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Biography of Ernest Hemingway

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Biography of Ernest Hemingway





• Introduction

• The aim of the Project Work

• The Project Work

My Favourite Author:

• Childhood

• World War I

• A soldier’s home

• The Paris years

• An unparalleled creative flurry

• Key West

• Cuba

• World War II

• The last days

• Denouement

• Conclusions.








Born in the family home at 439 North Oak Park Avenue (now 339 N. Oak Park

Avenue), a house built by his widowed grandfather Ernest Hall, Hemingway

was the second of Dr. CClarence and Grace Hall Hemingway’s six children; he

had four sisters and one brother. He was named after his maternal

grandfather Ernest Hall and his great uncle Miller Hall.


The Hemingway family: Ursula, Ernest and Marceline with parents, October


Oak Park was a mmainly Protestant, upper middle-class suburb of Chicago that

Hemingway would later refer to as a town of „wide lawns and narrow minds.“

Only ten miles from the big city, Oak Park was really much farther away

philosophically. It was basically a conservative town that tried to isolate

itself from Chicago’s liberal seediness. Hemingway was raised with the

conservative midwestern values of strong religion, hard work, physical

fitness and self-determination; if one adhered to these parameters, he was

taught and he would be ensured of success in whatever field he chose.


Five year-old Ernest Hemingway trout fishing, July 1904

As a boy he was taught by his father to hunt and fish along the shores and

in the forests surrounding Lake Michigan. The Hemingways had a summerhouse

called Windemere on Walloon Lake iin northern Michigan, and the family would

spend the summer months there trying to stay cool. Hemingway would either

fish the different streams that ran into the lake, or would take the

rowboat out to do some fishing there. He would also go squirrel hunting in

the woods near the summerhouse, discovering early in life the serenity to

be found while alone in the forest or wading a stream. It was something he

could always go back to throughout his life, wherever he was. Nature would

be tthe touchstone of Hemingway’s life and work, and though he often found

himself living in major cities like Chicago, Toronto and Paris early in his

career, once he became successful he chose somewhat isolated places to live

like Key West, or San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, or Ketchum, Idaho. All were

convenient locales for hunting and fishing.

When he wasn’t hunting or fishing his mother taught him the finer points of

music. Grace was an accomplished singer who once had aspirations of a

career on stage, but eventually settled down with her husband and occupied

her time by giving voice and music lessons to local children, including her

own. Hemingway never had a knack for music and suffered through choir

practices and cello lessons, however the musical knowledge he acquired from

his mother helped him share in his first wife Hadley’s interest in the



Ernest Hemingway feeding a stuffed squirrel, February 1910

Hemingway received his formal schooling in the Oak Park public school

system. In high school he was mediocre at sports, playing football,

swimming, water basketball and serving as the track team manager. He

enjoyed working on the high school newspaper called the Trapeze, where he

wrote his first articles, usually humorous pieces in the style of Ring

Lardner, a popular satirist of the time. Hemingway graduated iin the spring

of 1917 and instead of going to college the following fall like his parents

expected, he took a job as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star; the job

was arranged for by his Uncle Tyler who was a close friend of the chief

editorial writer of the paper.

World War I


Ernest Hemingway in his Spangolini uniform

At the time of Hemingway’s graduation from High School, World War I was

raging in Europe, and despite Woodrow Wilson’s attempts to keep America out

of the war; the United States joined the Allies in the fight against

Germany and Austria in April 1917. When Hemingway turned eighteen he tried

to enlist in the army, but was deferred because of poor vision; he had a

bad left eye that he probably inherited from his mother, who also had poor

vision. When he heard the Red Cross was taking volunteers as ambulance

drivers he quickly signed up. He was accepted in December of 1917, left his

job at the paper in April of 1918, and sailed for Europe in May. In the

short time that Hemingway worked for the Kansas City Star he learned some

stylistic lessons that would later influence his fiction. The newspaper

advocated short sentences, short paragraphs, active verbs, authenticity,

compression, clarity and immediacy. HHemingway later said: „Those were the

best rules I ever learned for the business of writing. I’ve never forgotten


Hemingway first went to Paris upon reaching Europe, then traveled to Milan

in early June after receiving his orders. The day he arrived, a munitions

factory exploded and he had to carry mutilated bodies and body parts to a

makeshift morgue; it was an immediate and powerful initiation into the

horrors of war. Two days later he was sent to an ambulance unit in the town

of Schio, where he worked driving ambulances. On July 8, 1918, only a few

weeks after arriving, Hemingway was seriously wounded by fragments from an

Austrian mortar shell, which had landed just a few feet away. At the time,

Hemingway was distributing chocolate and cigarettes to Italian soldiers in

the trenches near the front lines. The explosion knocked Hemingway

unconscious, killed an Italian soldier and blew the legs off another. What

happened next has been debated for some time. In a letter to Hemingway’s

father, Ted Brumback, one of Ernest’s fellow ambulance drivers, wrote that

despite over 200 pieces of shrapnel being lodged in Hemingway’s legs he

still managed to carry another wounded soldier back to the first aid

station; along the way he was hit in the legs by several machine


bullets. Whether he carried the wounded soldier or not, doesn’t diminish

Hemingway’s sacrifice.


