective. One of the better books on Hemingway.

Burgess, Anthony. Ernest Hemingway and His World. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978. Although a pictorial biography, this book contains some remarkable literary insights and acute critical analysis. Shows how Hemingway introduced a new standard of language, one of “nerves and muscle.”

Grebstein, Sheldon N. Hemingway’s Craft. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1973. The book emphasizes technique and literary motivations. Shows sequential development to 1940, followed by a seeming diminution in Hemingway’s literary abilities.

Griffin, Peter. Along with Youth: Hemingway, The Early Years. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. Focuses on Hemingway’s life from birth until his marriage to Hadley Richardson and his departure for Paris. Prints for the first time a number of Hemingway’s poems and early contributions to his high school newspaper.

Hauneman, Audre, ed. Ernest Hemingway: A Comprehensive Bibliography. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1967; Supplement, 1975. These volumes, which again need updating, are the most comprehensive and reliable bibliographies of Hemingway’s work and of scholarship related to Hemingway.

Meyers, Jeffrey. Hemingway: A Biography. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1985. Well written and intriguing. Meyers clearly demonstrates that Hemingway’s life was as interesting as the lives of any of his protagonists. Presents trenchant insights into Hemingway’s view of women, particularly as his view was shaped by his early relationship to his mother.

Rovit, Earl H. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1963. A useful overview which is now somewhat dated. Well researched although a bit hampered by the restrictions of length and format imposed by the series of which it is a part.

Wagner, Linda W., ed. Hemingway: Five Decades of Criticism. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1974. An intelligent selection of salient criticism from the earliest to the time following Hemingway’s death.

Young, Philip. Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration. Rev. ed. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1966. This second edition of Young’s superb critical study, first published in 1952, adds an interesting preface telling of the author’s difficulties with Hemingway over the publication of the book. Young hypothesizes that Hemingway’s heroes were modeled on himself and that his life in turn was modeled on the heroes of earlier American classics, particularly those of Mark Twain.

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Hemingway started his writing career as a newspaper reporter, then volunteered to drive ambulances for Italy during the early part of World War I. Afterward, he returned to journalism, joining the ranks of newspaper correspondents in Europe by writing for the Toronto Star. While he was living in Paris, his life was altered when he joined a group of artists and intellectuals known as the lost generation.

With Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein encouraging him to write, Hemingway published his first collection of stories, In Our Time, in 1924. In 1926 his novel about the postwar generation, The Sun Also Rises, put his literary reputation on an upward climb. In 1930, however, this book was banned in Boston, Massachusetts; in 1953 it was prohibited in Ireland; and in 1960 the San Jose, California, school system banned the book, and all of Hemingway’s books were removed from Riverside, California, school libraries.

Hemingway’s “code heroes” and snappy dialogue brought to life the drama of an Italian retreat during World War I in A Farewell to Arms (1929). The book drew immediate protests from Italians, who had banned it in their country because its account of the Italian humiliation was too painfully accurate. In the United States, the book’s later film adaptation was censored because of Italian pressure. Boston banned the five issues of Scribner’s Magazine that contained the story. Throughout the years the novel continued to be challenged and condemned by public school systems through the United States.

After Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist Party took power in Germany in 1933, Hemingway’s works were among the thousands of books publicly burned. Later, in a 1937 address to the Writer’s Congress in New York, Hemingway condemned Germany’s fascist government, saying that under its system good writers could not exist, and that “fascism is a lie told by bullies.” Hemingway’s publication of To Have and Have Not in 1938 led to more controversy. Detroit, Michigan, bannished the book’s sale, and public libraries removed it from circulation. Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; however, it drew strong objections and no work of fiction received the prize that year. The U.S. Post Office declared the book to be unmailable.

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, in 1899, the second child of Clarence (Ed) and Grace Hemingway’s six children. Growing up in a doctor’s house, under the domination of a forceful mother, would provide Ernest grist for his literary mill in years to come. The family’s frequent trips to northern Michigan would also figure in his development as a writer, providing him a locale for numerous stories and an appreciation for wild terrain.

