Ernest Hemingway - An American Literary Giant

Ernest Hemingway

I'd started reading the work of Ernest Hemingway before I'd got out of high school, and I fondly recall hearing a great teacher talk about the great writers of this world, and she'd singled out Hemingway as an example of such. She'd went on to say that the great ones can just look at a tree, and then come up with a far more brilliant description and descriptive technique for such than the rest of us could. I wholeheartedly agreed about all of that, and you can bet that I'd soon bought another Ernest Hemingway novel to read - and I'd looked specifically for descriptions of trees.

Ernest Hemingway was a true writer - he seemed to live to write, and to express himself. Always one for being overly filled with bravado, we well know the reasons why he turned out that way - and though we may not always admire his stance on things, and the way he lived his life, we can surely admire that he'd lived, and lived as best as he knew how. He told us nearly the entire tale in his novels and short stories - some of the greatest of the cannon of American Literature.

Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Hemingway - As An Infant.


Young Ernest Hemingway

Born on the twenty first day of July in 1899 in Chicago suburb, Oak Park, Illinois, Ernest Hemingway's family was stable, and upwardly mobile. His father was a physician, and his mother a musician - little wonder where Ernest got his intelligence. It is said that his mother wanted a daughter, and instead when she had Earnest - that she dressed him as a girl and pretended that he was one for as long as she could get away with it. Perhaps this is the reason that, for some, the works of Ernest Hemingway seem overly masculine - as the human psyche is built for compensation, and the ego formed in the younger years.

Ernest hated his name - he thought that it reminded folks of Oscar Wild's play called The Importance of Being Earnest, which young Hemingway considered a bit dumb. Ernest always had a rocky relationship with his mother, and had even stated that he hated her - throughout his life his poor relationship with her would be mirrored within his relationships with women. A major part of his conflict with his mother was that she'd forced cello lessons upon him, the truth, however, is that music and literature go hand in hand, and Ernest would admit later in life that learning the cello had helped him to become the great writer that he was.

The Hemingway family owned a cabin in the Michigan wilderness, and they would vacation there, and there is where Ernest Hemingway learned to love the outdoors, fishing, hunting, and living in remote places - places where a man could reflect on things, and write about them. Before Hemingway would leave public school, he was submitting to the school newspaper. He seemingly knew then that he'd be a writer. Writers write, and so in truth - he already was one.

Ernest Hemingway During World War One


Ernest Hemingway - Journalist And Then A Novelist.

Hemingway would graduate high school and become first a journalist. He never forgot the lessons he learned in journalism, and he never gave up the original style of writing that he'd learned as a journalist, and in fact, he'd perfect the style, make it his own, and make it his instantly identifiable style - revered, loved the world over, and never duplicated.

He went to work for the The Kansas City Star,and their guide lines suggested the following:

"Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative."

When the first world war broke out, Hemingway would ditch employment in the USA in response to a Red Cross recruitment effort, and he went to Italy to become an Ambulance driver. If nothing else is ever said about Ernest Hemingway, even if someone literally hates his writing and his ethos, never let it be said that Ernest Hemingway did not do his damndest towards untangling as much that is wrong with humanity as he possibly could. Besides carrying the wounded to the hospital in battle zones in a nation he owed absolutely nothing but his humanity to, he'd collect body parts on the battle fields for burial, and record the whole thing in his non-fiction, Death in the Afternoon. Concerning his humanitarian volunteer work in Italy during the first world war, Hemingway said:

"I remember that after we searched quite thoroughly for the complete dead we collected fragments"

Not long after his initial deployment, Hemingway would be seriously wounded by mortar fire - as a humanitarian non combatant that didn't have to be there at all, and for this he was righteously awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery - he was only 18 years old!

The Sun Also Rises, By Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Hemingway -Becoming A Novelist

During his volunteer service in world war one in the Italian theatre of war, Ernest Hemingway was seriously injured via shrapnel to both legs, and he was hospitalized immediately, operated on, and he stayed there for six months. Any student of Hemingway realizes near instantly from the knowledge of his life, that he put his own life into his novels. The novels and short stories of Hemingway were almost non-fiction in that within them at least one character always represented him, and his life experiences.

