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Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was like an early 20th century Indiana Jones, an intellectual with a thirst for adventure. And he found his adventures: he served as an ambulance driver in World War I, reported on a ship off the beach of Normandy on D-Day, and survived two plane crashes. But just like Indiana Jones, he had his vices: affairs with women and heavy drinking. Keep reading to learn about the fascinating life of Ernest Hemingway, a writer whose works live on as classics today.

Ernest Hemingway Biography

Ernest Hemingway Biography Portrait StudySmarter

Ernest Hemingway. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Ernest Hemingway was born in a suburb of Chicago in 1899 to parents Clarence Edmonds Hemingway and Grace Hall Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway Biography: Early Life

Ernest Hemingway's most remarkable childhood memories included family trips to a cottage in Michigan, where he developed an affinity for hunting and fishing. In high school, he became interested in writing and started working as a reporter for The Star in Kansas City immediately after graduating in 1917. In this first position as a reporter, Ernest Hemingway developed his lucid and concise writing style.

Ernest Hemingway Biography: World War I

Ernest Hemingway initially wanted to fight in World War I as a soldier, but the military would not accept him because of a defective eye. Still wishing to see war and adventure, he volunteered as an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross, where he saw his fair share of horrors. In July of 1918, he was severely injured on the Austro-Italian front.

He went to a hospital in Milan, where he received honors and fell in love with nurse Agnes von Kurowski. Although Ernest Hemingway proposed, she refused to marry him, leaving him heartbroken but inspired for his novel A Farewell to Arms.

Ernest Hemingway Biography: Time Back in Chicago

After his injury and devastating split from Agnes, Ernest Hemingway returned to Chicago to rest and heal. He returned to reporting, and as a correspondent of the Toronto Star, he was able to satiate his taste for adventure once again by covering the Greek Revolution.

During his time in Chicago, he met his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Perhaps more importantly, he also met Sherwood Anderson. The latter saw promise in Ernest Hemingway's short stories and encouraged him to travel to Paris, where other up-and-coming writers of the Lost Generation were congregating. The newlywed couple left for Paris in 1923.

The Lost Generation:

Refers to the generation of Americans that came of age during World War I and became disenchanted with the world around them, many expressing their view of the world through literature.

Ernest Hemingway Biography: The 1920s Paris

Ernest Hemingway had always been interested in switching from journalism to short stories and novels, but Paris is what gave him the push he needed. He was invited to Gertrude Stein's gatherings, where he received mentorship and rubbed shoulders with other prominent writers of the time, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce. They encouraged him to continue with his simple, minimalistic writing style.

In 1923, he had several poems published in American magazines. He also published his first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems. After a quick stint in Toronto for the birth of their son, Ernest Hemingway and his wife returned to Paris.

Ernest Hemingway Biography The Sun Also Rises Cover StudySmarterFirst Edition cover of The Sun Also Rises, Source: Wikimedia Commons.

He published his first short stories collection, In our Time, in 1924 and followed with his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, in 1926. He became involved in an affair with journalist Pauline Pfeiffer of Paris Vogue during this time. In 1927, he divorced Hadley in favor of Pauline.

Ernest Hemingway Biography: Time Back in the United States

After his marriage to Pauline, the young couple moved from Paris to Key West, Florida, in 1928, where they had two sons, Patrick and then Gregory, in 1931. Ernest Hemingway's father took his own life in 1928. They had not had a close relationship, but it sparked him to reconnect with his mother, whom he began financially supporting. In 1929, Ernest Hemingway published one of his most famous novels, A Farewell to Arms.

Ernest Hemingway Biography: The Spanish Civil War

Still working as a correspondent for the Toronto Star, Ernest Hemingway went to Spain in the early 1930s. While there, he became fascinated with bullfighting and published a non-fiction book on Death in the Afternoon in 1932. He also received inspiration for his later classic, For Whom The Bell Tolls, from his experiences reporting on the Spanish Civil War. During his time in Spain, he began his affair with Matha Gellhorn, a fellow journalist.

Did you know?

Ernest Hemingway was not exactly the most objective reporter during the Spanish Civil War. He supported the anti-fascist forces by donating money for ambulances, a nod to his time in World War I.

Ernest Hemingway Biography: Time in Cuba

Ernest Hemingway Biography Photograph With Martha Gellhorn StudySmarterPhotograph of Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway, Source: Wikimedia Commons.

In 1940, Ernest Hemingway divorced his second wife and married Martha Gellhorn. Together, they moved to Cuba, where they rented a farmhouse so they could focus on writing. In Cuba, Ernest Hemingway worked on For Whom the Bell Tolls, published in 1940. When World War II hit the U.S. with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, both Ernest Hemingway and his wife traveled to Europe to report on the war.

Ernest Hemingway Biography: World War II

While covering World War II, Ernest Hemingway experienced some of the most significant moments in the war. Not only did he cross the English Channel with American troops on D-Day, but he also witnessed the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of Paris. While in London during the war, Ernest Hemingway began yet another affair with another journalist.