After graduating from high school, Hemingway left Chicago to take a job on the Kansas City Star. Shortly after the United States entered World War I, he quit his job and went to Italy as a Red Cross volunteer. There, he was wounded while assisting Italian soldiers. He spent several weeks in a Milan hospital, where he met Agnes von Kurowsky, who would serve as a model for Catherine Barkeley in A Farewell to Arms.

Hemingway returned to the United States in 1919 and began writing stories—none of which sold. In 1920, he met Hadley Richardson, whom he married the following year. They returned to Europe late in 1921, and for the next decade, Hemingway spent his time in Paris or in other locales on the Continent, sharpening his skills as a short-story writer. Two collections of his work were published by literary presses. The many expatriates whom he met in Paris served as models for his first full-length novel, The Sun Also Rises, which appeared to favorable reviews in 1926. In the same year, he and Hadley separated, and Hemingway pursued his relationship with Pauline Pfeiffer, whom he married in 1927.

In 1928, Hemingway began the novel that would establish his reputation, A Farewell to Arms. Published in 1929, it sold quite well and freed the novelist to pursue other interests for several years. Though he had his residence in Key West, Florida, during the 1930’s, he spent considerable time in Spain studying the art of bullfighting and took Pauline on a big-game safari in Africa. Out of these experiences came Death in the Afternoon (1932) and The Green Hills of Africa (1935); neither received the acclaim that the earlier novels had enjoyed.

In 1937, Hemingway managed to secure a position as a reporter to cover the Spanish Civil War. While in Spain, he spent most of his time with Martha Gellhorn, a young writer whom he had met the previous year in Florida. They were married in 1939 after Hemingway divorced Pauline. The Spanish Civil War furnished him materials for a major novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and a play, The Fifth Column (1938), which had a brief run on Broadway.

After the outbreak of World War II, Hemingway found a way to be with the American troops, joining his third wife as a war correspondent in Europe. His relationship with Martha deteriorated as the war progressed, and by 1945, they had agreed to divorce. Hemingway made Mary Welsh his fourth wife in 1946, after courting her for two years. The two spent Hemingway’s remaining years together in Cuba or in various retreats in the United States and in Europe. During the years following World War II, Hemingway started several major projects, but few came to fruition. A notable exception was The Old Man and the Sea, which ran in Life magazine, sold millions in hardback, and became a motion picture. Growing bouts of depression became harder and harder to fight off, however, and in 1961, Hemingway finally committed suicide while staying at his second home, in Ketchum, Idaho.

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Ernest Miller Hemingway was the first son of an Oak Park, Illinois, physician, Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, and Grace Hemingway, a Christian Scientist. As a student in the Oak Park public schools, Hemingway received his first journalistic experience writing for the Trapeze, a student newspaper. After working as a reporter for the Kansas City Star for less than a year, he enlisted as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross during World War I. He was sent in 1918 to serve on the Italian front, where he received a leg wound. His injury required that he be sent to an American hospital in Milan, and there he met and fell in love with Agnes Von Kurowski, who provided the basis for his characterization of Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway was married in 1921 to Hadley Richardson. They moved to the Left Bank of Paris, lived on her income from a trust fund, and became friends of Gertrude Stein and other Left Bank literary figures.

The Paris years provided Hemingway with material for the autobiographical sketches collected after his death in A Moveable Feast. Also in the Paris years, he met the people who would become the major characters in his roman à clef, The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway dedicated the novel to Hadley, divorced her (in retrospect, one of the saddest experiences in his life), and married Pauline Pfeiffer in 1927. During the 1930’s, Hemingway became attached to the Loyalist cause in Spain, and during the years of the Spanish Civil War, he traveled to that country several times as a war correspondent. His feelings about that war are recorded in For Whom the Bell Tolls, which was an enormous popular success. In 1940, he divorced Pauline and married the independent, free-spirited Martha Gellhorn, whom he divorced in 1945, marrying in that same year Mary Welsh, his fourth wife.

