Biography for Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway, author of such classics as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls, is regarded as the quintessential American novelist and one of the great prose stylists writing in English in the first half of the 20th century. Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899. His father, a physician, instilled in his son a love of hunting, fishing, and sports. His mother, who had once aspired to being an opera singer, taught him an appreciation for art and music. In 1917, the young Hemingway skipped college and found a job at the Kansas City Star. He tried unsuccessfully to enlist in the army but instead joined the Red Cross ambulance corps in 1918. Severely wounded in Italy after only a few weeks' service, he was decorated by the Italians as a war hero. After marrying Hadley Richardson in 1921, Hemingway traveled to Europe as a correspondent for the Toronto Star. He joined a community of expatriate writers living in Paris and was guided in his early literary efforts by Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. Hemingway's seven years in Paris shaped his style and gave him characters and subjects. He worked as a journalist to pay the rent while he concentrated on learning to write; nevertheless, as he experimented with both poetry and fiction, laboring to strip the language bare of unnecessary adornment, he may have been helped by his newspaper experience, which had taught him an economy of style. Though at first he considered himself a disciple of Sherwood Anderson, Hemingway soon found a voice that struck the other writers of his acquaintance as rare and original. As F. Scott Fitzgerald was moved to advise his editor at Scribner's, Maxwell Perkins, "I'd look him up right away. He's the real thing." A collection of Hemingway's stories, In Our Time (1925), attracted attention for its narrative technique, featuring his spare prose and objective description. It also introduced Nick Adams, a character who became a type for many later Hemingway protagonists. The book chronicles Nick's exposure to a series of violent experiences that culminate with his sustaining a severe wound during World War I. Hemingway's first major work, The Sun Also Rises (1926), established him as a writer of international reputation. Jake Barnes, an American journalist living in Paris, wounded in the war, and now sexually impotent, loves the beautiful and promiscuous Lady Brett Ashley. Because Jake is unable to consummate their relationship, Brett turns to other lovers before returning hopelessly to him. The novel's depiction of what Gertrude Stein called the Lost Generation—disillusioned with traditional values and caught in aimless hedonism—caused a sensation. In 1926, Hemingway left Hadley and their three-year-old son, Bumby, for Pauline Pfeiffer, whom he had come to know in Paris. They married and settled in Key West, Florida in 1928 and began a succession of travels that would eventually take them to Cuba, Africa, Spain, and Italy. In 1928, Hemingway's father committed suicide. Earlier that year, Pauline had delivered a son, Patrick, by cesarean section, a traumatic event Hemingway worked into his next novel, A Farewell to Arms (1929). Gregory, Hemingway's third son and last child, was born in 1931. In A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry, an American lieutenant in the Italian ambulance service during World War I, falls in love with an English nurse, Catherine Barkley. With the Italians in retreat and Catherine pregnant, Frederic eventually deserts his unit. Catherine and the baby die in childbirth, but Frederic nevertheless has found strength in their love. "The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places," he says. During the 1930s, Hemingway lived in Key West, Florida, hunted in Wyoming and Africa, and fished in the Gulf Stream off Cuba. He wrote Death in the Afternoon (1932), an extended essay in which he explored bullfighting in Spain as a ritual, and Green Hills of Africa (1935), an account of a big-game expedition. During the years 1933 to 1936, Hemingway published a number of his best-known short stories, including "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." To Have and Have Not (1937), perhaps Hemingway's most experimental novel, tells the story of Harry Morgan, an ex-police officer who runs a charter boat in Florida and Cuba and who gets mixed up in smuggling during the Great Depression. Harry fits the mold of the Hemingway hero: a rugged individualist, he prides himself on his prowess as a fighter and a lover. The novel uses multiple narrative perspectives, a device that lets the reader see how little any single character's view actually represents the full story. In 1937, Hemingway returned to Spain as a correspondent covering the civil war. Ardently pro-Loyalist, he helped raise money for ambulances and medical supplies. Out of this experience came For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), describing three days in the life of Robert Jordan, an American fighting for the Loyalist forces in Spain. Jordan is assigned to blow up a bridge behind enemy lines to slow the movement of Fascist forces after a Loyalist attack. The guerrillas learn that the Loyalist attack cannot succeed, but Jordan blows the bridge as instructed. He is wounded during the retreat and is left behind to meet certain death at the hands of the Fascists. In 1950, Hemingway published Across the River and into the Trees, an unsuccessful novel about an aging American colonel who spends his last weekend in Venice with a beautiful, young Italian countess. The Old Man and the Sea (1952) was much more successful. In 1952, Life magazine published the entire text in a single issue, an unprecedented experiment. Hemingway was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and a year later, the Nobel Prize for literature. In the story, an old Cuban fisherman fights a giant marlin for three days, finally subduing it, only to have the carcass attacked by sharks. The old man brings home only the skeleton of the great fish, but he has shown his stature through the quality of his elemental struggle. Hemingway continued to write, but he produced no more works of such importance. In 1953, in the midst of an African safari, he suffered serious head and abdominal injuries in a plane crash. A long, painful period of recuperation followed, and for the first time, Hemingway found his prodigious physical strength sapped, his energy gone, and with it his concentration. He grew displeased with the draft of a book about the safari. With the rise of Fidel Castro in Cuba, the Hemingways moved permanently to Ketchum, Idaho. There, he worked on a collection of sketches based on his life in Paris during the early days of his career, published after his death as A Moveable Feast (1964). Suffering the effects of a lifetime of injuries, plus mild diabetes and depression, Hemingway saw his physical powers wane further. He was troubled by a loss of memory that hindered his efforts to write about his Paris years. After enduring months of hospitalization at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, he grew suicidal. On July 2, 1961, he shot himself in Ketchum.