Ernest Hemingway at Sun Valley, Idaho, 1939
July 2, 1961 (aged 61)Ketchum, Idaho, U.S.
World War I …………………………………………………………………….………..5
Toronto and Chicago…………………………………………………………………….6
Spanish Civil War…………………………………………………………….….………8
World War II…………………………………………………………………….………..9
Cuba and the Noble Prize…………………………………………………….….……10
Idaho and suicide……………………………………………………………….………13
Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American author and journalist. His economical and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works. Additional works, including three novels, four short story collections, and three non-fiction works, were published posthumously. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature.
Hemingway was raised in Oak Park, Illinois. After high school he reported for a few months for The Kansas City Star, before leaving for the Italian front to enlist with the World War I ambulance drivers. In 1918, he was seriously wounded and returned home. His wartime experiences formed the basis for his novel A Farewell to Arms (1929).
In 1921, he married Hadley Richardson, the first of his four wives. The couple moved to Paris, where he worked as a foreign correspondent and fell under the influence of the modernist writers and artists of the 1920s «Lost Generation» expatriate community. He published his first novel, The Sun Also Rises in 1926. After his 1927 divorce from Hadley Richardson, Hemingway married Pauline Pfeiffer; they divorced after he returned from the Spanish Civil War where he had been a journalist, and after which he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). Martha Gellhorn became his third wife in 1940; they separated when he met Mary Welsh in London during World War II. He was present at the Normandy Landings and the liberation of Paris.
Shortly after the publication of The Old Man and the Sea (1952), Hemingway went on safari to Africa, where he was almost killed in two successive plane crashes that left him in pain or ill health for much of his remaining lifetime. Hemingway maintained permanent residences in Key West, Florida (1930s) and Cuba (1940s and 1950s), and in 1959, he bought a house in Ketchum, Idaho, where he committed suicide in the summer of 1961.
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. His father, Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, was a physician, and his mother, Grace Hall-Hemingway, was a musician. Both were well-educated and well-respected in the conservative community of Oak Park, a community about which resident Frank Lloyd Wright said, «So many churches for so many good people to go to». For a short period after their marriage, Clarence and Grace Hemingway lived with Grace’s father, Ernest Hall, who eventually became their first son’s namesake. Later Ernest Hemingway would say that he disliked his name, which he «associated with the naive, even foolish hero of Oscar Wilde‘s play The Importance of Being Earnest«. The family eventually moved into a seven-bedroom home in a respectable neighborhood with a music studio for Grace and a medical office for Clarence.
Hemingway’s mother frequently performed in concerts around the village. As an adult, Hemingway professed to hate his mother, although biographer Michael S. Reynolds points out that Hemingway mirrored her energy and enthusiasm. Her insistence that he learn to play the cello became a «source of conflict», but he later admitted the music lessons were useful to his writing, as is evident in the «contrapuntal structure» of For Whom the Bell Tolls. The family owned a summer home called Windemere on Walloon Lake, near Petoskey, Michigan, where as a four-year-old he learned from his father to hunt, fish, and camp in the woods and lakes of Northern Michigan. His early experiences in nature instilled a passion for outdoor adventure and living in remote or isolated areas.
From 1913 until 1917, Hemingway attended Oak Park and River Forest High School where he took part in a number of sports, namely boxing, track and field, water polo, and football. He excelled in English classes and performed in the school orchestra with his sister Marcelline for two years. In his junior year, he took a journalism class, taught by Fannie Biggs, which was structured «as though the classroom were a newspaper office». The better writers in class submitted pieces to The Trapeze, the school newspaper. Hemingway and Marcelline both had pieces submitted to The Trapeze; Hemingway’s first piece, published in January 1916, was about a local performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He continued to contribute to and to edit the Trapeze and the Tabula (the school’s newspaper and yearbook), for which he imitated the language of sportswriters, and used the pen name Ring Lardner, Jr.—a nod to Ring Lardner of the Chicago Tribune whose byline was «Line O’Type». Like Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis, Hemingway was a journalist before becoming a novelist; after leaving high school he went to work for The Kansas City Star as a cub reporter. Although he stayed there for only six months he relied on the Star’s style guide as a foundation for his writing: «Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Be positive, not negative.»
World War I
Early in 1918, Hemingway responded to a Red Cross recruitment effort in Kansas City and signed on to become an ambulance driver in Italy. He left New York in May and arrived in Paris as the city was under bombardment from German artillery. By June he was at the Italian Front. It was probably around this time that he first met John Dos Passos, with whom he had a rocky relationship for decades.On his first day in Milan, he was sent to the scene of a munitions factory explosion, where rescuers retrieved the shredded remains of female workers. He described the incident in his non-fiction book Death in the Afternoon: «I remember that after we searched quite thoroughly for the complete dead we collected fragments». A few days later, he was stationed at Fossalta di Piave.