The 1952 publication of The Old Man and the Sea is usually regarded as evidence that the writing slump that Hemingway had suffered for nearly a decade was ended. The last years of his life were marked by medical problems, resulting to a great extent from injuries that he had sustained in accidents and from years of heavy drinking. In 1961, after being released from the Mayo Clinic, Hemingway returned with Mary to their home in Ketchum, Idaho. He died there on July 2, 1961, of a self-inflicted shotgun wound.

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

The son of a Midwest doctor, Ernest Hemingway began his writing career as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. In 1918, he went to Italy, where he drove a Red Cross ambulance in World War I and was wounded by machine gun fire. After recuperation, he returned to Europe as a war correspondent, but he soon gave up journalism to write fiction.

His first major novel, The Sun Also Rises, portrays the lost generation of expatriates who wandered Europe in the wake of World War I. A Farewell to Arms tells the story of an American lieutenant in the Italian army. In 1936 and 1937, Hemingway covered the Spanish Civil War for an American newspaper syndicate. From his experiences came the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. In 1942, he returned to Europe as a war correspondent. He flew with the British Royal Air Force and crossed the English Channel on D day. In 1952, he published The Old Man and the Sea, a sentimental tale of quiet courage in the face of adversity. Hemingway was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the novel.

Hemingway married four times and fathered three children. Depressed in later life, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1961. It is impossible to separate the much-publicized persona of Hemingway from the autobiographical projection that emerges from his work. Like his heroes, he was an adventurer: boxer, hunter, fisherman, bullfighter, soldier, war correspondent, expatriate. The Hemingway hero is—perhaps like his creator—a reluctant hero. He is ravaged by inexplicable forces of violence and suffering that he cannot alter. He is a man of few words and few regrets; he accepts pain, injustice, and anguish with stoic dignity.

Hemingway’s bare-bones style earned praise from some critics for arousing emotion through omission and restraint. Others judged his simple declarative sentences and spare descriptions as limited, superficial, and unevocative. Hemingway earned a place among the greats of twentieth century literature. In 1954, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature. The citation lauded “his natural admiration for every individual who fights the good fight in a world of reality overshadowed by violence and death.”

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 14)

Because his letters contained so much that would hurt the reputations of those still living, Hemingway requested in his will that they not be released for publication. Despite this, he himself allowed some fragments to “go public” during his lifetime, and since his death many notes and letters have found their way into print. This disorganized and yet unstoppable flow of her husband’s correspondence gradually led Mary Hemingway to decide that an authorized edition of the letters would be preferable to a random sampling. To do this and yet to feel comfortable about the edition she needed to find a person who was both discreet and knowledgeable.

She could hardly have picked a better editor than Carlos Baker. His two major works on Hemingway, a biography and a critical study, have brought Baker international recognition. Late in his own lifetime Hemingway himself put Baker at the top of his list when drawing up a note on those books he needed to review the facts of his own life. Baker has lived up to that implied trust. His introduction and notes display a grace of style together with a density of information. Like Hemingway’s own writing, Baker’s notes are models of a naturalness achieved without showing the intellectual effort that made it possible, an achievement whose quality speaks of Baker’s deep respect for his subject.

Baker does not, however, allow his obvious love of the man to obscure or detract from his obligation to represent Hemingway’s weaknesses as well as his strengths. Baker has judiciously chosen a selection of letters that show both “Hem’s” occasional nobility and his equal tendency to excess and pettiness. Baker has also left in almost all of Hemingway’s spelling and grammar mistakes, except where they were so excessive as to endanger the sense of the letter. The ribald informality of these letters is also left intact and names are only excised in the rare case that the person is still living and the remarks are libelous. Very little, then, of these letters’ original flavor, good or bad, has been lost in editing.

