Authors: Ernest Hemingway

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2017

American author known for spare, plain-language prose

July 21, 1899

Oak Park, Illinois

July 2, 1961

Ketchum, Idaho

Biography

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. 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.

Ernest Hemingway

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By Lloyd Arnold [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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, for which he was later awarded the Bronze Star, 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 (or possibly bipolar disorder), 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. Interestingly, Under Kilimanjaro was published in 2005 as Hemingway’s final, autobiographical novel about his experiences on that same trip.

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.

Hemingway’s literary legacy lives on through the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction, which was instituted in 1976 by his widow, Mary. It recognizes and encourages the work of beginning novelists and short-story writers.

Author Works Long Fiction: The Torrents of Spring, 1926 The Sun Also Rises, 1926 A Farewell to Arms, 1929 To Have and Have Not, 1937 For Whom the Bell Tolls, 1940 Across the River and into the Trees, 1950 The Old Man and the Sea, 1952 Islands in the Stream, 1970 The Garden of Eden, 1986 True at First Light, 1999 (Patrick Hemingway, editor) Under Kilimanjaro, 2005 (Robert W. Lewis and Robert E. Fleming, editors) Short Fiction: Three Stories and Ten Poems, 1923 In Our Time, 1924, 1925 Men without Women, 1927 Winner Take Nothing, 1933 The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, 1938 The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and Other Stories, 1961 The Wild Years, 1962 (Gene Z. Hanrahan, editor) The Nick Adams Stories, 1972 The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway, 1986 The Complete Stories of Ernest Hemingway, 1987 Winner Take Nothing, 1990 (illustrated by Alan Phillips) Drama: Today Is Friday, pb. 1926 The Fifth Column, pb. 1938 Nonfiction: Death in the Afternoon, 1932 Green Hills of Africa, 1935 A Moveable Feast, 1964 By-Line: Ernest Hemingway, Selected Articles and Dispatches of Four Decades, 1967 (William White, editor) Ernest Hemingway, Cub Reporter; Kansas City Star Stories, 1970 (Matthew J. Bruccoli, editor) Ernest Hemingway's Apprenticeship, Oak Park, 1916-1917, 1971 (Matthew J. Bruccoli, editor) Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters, 1917-1961, 1981 (Carlos Baker, editor) The Dangerous Summer, 1985 Dateline, Toronto: The Complete “Toronto Star” Dispatches, 1920-1924, 1985 The Only Thing That Counts: The Ernest Hemingway/Maxwell Perkins Correspondence, 1925-1947, 1996 (Matthew J. Bruccoli and Robert W. Trogdon, editors) At the Hemingways: With Fifty Years of Correspondence between Ernest and Marcelline Hemingway, 1999 Ernest Hemingway on Writing, 1999 (Larry W. Phillips, editor) Hemingway on Fishing, 2000 (Nick Lyons, editor) Hemingway on Hunting, 2001 (Seán Hemingway, editor) Hemingway on War, 2003 (Seán Hemingway, editor) Dear Papa, Dear Hotch: The Correspondence of Ernest Hemingway and A.E. Hotchner, 2005 (Albert J. DeFazio III, editor) The Good Life according to Hemingway, 2008 (A.E. Hotchner, editor) The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, 2011–15 (Sandra Spanier and Robert W. Trogdon, editors) Ernest Hemingway: The Last Interview and Other Conversations., 2015 Poetry: The Collected Poems of Ernest Hemingway, 1960 88 Poems, 1979 (Nicholas Gerogiannis, editor) Edited Texts: Men at War, 1966 Bibliography Benson, Jackson J., ed. New Critical Approaches to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1990. Section 1 covers critical approaches to Hemingway’s most important long fiction; section 2 concentrates on story techniques and themes; section 3 focuses on critical interpretations of the most important stories; section 4 provides an overview of Hemingway criticism; section 5 contains a comprehensive checklist of Hemingway short fiction criticism from 1975 to 1989. Berman, Ronald. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the Twenties. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001. An explication of the cultural context of the era and how the works of these two American writers are imbued with the attitudes and icons of their day. Berman, Ronald. “Vaudeville Philosophers: ‘The Killers.’” Twentieth Century Literature 45 (Spring, 1999): 79-93. Discusses the influence of the modernist reevaluation of vaudeville on Ernest Hemingway’s short story; notes that Hemingway’s interest in vaudeville resulted from its pervasive presence in society and its acceptance in the intellectual world; argues that vaudeville scripts inspired Hemingway’s interest in the juxtaposition of urban sophistication and rural idiocy. Bloom, Harold, ed. Ernest Hemingway. Broomall, Pa.: Chelsea House, 2000. Includes articles by a variety of critics who treat topics such as Hemingway’s style, unifying devices, and visual techniques. Burgess, Anthony. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999. Originally published in 1978 as Ernest Hemingway and His World. Includes bibliographical references and an index. Dubus, Andre. “A Hemingway Story.” The Kenyon Review, n.s. 19 (Spring, 1997): 141-147. Dubus, a respected short-story writer himself, discusses Hemingway’s “In Another Country.” States that, whereas he once thought the story was about the futility of cures, since becoming disabled he has come to understand that it is about healing. Flora, Joseph M. Ernest Hemingway: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1989. An introduction to Hemingway’s short fiction that focuses on the importance of reading the stories within the literary context Hemingway creates for them in the collections In Our Time, Winner Take Nothing, and Men Without Women. Argues that Hemingway devises an echo effect in which one story reflects another. Hays, Peter L. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Continuum, 1990. A brief but instructive overview of Hemingway’s life and his achievement as a writer. Offers brief critical summaries of the novels and many short stories. Contains a useful chronology. Hotchner, A. E. Papa Hemingway: A Personal Memoir. New ed. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1999. Written by one of Hemingway’s close friends, an editor, novelist, playwright, and biographer. Originally published in 1966, this Hemingway Centennial Edition features a new introduction. Lamb, Robert Paul. “The Love Song of Harold Krebs: Form, Argument, and Meaning in Hemingway’s ‘Soldier’s Home.’” The Hemingway Review 14 (Spring, 1995): 18-36. Claims that the story concerns both war trauma and a conflict between mother and son. Discusses the structure of the story; argues that by ignoring the story’s form, one misses the manner of Hemingway’s narrative argument and the considerable art that underlies it. Leonard, John. “‘A Man of the World’ and ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’: Hemingway’s Unified View of Old Age.” The Hemingway Review 13 (Spring, 1994): 62-73. Compares the two Hemingway stories in terms of the theme of age. Notes also the themes of aloneness, consolation of light, loss of sexuality and physical prowess, depression, violence, and the need for dignity. Mellow, James R. Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992. A well-informed, sensitive handling of the life and work by a seasoned biographer. Nolan, Charles J., Jr. “Hemingway’s Complicated Enquiry in Men Without Women.” Studies in Short Fiction 32 (Spring, 1995): 217-222. Examines the theme of homosexuality in “A Simple Enquiry” from Hemingway’s Men Without Women. Argues that the characters in the story are enigmatic, revealing their complexity only after one has looked carefully at what they do and say. Reynolds, Michael. The Young Hemingway. New York: Blackwell, 1986. Reynolds’s multivolume, painstaking biography is devoted to the evolution of Hemingway’s life and writing. This National Book Award–winning first volume focuses on his upbringing and war years. Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The Paris Years. New York: Blackwell, 1989. This second installment in Reynolds's biography chronicles Hemingway's marriage, fatherhood, and initial interest in bullfighting as well as his budding literary career. Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The Homecoming. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992. This third installment in Reynolds's biography details the creation of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms, as well as Hemingway's travels and personal life between 1926 and 1929. Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The 1930’s. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997. This fourth installment in Reynolds's biography covers Hemingway's artist maturation and forays into various literary forms. Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The Final Years. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. This final installment in Reynolds's biography reveals Hemingway's participation in World War II, his literary output, and his declining health and ultimate demise. Tetlow, Wendolyn E. Hemingway’s “In Our Time”: Lyrical Dimensions. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1992. Argues that the collection is a “coherent, integral work” unified by such elements as the character Nick Adams, image patterns, symbols, and recurrent themes. Claims the book is analogous to a poetic sequence, a group of works that tend to interact as an organic whole. Discusses the lyrical elements in Hemingway’s self-conscious juxtaposition of stories and interchapters. Wagner-Martin, Linda. Ernest Hemingway: A Literary Life. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. Hemingway’s life is examined here, especially his troubled relationship with his parents. Wagner-Martin makes insightful connections between his personal life, his emotions, and his writing. Wagner-Martin, Linda, ed. Hemingway: Seven Decades of Criticism. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1998. A collection of essays ranging from Gertrude Stein’s 1923 review of Hemingway’s stories to recent responses to The Garden of Eden. Includes essays on “Indian Camp,” “Hills Like White Elephants,” and In Our Time as self-begetting fiction. Walsh, John. "Being Ernest: John Walsh Unravels the Mystery behind Hemingway's Suicide."Independent, 10 June 2011, www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/being-ernest-john-walsh-unravels-the-mystery-behind-hemingways-suicide-2294619.html. Accessed 30 Mar. 2017. Discusses the darker side of Hemingway's life and personal relationships. Posits that he had harbored a death wish for many years prior to his suicide. Weber, Ronald. Hemingway’s Art of Non-Fiction. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990. An analysis of Hemingway's journalism and other nonfiction writings as achievements in their own right.

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