In 1919 Hemingway would return to the United States to recuperate, and soon he would begin creating some of the finest American Literature ever written, included in all of those novels would be the brilliant brevity of his personal style, and the semi autobiographical characters that would always be present. Nick Adams in particular comes to mind for his repeated appearances in Hemingway's short stories, and he'd soon also marry for the first time, and he'd known as soon as he'd met Hadley Richardson, that was what he'd wanted to do. She was eight years older than he was, and as he was a very young man, vastly more mature than him. My opinion is that his poor relationship with his own mother caused him to seek an older female to fill her role, and then some.

Soon after marrying, Ernest and Hadley would move to Paris, France - as the monetary exchange rate made it an inexpensive place to live, and also because the two believed that the most interesting people in the world were all there He'd soon pen The Sun Also Rises, and meet up with many a famous intellectual artist. Whether or not Ernest Hemingway was already an alcoholic when he moved to Paris is not clear, what is clear is that there it became obvious that he was one, and he'd remain an alcoholic until he died. As a writer Hemingway would cover more aspects of it in his life than most, and while in Paris, Hemingway would pen a total of 88 news stories for the Toronto Star,and also write some travel pieces about fishing in Europe.

Ernest Hemingway, and Friends - Pamplona, Spain, July 1925.


Hemingway - Brilliance, Bullfighting, Alcoholism, and Divorce.

I think that for myself, I admire Hemingway for the way that he lived - of course he had the money to travel the world, and so he did, and so he surely learned a huge deal of information about humanity in that way. Some of the most respected of my own personal friends - even though I've not met the half of them, have lived in different nations, and without fail those persons seem to be vastly more intelligent than the common person that has forever been in their home-town, or their home state here in the USA.

While I have no real respect for Spanish Bullfighting, I can also concede that I do not understand it because I'm not Spanish, have never been to Spain, and I do not and can not then understand what bullfighting means to the Spanish. Hemingway loved it, and appreciated it, and admired the fighters rather than the senselessly killed bulls; and regardless, I and many others have enjoyed reading the increasingly well known and prolific author's tales and descriptions of Spanish bullfighting in his own unique and brilliant literary style.

While working on The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway's marriage started to fall apart, and though the book would receive good reviews, it would also get some backlash for the Hemingway Anti Semitism found within. Hemingway was having an affair, and probably drunk, he injured himself badly by pulling a chain light down on his head - thinking that he was pulling the chain to a chain toilet in a bathroom..

In 1927 Ernest Hemingway divorced his first wife, and married his second.

Hemingway with Col. Charles (Buck) T. Lanham in Germany, 1944,

A Farewell To His Father And A Farewell To Arms

Ernest Hemingway had converted to Catholicism, and so his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, was a wealthy catholic - the two would have two sons together, and do the totally non catholic thing by divorcing soon afterwards. The couple returned to the United States, and though the Hemingway family, Ernest's parents, were having financial trouble, Ernest had written his father a letter to tell him not to worry about it. The letter made it to the Hemingway home just a few minutes after his father killed himself. Ernest said of his father's suicide,

"I'll probably go the same way."

That happened, of course, but Ernest was hard at work now, and soon would have published another of the great novels, A Farewell to Arms - a tale of love and horror in Italy during the first world war. He would spend his Summers in Wyoming hunting everything that moved, and his Winters In Key West. Please know that with an author as prolific as Hemingway was, it is impossible for me to here discuss all of his works, fiction, and non fiction - or all of his major life events.