While Hemingway often deprecates his letter-writing, he was a witty and amusing correspondent whose letters vividly reveal his personality. Unlike his slowly and painfully produced stories and novels (The Sun Also Rises, 1926, is an exception), these less circumspect productions show the writer behind the persona. Because of this immediacy, Hemingway is able to use his correspondence for therapy, catharsis, and humor even more than he is able to use it for communication.

To his parents, Hemingway was most restrained and dutiful, often mentioning his intention to go to Mass right after writing. When relating physical pain to friends and relatives he is often jovial, using exaggerated images and a forced good humor: the jokes are literally at his own expense, taken from the injuries to his body. His letters to businessmen were usually businesslike and his letters to friends and critics varied between admiration and anger. Indeed, Hemingway’s moods also profoundly affected his style.

When agitated about fame, fortune, or women, his prose becomes less ordered, more staccato and discontinuous. When expressing deep love his letters often become rather sappy and amazingly maudlin. When annoyed his sharp tongue would often find the epithets that revealed his contemporaries’ weaknesses. His letter-writing most approaches his fictional style when recalling a past but recent incident: here he would turn to colorful narrative. Most of these letters, however, reveal an individual whose personality both rises above and falls below his reputation. Thus while his sentiments are often noble, he also demonstrates an inability to avoid sly innuendo, double entendre, and gossip.

This doubleness also appears in his relationships with people. Hemingway was consistently inconsistent in his attitudes toward friends, artists, and lovers. While some of this doubleness does seem like mere hypocrisy and backbiting, saying one thing to a person’s “face” and the opposite to someone else, most of Hemingway’s duplicity seems born of genuine ambivalence.

The examples of this Janus-like character are many, but a few are particularly revealing. While Hemingway clearly cared for F. Scott Fitzgerald he could also see the problems with Fitzgerald’s alcoholism, which sometimes caused him to act like “a horse’s ass.” The same shift is seen in a letter concerned with his divorce from his first wife; he ends this letter of separation with “[you] are the best and truest and loveliest person that I have ever known.” Robert McAlmon, whose work he sporadically admired, he could describe as “a lousy little toenail paring,” and yet a little later he is bemoaning the fact that McAlmon “never gets impartial criticism.” Both his love and his hate in every relationship seem equally sincere, representative of the ambiguities of his own character.

It is especially amusing to see these quirks of character at work in Hemingway’s interaction with other artists. These often silly and relaxed exchanges reveal aspects of the leading modernists which have become overgrown by their present near-mythic reputations. Thus, Hemingway not only took literary criticism from Ezra Pound but also physical abuse: “We have a hell of a good time . . . he has developed a terrific wallop.”

Hemingway, as it turns out, was also a critical adviser to others. Writing to John Dos Passos about the abstract, political aspect of many of Dos Passos’ characters, he wrote “keep them people, people, and don’t let them get to be symbols.” He advised William Faulkner “to accept the command” of previous literary influences, especially some of his own favorites: Mark Twain, James Joyce, Ivan Turgenev, and oddly enough, Henry Fielding.

That his advice to Faulkner would be couched in military rhetoric is not surprising. In general, he appreciated combat or resistance in all things. As a kind of seat-of-the-pants existentialist, Hemingway felt most alive when he was in conflict. His favorite situations—hunting, fishing, bullfighting and boxing—all allowed him to find himself and the material for fiction in the tension with outside forces. His whole active life became a kind of resource for his literary life. Thus he could honestly write: “I work all the time.”

Despite this need for adversity, Hemingway was not quite as “macho” as he is often portrayed. While he loved women, alcohol, and gambling, he was often thoughtful enough to see that these distractions were often weaknesses rather than strengths. Indeed, in regard to war, which is the ultimate in conflict, he could write about the coming Korean conflict “I hope we don’t have to go and fight again.” World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II had been enough.