Young Ernest Hemingway: At the Milan hospital in the fall of 1918

He was awarded the Italian Silver Medal for Valor with the official Italian

citation reading: „Gravely wounded by numerous pieces of shrapnel from an

enemy shell, with an admirable spirit of brotherhood, before taking care of

himself, he rendered generous assistance to the Italian soldiers more

seriously wounded by the same explosion and did not allow himself to be

carried elsewhere until after tthey had been evacuated.“ Hemingway described

his injuries to a friend of his: „There was one of those big noises you

sometimes hear at the front. I died then. I felt my soul or something

coming right out of my body, like you’d pull a silk handkerchief out of a

pocket by one corner. It flew all around and then came back and went in

again and I wasn’t dead any more.“

Hemingway’s wounding along the Pave River in Italy and his subsequent

recovery at a hospital iin Milan, including the relationship with his nurse

Agnes von Kurowsky, all inspired his great novel A Farewell To Arms.


A Soldier’s Home.


Ernest Hemingway stretched out in the Red Cross Hospital, Milan 1918

When Hemingway returned home from Italy in January of 11919 he found Oak

Park dull compared to the adventures of war, the beauty of foreign lands

and the romance of an older woman, Agnes von Kurowsky. He was nineteen

years old and only a year and a half removed from high school, but the war

had matured him beyond his years. Living with his parents, who never quite

appreciated what their son had been through, was difficult. Soon after his

homecoming they began to question his future, began to pressure him to find

work or to further his education, but Hemingway couldn’t seem to muster

interest in anything.

He had received some $1,000 dollars in insurance payments for his war

wounds, which allowed him to avoid work for nearly a year. He lived at his

parent’s house and spent his ttime at the library or at home reading. He

spoke to small civic organizations about his war exploits and was often

seen in his Red Cross uniform, walking about town. For a time though,

Hemingway questioned his role as a war hero, and when asked to tell of his

experiences he often exaggerated to satisfy his audience. Hemingway’s story

„Soldier’s Home“ conveys his feelings of frustration and shame upon

returning home to a town and to parents who still had a romantic notion of

war and who ddidn’t understand the psychological impact the war had had on

their son.

The last speaking engagement the young Hemingway took was at the Petoskey

(Michigan) Public Library, and it would be important to Hemingway not for

what he said but for who heard it. In the audience was Harriett Connable,

the wife of an executive for the Woolworth’s company in Toronto. As

Hemingway spun his war tales Harriett couldn’t help but notice the

differences between Hemingway and her own son. Hemingway appeared

confident, strong, intelligent and athletic, while her son was slight,

somewhat handicapped by a weak right arm and spent most of his time

indoors. Harriett Connable thought her son needed someone to show him the

joys of physical activity and Hemingway seemed the perfect candidate to

tutor and watch over him while she and her husband Ralph vacationed in

Florida. So, she asked Hemingway if he would do it.

Hemingway took the position, which offered him time to write and a chance

to work for the Toronto Star Weekly, the editor of which Ralph Connable

promised to introduce Hemingway to. Hemingway wrote for the Star Weekly

even after moving to Chicago in the fall of 1920. While living at a

friend’s house he met Hadley Richardson and they quickly fell in love. The

two married in September 11921 and by November of the same year Hemingway

accepted an offer to work with the Toronto Daily Star as its European

correspondent. Hemingway and his new bride would go to Paris, France where

the whole of literature was being changed by the likes of Ezra Pound, James

Joyce, Gertrude Stein and Ford Maddox Ford. He would not miss his chance to

change it as well.

The Paris Years

The Hemingways arrived in Paris on December 22, 1921 and a few weeks later

moved into their first apartment at 74 rue Cardinal Lemoyne. It was a

miserable apartment with no running water and a bathroom that was basically

a closet with a slop bucket inside. Hemingway tried to minimize the

primitiveness of the living quarters for his wife Hadley who had grown up

in relative splendor, but despite the conditions she endured, carried away

by her husbands enthusiasm for living the bohemian lifestyle. Ironically,

they could have afforded much better; with Hemingway’s job and Hadley’s

trust fund their annual income was $3,000, a decent sum in the inflated

economies of Europe at the time. Hemingway rented a room at 39 rue

Descartes where he could do his writing in peace.

With a letter of introduction from Sherwood Anderson, Hemingway met some of

Paris prominent writers and artists and fforged quick friendships with them

during his first few years. Counted among those friends were Ezra Pound,

Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, James Joyce, Max Eastman, Lincoln Stephens

and Wyndahm Lewis, and he was acquainted with the painters Miro and

Picasso. These friendships would be instrumental in Hemingway’s development

as a writer and artist.