Always a traveller, Hemingway went to Africa and there he wrote one of my personal favourite short stories, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" - which describes a situation in which a man had a very domineering wife, and though it could be thought that Hemingway hated women, in truth, he disliked his mother, and he never seemed to truly recover from that bad relationship , and the lack of resolution within the constructs of the conflicts between the child and the one who was meant to be the chief supporter and nurturer of a child. It can't be said that the situations contained in "Francis Macomber" do not exist.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out, Ernest Hemingway and his second wife divorced over their differences concerning the conflict, Hemingway would go to Spain to cover the goings on with his ongoing journalism, and he'd also write his most famous novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls,, in 1940 while living in Cuba. Women inspired Hemingway, and it is well known that his second wife was depicted fictitiously in A Farewell To Arms, and in Cuba Hemingway's inspiration was his third wife, Martha Gellhorn -who was a journalist herself, for Collier's magazine.

Ernest Hemingway was possibly the bravest journalist and novelist of the twentieth century, and so he was naturally on board an American warship at D Day, to cover the invasion of Nazi occupied France. Attaching himself to the 22nd Infantry Regiment, Hemingway organized and led an armed militia of Frenchmen himself, which coincidentally, was a violation of the Geneva Convention, as he was supposed to be in France as a war correspondent. Present at the liberation of Paris, where he'd lived during the 1920s, Hemingway stayed with the army as they charged into Germany as well. He'd cover the Battle Of The Bulge, and come down very ill with pneumonia. Two years following the end of the second world way, Ernest was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery and the commendation as follows:

"through his talent of expression, Mr. Hemingway enabled readers to obtain a vivid picture of the difficulties and triumphs of the front-line soldier and his organization in combat."

Ernest Hemingway in the cabin of his boat, The" Pilar", off the coast of Cuba

Ernest Hemingway - The Nobel Prize, The Pulitzer Prize, His Deteriorating Health

Being away from his third wife, Hemingway would do what he always did - find another woman, and lose the one he'd had. He'd soon, however, return to Cuba, and win a Nobel Prize for Literature for his novel, The Old Man And The Sea, a novel for which he'd also win a Pulitzer Prize. Suffice it to say that despite being on another love affair that broke up another marriage - he continued doing the same thing in an overly masculine compensatory sort of way with ever more young and foolish women.

Never able to NOT travel, Ernest would fly to Africa - and survive two straight near fatal plane crashes which would leave him with such a thoroughly wrecked body that his ever present alcoholism would increase, and accelerate his failing health. Unable to attend the ceremony for his Nobel Prize, he'd sent in a speech, and in it his fatalism and failing health were evident in his words,

"Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day."

Ernest's increasingly terrible alcoholism and physical injuries didn't keep him down entirely, while living in Cuba and expressing delight for the new Castro government, he'd travel to Paris again and recover some stored materials in the Ritz Hotel there that he'd left in the 1920s, and inside the vaulted chests were dozens of manuscripts he'd stored, and he set to finishing and publishing them all. He'd leave Cuba the same way that he'd left Paris - stocked full of manuscripts and personal possessions that he wanted back. Travelling in Europe, Hemingway became paranoid, and convinced that the FBI was following him, and probably they were - everyone under the Sun knows what a monstrous fascist J. Edgar Hoover was, and also how much Hoover hated anyone that showed virtuous ideals for humanity.

Hemingway would secretly check into the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and receive the scourge of electro shock therapy that drove so many mentally ill to suicide. in the early morning hours of July 2, 1961, Hemingway "quite deliberately" shot himself with his favourite shotgun - thus passed an imperfect man that happened to be one of the bravest and most genuine writers in the history of these anything BUT United States here in America.

Ernest Hemingway - Rest In Peace

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Comments 19 comments

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 4 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

Hemingway was popular in my college years and probably had some influence on my own style.

Acid Rahne profile image

Acid Rahne 4 years ago

A very complete and excellent short bio!

M A Williams profile image

M A Williams 4 years ago from New Hampshire

What a great hub on Hemingway!

I haven't read any of his work, but I recently became interested in him as a person after seeing a depiction of him in the Woody Allen movie 'Midnight in Paris'. Have you seen that?

I was reading on wiki the other day about his death likely being from hemochromatosis,a genetic disease where you can't metabolize iron and leads to deterioration in your mental and physical condition. His father had it and also committed suicide.