He was the first American soldier injured in Italy in 1918: he had received more than two hundred wounds from a mortar shell and machine-gun fire. Not all of his injuries were so dramatic or nobly incurred. Hemingway seemed peculiarly prone to physical hurts: he was once almost killed by a falling toilet, almost shot by a careless woman, and once shot himself through both calves. A near-fatal plane crash in the 1950’s seriously affected his health for the remainder of his life.

Looking back over that string of injuries and Hemingway’s philosophical belief in the need for struggle, one cannot help but wonder whether these incidents were not cryptically intentional. Hemingway seemed to feel not only that his violent life supplied material for his fiction but also that the following recuperation gave him time to write: “People don’t write with vitality—they write with their heads—when I’m in perfect shape I don’t feel like writing—I feel too good.”

This underlying need for a kind of romantic, primitive mode of self-determination in primeval conflict also explains why the history of the world, other than its wars, shows up so little in his works. As his choices of residence suggest—Cuba, Key West, Montana, and Idaho—Hemingway did not like the urban world. Machines deprived man of an unmediated relation with nature. He wrote: “My own country gone. Trees cut down. Nothing left but gas stations, sub-divisions.” Hemingway was not, therefore, an expatriate in the normal sense; he did not want to choose another culture as did Henry James and T. S. Eliot; he wanted another time, a previous nature.

This same anachronistic quality also showed itself in his chivalry. When his wife Mary Welsh was dying from a ruptured tubal pregnancy and the doctor had told him to kiss her good-bye, Hemingway instead grabbed an intravenous tube, cut open one of his wife’s veins, forced in the fluid, and, according to his testimony, saved her life. In an equally unlikely event he also served Ezra Pound: in 1956 Hemingway offered Pound—who was still in disgrace for his Fascist speeches during World War II—his newly won Nobel Prize and one thousand dollars. These were not the actions of an insensitive male but of an anachronistic knight who knew physics and metaphysics, love and hate, but not any middle road. These letters reveal both sides.

When Hemingway wrote his sister that “Plenty of times people who write the best write the very worst letters,” one cannot help feeling he was defending his own efforts in both genres, but these letters are not bad: they are a revelation. Hemingway, the man, was both more and less than the artist. Due to the good graces of Carlos Baker and Charles Scribner’s Sons, the reader now has them both.

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Because of his compelling prose style and his vision of heroism, Ernest Miller Hemingway holds a secure place among the leading fiction writers of the twentieth century. Born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, Hemingway was the second child of Clarence “Ed” Hemingway, a physician, and his wife, Grace Hall, a voice teacher. Though reared in a strict home, Hemingway developed as a youth the energetic lifestyle for which he later became known. He participated in competitive sports—football, boxing, swimming—and enjoyed hunting and fishing trips with his father. During high school, he wrote poems and short stories, and following graduation he became employed as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. During World War I, he was an ambulance driver on the Italian front and suffered severe shrapnel wounds. Sent to a military hospital, he fell in love with his nurse, who ended their affair after he returned to Oak Park. Because he was intent on becoming a writer, Hemingway found a position with the Toronto Star. In 1921, he married Hadley Richardson, eight years his senior, and they moved to Paris, where Hemingway studied his craft and found stimulation in the company of Gertrude Stein and other expatriates of the Left Bank.

The Paris experience laid a firm foundation for Hemingway’s literary career. In the autobiographical Nick Adams stories of In Our Time, critics have discerned the basic themes of his later fiction. His first novel, The Torrents of Spring, parodied the prose of his friend Sherwood Anderson. In The Sun Also Rises, based on his experiences in Paris, Hemingway introduces his hero through the protagonist Jake Barnes, a veteran wounded during World War I. Like all Hemingway heroes, Jake lives by a code and accepts eventual defeat. The novel includes a galaxy of characters that represent the Lost Generation in Paris.