Hemingway’s reporting during his first two years in Paris was extensive,

covering the Geneva Conference in April of 1922, The Greco-Turkish War in

October, the Luasanne Conference in November and the post war convention in

the Ruhr Valley in early 1923. Along with the political pieces he wrote

lifestyle pieces as well, covering fishing, bullfighting, social life in

Europe, skiing, bobsledding and more.

Just as Hemingway was beginning to make a name for himself as a reporter

and a fledgling fiction writer, and just as he and his wife were hitting

their stride socially in Europe, the couple found out that Hadley was

pregnant with their first child. Wanting the baby born in North America

where the doctors and hospitals were better, the Hemingways left Paris in

1923 and moved to Toronto, where he wrote for the Toronto Daily Star and

waited for their child to arrive.

John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway was born on October 10, 1923 and by January

of 1924 the young family boarded a

ship and headed back to Paris where

Hemingway would finish making a name for himself.

With a recommendation from Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford let Hemingway edit

his fledgling literary magazine the Transatlantic Review. In recommending

Hemingway to Ford, Pound said „.He’s an experienced journalist. He writes

very good verse and he’s the finest prose stylist in the world.“

Ford published some of Hemingway’s early stories, including „Indian Camp“

and „Cross Country Snow“ and generally praised the younger writer. The

magazine lasted only a year and a half ((until 1925), but allowed Hemingway

to work out his own artistic theories and to see them in print in a

respectable journal.

 An unparalleled creative flurry.

 From 1925 to 1929 Hemingway produced some of the most important works of

20th century fiction, including the landmark short story collection In Our

Time (1925) that contained „The Big Two-Hearted River.“ In 1926 he came out

with his first true novel, The Sun Also Rises (after publishing Torrents of

Spring, a comic novel parodying Sherwood Anderson in 1925). He followed

that bbook with Men Without Women in 1927; it was another book of stories,

which collected „The Killers,“ and „In Another Country.“ In 1929 he

published A Farewell to Arms, arguably the finest novel to emerge from

World War I. In four short years hhe went from being an unknown writer to

being the most important writer of his generation, and perhaps the 20th


The first version of in our time (characterized by the lowercase letters in

the title) was published by William Bird Three Mountain Press in 1924 and

illustrated Hemingway new theories on literature. It contained only the

vignettes that would later appear as interchapters in the American version

published by Bonnie & Liveright in 1925. This small 32 page book, of which

only 170 copies were printed, contained the essence of Hemingway aesthetic

theory which stated that omitting the right thing from a story could

actually strengthen it. Hemingway equated this theory with the structure of

an iceberg where only 1/8 of the iceberg could be seen above water while

the remaining 77/8 under the surface provided the iceberg dignity of motion

and contributed to its momentum. Hemingway felt a story could be

constructed the same way and this theory shows up even in these early

vignettes. A year after the small printing of in our time came out, Bonnie

& Liveright published the American version, which contains ten short

stories along with the vignettes. The collection of stories is amazing,

including the much anthologized „Soldier’s Home,“ as well as „Indian Camp,“

„A Very Short Story,“ „My Old Man“ aand the classic „Big Two-Hearted River“

parts one and two. „Big Two Hearted River“ was an eureka story for

Hemingway, who realized that his theory of omission really could work in

the story form.

Next came The Torrents of Spring, a short comic novel that satired

Hemingway’s early mentor Sherwood Anderson and allowed him to break his

relationship with Bonnie & Liveright to move to Scribner’s. Scribner’s

published Torrents (which Scott Fitzgerald called the finest comic novel

ever written by an American) in 1925, then a year later published

Hemingway’s second novel The Sun Also Rises, which the publisher had bought

sight unseen.

The Sun Also Rises introduced the world to the „lost generation“ and was a

critical and commercial success. Set in Paris and Spain, the book was a

story of unrequitable love against a backdrop of bars and bullfighting. In

1927 came Men Without Women and soon after he began working on A Farewell

To Arms.

While he could do no wrong with his writing career, his personal life had

begun to show signs of wear. He divorced his first wife Hadley in 1927 and

married Pauline Pfeiffer, an occasional fashion reporter for the likes of

Vanity Fair and Vogue, later that year. In 1928 Hemingway and Pauline left

Paris for Key West, Florida in search of new ssurroundings to go with their

new life together. They would live there for nearly twelve years, and

Hemingway found it a wonderful place to work and to play, discovering the

sport of big game fishing, which would become a life-long passion and a

source for much of his later writing. That same year Hemingway received

word of his father’s death by suicide. Clarence Hemingway had begun to

suffer from a number of physical ailments that would exacerbate an already

fragile mental state. He had developed diabetes, endured painful angina and

extreme headaches. On top of these physical problems he also suffered from

a dismal financial situation after speculative real estate purchases in

Florida never panned out. His problems seemingly insurmountable, Clarence

Hemingway shot himself in the head. Ernest immediately traveled to Oak Park

to arrange for his funeral.

Key West


The new Hemingways heard of Key West from Ernest’s friend John Dos Passos,

and the two ...

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