Ernest Hemingway

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1899-1961
English 42 – Dr. Karen Rose
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1899.
Oak Park is a suburb of Chicago, nine miles from the city. To
Hemingway, Oak Park felt like the “squarest community in the
United States.” He once said it was “full of wide lawns and narrow
minds” and that it was the place where the bars ended and the
churches began.
Hemingway was born in this
“grand” house, and he lived
here until he was eighteen
years old.
Hemingway’s father, Clarence, was a medical doctor – an obstetrician -who suffered from depression. His mother, Grace, had been an opera singer
prior to getting married. She was deeply religious, and her personality was
“overbearing.”
Hemingway was the second of six children.
Grace Hemingway had always wanted to be the mother of twins. Since
Ernest and his older sister, Marcelline, were only 15 months apart, Grace
decided to raise them as twins. For years, she dressed them alike, and
“encouraged them to feel like twins, by having everything alike.”
In his biography of Hemingway, Kenneth Lynn argues that his
mother’s “twinship experiment” deeply troubled young Hemingway.
According to Lynn, shortly before Christmas 1902, Hemingway
“confessed to his parents that he was quite fearful as to whether
Santa Claus would know he was a boy because he wore the same
kind of clothes as his sister.”
This is interesting because Hemingway is often criticized for the
way he portrays men and women. His male characters are
frequently described as “macho” and anxious to assert their
masculinity, while his female characters are described as too
“passive.”
Perhaps his mother’s “twinship experiment” instilled in Hemingway
a desire to distinguish between the sexes?
Chronology of Important Events in Hemingway’s Life
1917 – high school graduation. Hemingway moved to Missouri and
started working as a journalist for the Kansas City Star.
1917 – eye problems barred Hemingway from the military. He joined
the American Red Cross Ambulance Corps; served as an
ambulance driver in France and Italy during WWI.
1918 – While passing out chocolates to Italians who
were serving on the front lines, Hemingway
was injured in both legs by machine gun fire.
1918 – While in the hospital, Hemingway fell
in love with his nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky.
She was an American, eight years older than
him. They discussed marriage, and when he
returned to the U.S. to heal, they exchanged
long letters. Soon after, she confessed that
she was in love with somebody else.
1918 – Readjustment to life in Oak Park was
difficult. Hemingway felt alienated from his
family and unsure of what he wanted to do
with his life.
1921 – Hemingway married
Hadley Richardson. Her family
was very wealthy, and they
lived in Paris for several years.
They had one son, Jack (1923).
1924 – In Our Time. A collection of closely related short stories. Comingof-age stories -- many featuring the protagonist, Nick Adams -- alternate
with stories of war.
1926 – The Sun Also Rises. WWI Veteran, Jake Barnes, has suffered
wounds that leave him sexually impotent. Hemingway suggests that the
“Lost Generation” has been irrevocably damaged by the war.
1927 – Marriage to second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer. They have two
sons: Patrick (1928) and Gregory (1931).
1928 – Clarence Hemingway commits suicide by shooting himself in
the head. Hemingway views his father’s suicide as a “cowardly act.”
He puts some blame on his mother, whom he refers to as an “allAmerican bitch.”
1929 – A Farewell to Arms
1940 – For Whom the Bell Tolls
1940 – Marriage to third wife, Martha Gellhourn
1946 – Marriage to fourth wife, Mary Welsh
1951 – The Old Man and the Sea
1952 – Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea
1955 – Nobel Prize for Literature
1961 – Suffering from depression, Hemingway committed suicide on
Sunday, July 2 at his home in Ketchum, Idaho. He shot himself in
the head with a twelve-gauge, double-barreled shotgun. He was
buried between two pine trees facing the Sawtooth Mountains in
Idaho.
Hemingway is well known for his:
1. Style of writing
2. Masculine forms of self assertion in the public eye
Hemingway was a big game hunter, amateur boxer,
deep sea fisherman, and war journalist . . . .
He was a war journalist who went into battle to cover the action. He covered
the Spanish Civil War, the Greco-Turkish War, and the “Battle of the Bulge”
during WWII (for which he received a Bronze Star).
He was fascinated with bullfighting, and he ran with the bulls in Pamplona,
Spain. Many of Hemingway’s activities may be viewed as a way of dealing with
death in a ritualized way – a kind of existential sensibility.
Hemingway loved to eat and drink; many noted that he could drink almost
anybody under the table. He was also known to be a “womanizer” who had
extramarital affairs.
Above all else, throughout his life, Hemingway was an extremely disciplined
writer who wrote compulsively, often while standing up. In his last years, he
was unable to complete to his satisfaction another book-length work. A
memoir of Paris in the 1920s, A Moveable Feast, and two novels, Islands in
the Stream and The Garden of Eden, were published posthumously.
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