Following his Paris years, Hemingway lived in Key West, Florida, in Cuba, and in Ketchum, Idaho, with frequent trips to other parts of the world, including African safaris. In 1927, he divorced Hadley Richardson and married her friend Pauline Pfeiffer; that marriage lasted until 1940, when he married Martha Gellhorn, a war correspondent and writer. After their divorce in 1945, he married Mary Welsh, to whom he remained married until his death.

Hemingway’s novel set during World War I, A Farewell to Arms, narrates the story of Frederic Henry, who is wounded on the Italian front, falls in love with his nurse, and flees with her from the war. To Have and Have Not features the Hemingway hero as a gunrunner and smuggler. Like other heroes, Harry Morgan is defeated after a courageous fight in which he adheres to his personal code. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan, an American expatriate volunteer, undertakes a dangerous mission for the Loyalist side in the Spanish Civil War. He finds love amid danger and loses his life for a cause he values, demonstrating the quality of “grace under pressure.”

During World War II, Hemingway participated as a reporter and became involved in fighting in France. Episodes that he witnessed and experienced form the background for Across the River and into the Trees, which is generally regarded as his least significant novel. Its hero, Richard Cantwell, an introspective colonel in his early fifties, finds romance in Venice while suffering from heart disease.

The Old Man and the Sea, which is essentially a novella, introduces the hero as an old man, Santiago the fisherman, who catches a marlin larger than his boat but is unable to protect it from sharks. According to his own understanding, he went out too far and was defeated attempting what no one else could have done. For this book, Hemingway in 1953 received the Pulitzer Prize, and the work was influential in securing for him the Nobel Prize in Literature in the following year. After the publication of The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway’s health gradually declined, his condition aggravated by injuries sustained in two plane crashes in Africa. He suffered depression, paranoia, and hypertension, among other afflictions, and, following the example of his father, committed suicide at his home in Ketchum, Idaho, on July 2, 1961.

From three thousand pages of unpublished manuscripts, editors have produced several posthumous publications. Islands in the Stream portrays the life of a hero grieving for the deaths of his sons and throwing his energy into a campaign against German submarines in the Caribbean Sea. The Garden of Eden, set in the 1920’s and based on the author’s relationships with his first two wives, depicts its writer-hero undergoing divorce and remarriage to a more suitable mate. True at First Light, edited by his son Patrick, is a fictionalized memoir of Hemingway’s last visit to Africa during 1953 to 1954.

The autobiographical element is strong in all of Hemingway’s fiction; in each of his novels, the hero’s age is approximately that of the author’s. His works, which have often been the basis for successful films, retain their appeal for a large reading public and for students of literature. The most pervasive element of his writing is his development of a hero whose values are clear, who lives by a code, and who is doomed to defeat despite his efforts. A wounded man cut off from conventional society, he seeks adventure, prizes courage, faces danger, and courts death. He is sensitive and chivalrous toward women, but though he easily recognizes the presence of an ethical code in others, he lacks close friends. Having lost the innocence of youth, he struggles to wrest meaning from life. The hero assumes mythical proportions, as does the author himself, who lived as much of his myth as possible.

A second striking feature of the fiction is its style. Deceptively simple, it conveys deep emotion. Hemingway relies on the exact word, on understatement, and on the “iceberg principle.” By that he meant the omitting of everything that is not absolutely essential to the narrative. The result is clear, crisp, and often hard-hitting prose, with terse, pithy, direct dialogue.

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Ernest Miller Hemingway was born into an affluent family in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, on July 21, 1899, the eldest of six children. His father, Clarence Edmond, was a physician. His mother, the former Grace Hall, kept an attractive house at 439 North Oak Park Avenue, her father’s dwelling, into which her husband moved and lived until her father’s death in 1905. Grace exposed her son Ernest to the arts by taking him to museums in Chicago and by enrolling him in piano lessons. Hemingway, as both son and writer, frequently rebelled against her puritanical values.