Ernest Hemingway Biography: Later Life

Ernest Hemingway Biography Later Life Portrait StudySmarterErnest Hemingway in his older years. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

After World War II, Ernest Hemingway married the journalist he had met in London, Mary Welsh, and returned to Cuba. In 1953, Ernest Hemingway published The Old Man and the Sea, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. In 1960, he made his final move to Ketchum, Idaho.

Ernest Hemingway Biography: Death

In his final days, Ernest Hemingway was plagued by high blood pressure, mood swings, depression, and anxiety. Generally, his mind had deteriorated, and he was unable to write. He received two electroshock treatments at the Mayo Clinic to no avail. On July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway took his life with a shotgun.

Ernest Hemingway Books and Short Stories

In 1954, Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature for his skilled narrative and meaningful influence on the contemporary style. Let's take a look at some common elements in his work.

Ernest Hemingway Books and Short Stories: Autobiographical Qualities

What is unique about many of Ernest Hemingway's books is that they are semi-autobiographical. His novels, A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises, are the two best examples of this. In both, Ernest Hemingway incorporates his life experiences and uses characters based on real people.

In A Farewell to Arms, we get a glance of an ambulance driver in World War I who falls in love with a nurse. Sound familiar? The Sun Also Rises gives us a glimpse into the hedonistic lifestyles of expatriates living in Paris after the war, something Ernest Hemingway was closely acquainted with, having lived it himself.

Ernest Hemingway Books and Short Stories: Themes

Major themes of Ernest Hemingway's works included:

  • heroic fatalism

  • disillusionment

  • masculinity

We're going to take a look at disillusionment specifically as it was an essential theme among almost all Lost Generation writers. After experiencing the horrors of war, Ernest Hemingway became disillusioned with a society that allowed such atrocities to happen. Much of his work included criticism of the war.

It looked as though the war were going on for a long time… Next year would be a bad year, or a good year maybe… The Italians were using up an awful lot of men. I did not see how it could go on… Perhaps wars weren't won any more. Maybe they went on forever."

–Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, 1929

Ernest Hemingway Books and Short Stories: Motifs

Two major motifs of Ernest Hemingway's works were heavy drinking and romantic affairs. This aligned with the over-indulgence of the Lost Generation but also with Ernest Hemingway's own experiences. He was a heavy drinker, and, of course, we remember all the affairs he had because he boasted about them promiscuously.

Ernest Hemingway Poems

Although poetry was not Ernest Hemingway's specialty, he was just as adept a novelist as a poet. His poems featured many of the same themes and motifs that we discussed above. Below is a poem that once again displays the theme of disillusionment:

The age demanded that we sing

And cut away our tongue.

The age demanded that we flow

And hammered in the bung.

The age demanded that we dance

And jammed us into iron pants.

And in the end the age was handed

The sort of shit that it demanded.

–Ernest Hemingway, "The Age Demanded," 1925

Ernest Hemingway Significance

Ernest Hemingway was a significant member of the Lost Generation, with literary works that perfectly exemplified the generation's disillusionment and hedonism. After the 1920s, he continued to be a successful writer for several more decades and earned the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. Today, his novels are a staple in classrooms around America.

Ernest Hemingway - Key takeaways

  • Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in a suburb of Chicago. He developed an affinity for writing in high school and began working as a reporter immediately after graduation.
  • After serving as an ambulance driver in World War I, he joined other notable Lost Generation authors in 1920s Paris. They encouraged him to write short stories and novels.
  • He also remained a news correspondent, covering the Spanish Civil War and World War II.
  • His literary works are semi-autobiographical and feature themes of heroic fatalism, disillusionment, and decadence. Motifs include heavy drinking and romantic affairs.
  • He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway is most famous for his role in the Lost Generation and the literary classics he produced.

Ernest Hemingway's last words were "Goodnight my kitten," spoken to his wife.

Ernest Hemingway had three sons, but no daughters. 

Final Ernest Hemingway Quiz


What year was Ernest Hemingway born?

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What did Ernest Hemingway do during World War I?

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He was an ambulance driver for the American Red Cross in Italy.

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What book was inspired by Ernest Hemingway's experiences in World War I?

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A Farewell to Arms

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Who encouraged Ernest Hemingway to move to Paris with other Lost Generation writers?

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Sherwood Anderson

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How many wives did Ernest Hemingway have?

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What book was inspired by Ernest Hemingway's experiences in Paris?

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The Sun Also Rises

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What book was inspired by Ernest Hemingway's experiences in the Spanish Civil War?

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

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Which key moments of World War II did Ernest Hemingway experience?

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Where did Ernest Hemingway live throughout the course of his life?

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When did Ernest Hemingway die?

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Which was not a theme in Ernest Hemingway's literary works

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