I was shocked to read that as well as him and his father, his sister and brother and granddaughter all committed suicide. Tragic

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

dahoglund - you can't go wrong with his style!!!!!!!!!

I've very intentionally tried to create some things that were entirely based on the Hemingway style...but they aren't the kind of things that succeed on this sort of website, you know how it goes.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Acid Rahne - I'm always so very proud when you come to read my stuff here. You couldn't know how much that pleases me!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

M A Williams - Thanks so much!!!!!!!!!!

Yes I'd read about that a bit on the Wiki page. I can't help but wonder why the Mayo clinic and the other hospitals he'd been in for all of his injuries hadn't caught that if it were true.

I also wonder if there was more going on within their family than we know - other factors that might have led to that totally outrageous and horrific rate of suicide.

uzma shaheen profile image

uzma shaheen 4 years ago from Lahore,Pakistan

A beautiful short biography of a great writer. I happened to read Hemingway's work "The old man and the sea" it was amazing.A brave man, earning bravery awards, then commiting suicide is so ionic.

wesman thank you for sharing this valuable information,there were many things which I did not know up and sharing.

christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 4 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

What a man! What a life! Just to have been a louse in his bed would have been a privilege.

Thanks for that Wesman.

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Mr. Hemingway is a man of many words that keep on giving. I've been to the Hemingway Musuem in Key West. It was a memorable visit. Wonderful tribute to Ernest Hemingway. Well done Wes!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

uzma shaheen - Thanks very much!

I think you would also enjoy "A Farewell To Arms," and "For Whom The Bell Tolls" then.

I think Ernest had some strange ideas of what masculinity was supposed to be - but the thing about it is, those notions of his are what made him who he was, so I can hardly complain about his suicide. I'm certain he thought that his health and alcoholism were preventing him from being " a man," and so he thought the noble thing to do was to ...not fade away.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Thanks Chris!!!!!!

I sure think he did a lot of amazing things - I surely can't compare anything I've done to the things he'd already done by the time he was 20. I couldn't list the half of it in here...but he should have been dead a hundred times over, and it was truly fortunate that he lived as long as he did.

I really like the four of his novels I've read - the four most famous ones, and I like a lot of his short stories too. I especially like his style, which is definitely unique.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Sunshine - Oh I'd love to see that!!!! I've been to Florida, but never that far South. I actually didn't know about that museum until you mentioned it in the comment!

I'll bet there are tour guides all over Europe that mention something or another Like, "and here is where American writer Ernest Hemingway....had wine and would sit, flirt, and write during the Summer of 19...."

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

I should have mentioned the museum was his home where he lived with his third wife. The bar was in walking distance. The Keys are beautiful. If you ever get a chance to visit stop by Orlando and pick me up!!:)

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Sunshine625 - DONE DEAL!!!!!!!!!

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 4 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain

Great hub! I think it was Hemingway who did the shortest short story ever: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. So good!

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

Hey Pretty Lady!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I do like him, but with an injured hand - I'm pretending to be him.

Elefanza profile image

Elefanza 4 years ago from Somewhere in My Brain

Haha! That's awesome! I prefer to be the fictitious S. Morgenstern who allegedly wrote pages and pages about the beauty of trees. Ironic, huh? Ha! Have fun pretending to be Hemingway! And go to Spain and sit where he sat! Yeah man!

FatBoyThin profile image

FatBoyThin 17 months ago from Kinneff, Scotland

I’ve been trying to get into Hemingway for years, but so far haven’t managed it. I feel like I should be able to see what everyone else apparently sees – that he’s one of the great American novelists, but at the moment, he just doesn’t do it for me.

I’m currently trying ‘Islands in the Stream’ again, so we’ll see what happens. Great Hub.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 9 months ago from Kaufman, Texas Author

FatBoyThin - I know exactly what you are talking about. Don't sweat it none if you can't dig Hemingway! People, or lots of my friends, love this Neil Gaiman fella, I read half of one of his novels and ....couldn't go on.

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