As a student at Oak Park High School, from which Hemingway graduated in 1917, he contributed to the school newspaper and other publications. Upon graduation, he realized that he would soon be in some way drawn into World War I. His first job, as a reporter for the Kansas City Star, was cut short when, after being rejected for military service because of weak eyesight, he enlisted as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross early in 1918 and was sent to Italy.

On July 8, 1918, Hemingway, who served with some heroism, was wounded by mortar fire at Fossalta di Piave. He was hospitalized for an extended period, and when he returned to the United States, the dashing, dark-haired Hemingway was considered a conquering hero and was in great demand to speak before civic groups about his war experience. He was lionized for his heroism.

After recuperating at his family’s summer home in Michigan, Hemingway became a reporter for the Toronto Star and Star Weekly, which sent him to Europe as a foreign correspondent in 1921, shortly after his marriage to Hadley Richardson. The two settled in Paris, where they met many of the foremost contributors to Europe’s avant-garde artistic scene. Among his Parisian associates Hemingway numbered Sherwood Anderson, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and, perhaps most significant, Gertrude Stein. It was from Stein that he learned the elements of literary style that were later to affect his writing most directly.

Hemingway began to write short stories and, in 1923, published Three Stories and Ten Poems in Paris, followed the next year by In Our Time, a collection of short stories, which was republished in 1925 in the United States. By then, Hemingway was beginning to move away from reporting and full-time into his career.

In 1926, he published The Torrents of Spring and his renowned novel of the so-called lost generation, The Sun Also Rises, with Charles Scribner’s Sons in New York, which remained his publisher for all but one of his later books. The Sun Also Rises established Hemingway’s early reputation, although real commercial success evaded him for another two years until A Farewell to Arms appeared in 1929. Both books showcase his strength: writing about men who responded to adversity in a way that he defined as courageous. For Hemingway, courage was showing grace under pressure.

Men Without Women appeared in 1927, the year in which Hemingway divorced Hadley and married Pauline Pfeiffer. In 1928, Hemingway decided to return to the United States. He and Pauline used their house in Key West, Florida, as their base until 1939, although their stays there were interrupted by frequent travel, particularly from 1936 to 1938, when Hemingway went to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance.

The Key West years were productive ones for Hemingway. He was happy there and began his extensive adventures as a sport fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico. These were much more elaborate excursions than his cherished childhood fishing and hunting trips with his father in northern Michigan. At about this time, Hemingway, who had experienced the running of the bulls at Pamplona, began to develop his lifelong interest in bullfighting. His book on the subject, Death in the Afternoon, appeared in 1932, his first to depart from the war theme that had come for many to define his writing. His major concern therein, however, is still grace under pressure.

Ever seeking new adventures, Hemingway took his first African safari in 1933-1934; during these travels he also revisited Spain and France. His Green Hills of Africa, published in 1935, resulted from this, his first of many African ventures. Back in Key West after the Spanish Civil War ended in 1938, Hemingway was restless, and in 1939, he bought a house, called Finca Vigia, outside Havana, Cuba, and moved there.

Hemingway’s obsession with adventure and with proving his masculinity—clear motivations for many of his more daring adventures—made him difficult to live with; in 1940, Pauline divorced him. In the same year, For Whom the Bell Tolls was published, and Hemingway married newswoman Martha Gellhorn, several years his senior, whom he regarded subconsciously as a mother figure, as he may have done all his wives. His resentment of his own mother is often said to have manifested itself in his marriages, directed against the women he chose to marry.

With the entry of the United States into World War II, Hemingway again went to Europe as a war correspondent. He participated in the Allied Normandy invasion, hatched a personal scheme to liberate Paris, and attached himself to the Fourth Infantry Division, somewhat against the will of its officers. When Hemingway returned to Cuba during the war, he became a self-appointed antisubmarine operative, sailing into the ocean on his yacht to spot enemy submarines and disable any he encountered.

