Hemingway’s mother was a talented but neurotic woman who had very narrow religious views. She used to give music lessons. She wanted twins, but since did not happen, she would often dress up Ernest and his sister as little girls and tried to create an image of them being twins.
Although his mother hoped that Ernest would like music, he preferred outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, and camping with his father. At school, Ernest played football, boxed, and showed a flair for English.
After finishing school, however, he did not want to go to college. He began working as a reporter for the newspaper, The Kansas City Star. Even as he became a famous writer later in life, he followed the dictates of the Star’s writing style guide regarding the use of short sentences, paragraphs, and the usage of the English language.
World War I
A few months into his job, and he left it to join the United States Army in World War I. But, he was rejected due to health reasons and so he joined the Red Cross. Ernest saw a lot of action on the Italian front, most of which left an indelible mark on his psyche. The horrors of war and death on the war field were images that he tried to forget.
In 1918, he was wounded while delivering supplies to soldiers. He was hit and had fragments of mortar shells in his legs. He then began to work at a hospital in Milan, however, he didn’t have much to do there. It was there that he began to drink.
He fell in love with a nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky, who was six years older to him. Their relationship did not last long. She did not follow him back to America; she fell in love with an Italian officer. This left a deep impression on Hemingway’s mind. This incident would serve to form the inspiration for his novel ‘A Farewell To Arms’ in 1929.
Life and Notable Works
When the war got over, Hemingway returned to Oak Park. In 1920, he moved to Toronto, Ontario, and began working with the Toronto Star as a freelance writer and foreign correspondent.
In 1921, he married Elizabeth Hadley Richardson and they moved into an apartment in north Chicago. The house was dark and depressing and in December they moved out of that place, never to return. They moved to Paris where Hemingway covered the Greco-Turkish war for the Star. It was here that Hemingway met Gertrude Stein. She introduced him to the ‘Parisian Modern Movement’. He also met Ezra Pound who was the founder of Imagism. The group would often visit Sylvia Beach’s bookshop called Shakespeare & Co. Images from his experiences in Paris can be found in his book ‘A Movable Feast’ in 1964.
In 1923, his first book ‘Three Stories and Ten Poems’ was released. His first son, John, was also born in the same year.
In 1925, ‘In Our Time’ came out in the American market. The story ‘Big Two-hearted River’ from that collection is quite well-known in literary history and established Hemingway’s minimalist writing style.
In 1926, Hemingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’ was released and it became his first successful novel. The basis of this novel was his interactions with F. Scott Fitzgerald and their well-known drinking sprees at the Dingo Bar.
In 1927, Hemingway divorced Hadley Richardson and married Pauline Pfeiffer. She was a devout catholic and Hemingway also converted to Catholicism. The same year, his ‘Men Without Women’ collection was released. One of the stories in this collection, titled ‘The Killers’ has gained massive appeal to readers worldwide.
In 1928, Hemingway and his wife moved to Key West, Florida. During that same year, his father and another friend from his Paris days, Harry Crosby, committed suicide. His second son, Patrick, was born in that year.
In 1929, Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell To Arms’ was released and was immensely successful. This made him financially independent.
In 1931, Hemingway established his first home in Key West, Florida. This was where he would eventually do most of his work. He had a writer’s den in the upper floor in the back of his house which was a converted garage. He would also spend time fishing, drinking at Sloppy Joe’s bar, and traveling.
In 1932, he published ‘Death In The Afternoon’ which was based on bullfighting in Spain.
In 1933, he visited Nairobi, Kenya, and Tanzania on an African Safari. The result was a book titled ‘Green Hills of Africa’ in 1935, ‘The Snows Of Kilimanjaro’ in 1936, and ‘The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber’ in 1938.
In 1937, he traveled to Spain to report for the North American Newspaper Alliance on the Spanish Civil War. Hemingway favored the Republicans. This contrasted with his wife’s ideas. He also began to question Catholicism and eventually left the Church. These incidents put much strain on Hemingway’s marriage with Pauline.
Hemingway also had a plethora of health problems he had acquired over the years. He had an anthrax infection, grippe (influenza), teeth problems, hemorrhoids, kidney problems, and various injuries arising from various accidents.
In 1938, he published the ‘The Fifth Column And The First Forty-Nine Stories’―a collection which included his only play (The Fifth Column) and other short stories including ‘Old Man At The Bridge’, ‘Hills Like White Elephants’, ‘A Clean, Well-Lighted Place’, ‘The Snows Of Kilimanjaro’, and ‘The Short Happy Life Of Francis Macomber’.
In 1940, he divorced Pauline and married his longtime companion Martha Gellhorn. This was also the year when his book ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ came out.
In 1941, Hemmingway joined the navy to participate in World War II. Aboard the ship ‘Pilar’, Hemingway and his crew were deployed off the coast of Cuba to sink German submarines. His wife, Martha was also a war correspondent and a rivalry began to develop between the two of them. Hemingway went to Europe as a correspondent for the ‘Collier’ magazine and there he witnessed D-Day Landings. Later on, in Villedieu-des-Poeles, he threw grenades into a cellar of hiding SS officers. He also played a part in the liberation of Paris.
After the war, he began work on his book ‘The Garden Of Eden’ which was never completed. An abridged version of the book was published in 1986.
In 1944, he divorced Martha Gellhorn and married Mary Welsh Hemingway. He returned to Cuba in 1945.
In 1950, he wrote ‘Across The River And Into The Trees’ a novel set in Venice after World War II.
In 1952, he published ‘The Old Man And The Sea’ which gained much acclaim all over the world. It was for this book that he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
He was on another of his safari’s when he had two plane crashes and was severely injured―he sprained his shoulders, arms, and legs, lost hearing in his left ear, paralyzed his sphincter, had a crushed vertebra, and had burns on his face, arms, and legs, among other injuries. He also had a severe alcohol problem which raised his blood pressure and cholesterol.
In 1959, the Cuban Revolution forced several Americans to leave Cuba. But Hemingway stayed on. It is said that he had good relations with Fidel Castro. But finally, he had to leave his property in 1960.
Hemingway was suffering from several health problems and was receiving treatments for them. One of these treatments was electroconvulsive therapy for depression. As a result, he suffered memory loss and weight loss.
In 1961, Hemingway tried to commit suicide and the electroconvulsive therapy began again. Finally on the 2nd of July, 1961, he took a shotgun to his head.
To this day, Hemingway continues to inspire many writers, young and old, with his minimalist writing style.