The U.S. government was embarrassed by Hemingway’s unsolicited help. His literary production declined during this period, and his drinking was out of control. When Martha Gellhorn divorced him in 1944, he quickly married Mary Welsh, who would remain his wife until Hemingway, seeking the same solution to his problems that his father had earlier, committed suicide in 1961.

Hemingway’s artistic end seemed imminent in 1950 when his novel Across the River and into the Trees was poorly received by critics and the public alike; however, he rallied from that defeat and, in 1952, published one of his most popular works, the novella The Old Man and the Sea. About a year after the book was published, Hemingway survived two airplane crashes in Africa. Reported dead, he eventually charged out of the bush with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. In 1954, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature but, because of his injuries, could not attend the awards ceremony. His Nobel citation, even though the prize is for the full body of his literary work, specifically cited The Old Man and the Sea as exemplifying that which the award seeks to honor in literature.

When Cuba fell to Fidel Castro in 1959, Hemingway bought his final residence, a house in Ketchum, Idaho. He moved there in 1959, the same year in which he began treatments for depression and various physical ills at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. His despondence over his declining health and over his inability to write as well as he once had led him to end his life on July 2, 1961, by putting a twelve-gauge shotgun into his mouth and pulling the trigger.

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Like many writers, Ernest Hemingway was a man of many contradictions and of a very convoluted nature. A master stylist, he identified with common people and captured them in their speech patterns, faithfully depicted in his pages. His personal and political philosophy have much to do with proving oneself. Life to Hemingway was a battle to be fought valiantly, as Santiago fought the marlin in The Old Man and the Sea. Perhaps for Hemingway there are no victors, only people who display grace under pressure.

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Novels for Students)
Ernest Hemingway Published by Gale Cengage

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, to Clarence Edmunds (physician) and Grace (music teacher) Hemingway, both...

(The entire section is 565 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Short Stories for Students)
Ernest Hemingway Published by Gale Cengage

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on July 21, 1899, to Clarence and Grace Hemingway. His father was a doctor and his mother a...

(The entire section is 495 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, the son of Grace and Clarence Edmonds Hemingway. Hemingway first published...

(The entire section is 453 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Short Stories for Students)

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, into an upper-middle-class family. Although his childhood does not seem to have been...

(The entire section is 566 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Ernest Hemingway was born July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois. He was the second child and eldest son of Clarence Hemingway, a doctor, and...

(The entire section is 911 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, the son of Clarence and Grace Hemingway. His first published works...

(The entire section is 591 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Short Stories for Students)

Ernest Hemingway is one of the most influential American writers of the twentieth century. His influence extends not only to novelists and...

(The entire section is 496 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, the son of Clarence Edmonds and Grace Hemingway. Hemingway first published...

(The entire section is 459 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Novels for Students)
Ernest Hemingway Published by Gale Cengage

Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1899. He was the second son of Clarence Hemingway, a doctor, and Grace Hall Hemingway,...

(The entire section is 609 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Short Stories for Students)
Ernest Hemingway Published by Gale Cengage

Ernest Hemingway is one of the most famous American writers of the twentieth century. His rugged lifestyle and terse, penetrating prose have...

(The entire section is 423 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Short Stories for Students)

Ernest Hemingway will always be associated with the dynamic group of artists known as the “modernists” whose ideas set the European...

(The entire section is 541 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Short Stories for Students)

Ernest Hemingway, as a result of his short stories, novels, and nonfiction, has become perhaps the best-known American writer of the...

(The entire section is 477 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Novels for Students)
Ernest Hemingway Published by Gale Cengage

Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899 to Dr. Clarence Hemingway and Grace Hall Hemingway. They lived in Oak Park, Illinois, and Ernest actively...

(The entire section is 528 words.)

Ernest Hemingway Biography

(Novels for Students)

One of the greatest authors of American literature, Hemingway had modest beginnings in the town of Oak Park, Illinois, where he was born to...

(The entire section is 444 words.)