On July 8, he was seriously wounded by mortar fire, having just returned from the canteen bringing chocolate and cigarettes for the men at the front line.Despite his wounds, Hemingway carried an Italian soldier to safety, for which he received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery. Still only 18, Hemingway said of the incident: «When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you … Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you.» He sustained severe shrapnel wounds to both legs, underwent an immediate operation at a distribution center, and spent five days at a field hospital before he was transferred for recuperation to the Red Cross hospital in Milan.He spent six months at the hospital, where he met and formed a strong friendship with «Chink» Dorman-Smith that lasted for decades and shared a room with future American foreign service officer, ambassador, and author Henry Serrano Villard. While recuperating, he fell in love for the first time, with Agnes von Kurowsky, a Red Cross nurse seven years his senior. By the time of his release and return to the United States in January 1919, Agnes and Hemingway had decided to marry within a few months in America. However, in March, she wrote that she had become engaged to an Italian officer. Biographer Jeffrey Meyers claims that Hemingway was devastated by Agnes’ rejection, and he followed a pattern of abandoning a wife before she abandoned him in future relationships.
Toronto and Chicago
Hemingway returned home early in 1919 to a time of readjustment. Not yet 20 years old, he had gained from the war a maturity that was at odds with living at home without a job and with the need for recuperation. As Reynolds explains, «Hemingway could not really tell his parents what he thought when he saw his bloody knee. He could not say how scared he was in another country with surgeons who could not tell him in English if his leg was coming off or not.» In September, he took a fishing and camping trip with high school friends to the back-country of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The trip became the inspiration for his short story «Big Two-Hearted River«, in which the semi-autobiographical character Nick Adams takes to the country to find solitude after returning from war. A family friend offered him a job in Toronto, and with nothing else to do he accepted. Late that year he began as a freelancer, staff writer, and foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star Weekly. He returned to Michigan the following June and then moved to Chicago in September 1920 to live with friends, while still filing stories for the Toronto Star.
In Chicago, he worked as an associate editor of the monthly journal Cooperative Commonwealth, where he met novelist Sherwood Anderson. When St. Louis native Hadley Richardson came to Chicago to visit the sister of Hemingway’s roommate, he became infatuated and later claimed, «I knew she was the girl I was going to marry». Hadley was red-haired, with a «nurturing instinct», and eight years older than Hemingway. Despite being older than Hemingway, Hadley, who had grown up with an overprotective mother, seemed less mature than usual for a young woman her age. Bernice Kert, author of The Hemingway Women, claims Hadley was «evocative» of Agnes, but that Hadley had a childishness that Agnes lacked. The two corresponded for a few months and then decided to marry and travel to Europe. They wanted to visit Rome, but Sherwood Anderson convinced them to visit Paris instead, writing letters of introduction for the young couple. They were married on September 3, 1921; two months later, Hemingway was hired as foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, and the couple left for Paris. Of Hemingway’s marriage to Hadley, Meyers claims: «With Hadley, Hemingway achieved everything he had hoped for with Agnes: the love of a beautiful woman, a comfortable income, a life in Europe.»
Carlos Baker, Hemingway’s first biographer, believes that while Anderson suggested Paris because «the monetary exchange rate» made it an inexpensive place to live, more importantly it was where «the most interesting people in the world» lived. In Paris, Hemingway met writers such as Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound who «could help a young writer up the rungs of a career». The Hemingway of the early Paris years was a «tall, handsome, muscular, broad-shouldered, brown-eyed, rosy-cheeked, square-jawed, soft-voiced young man.» He and Hadley lived in a small walk-up at 74 rue du Cardinal Lemoine in the Latin Quarter, and he worked in a rented room in a nearby building. Stein, who was the bastion of modernism in Paris, became Hemingway’s mentor; she introduced him to the expatriate artists and writers of the Montparnasse Quarter, whom she referred to as the «Lost Generation«—a term Hemingway popularized with the publication of The Sun Also Rises. A regular at Stein’s salon, Hemingway met influential painters such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Juan Gris. He eventually withdrew from Stein’s influence and their relationship deteriorated into a literary quarrel that spanned decades.] The American poet Ezra Pound met Hemingway by chance at Sylvia Beach’s bookshop Shakespeare and Company in 1922. The two toured Italy in 1923 and lived on the same street in 1924. They forged a strong friendship, and in Hemingway, Pound recognized and fostered a young talent.Pound introduced Hemingway to the Irish writer James Joyce, with whom Hemingway frequently embarked on «alcoholic sprees».
During his first 20 months in Paris, Hemingway filed 88 stories for the Toronto Star newspaper.He covered the Greco-Turkish War, where he witnessed the burning of Smyrna and wrote travel pieces such as «Tuna Fishing in Spain» and «Trout Fishing All Across Europe: Spain Has the Best, Then Germany».Hemingway was devastated on learning that Hadley had lost a suitcase filled with his manuscripts at the Gare de Lyon as she was traveling to Geneva to meet him in December 1922. The following September, the couple returned to Toronto, where their son John Hadley Nicanor was born on October 10, 1923. During their absence Hemingway’s first book, Three Stories and Ten Poems, was published. Two of the stories it contained were all that remained after the loss of the suitcase, and the third had been written the previous spring in Italy. Within months a second volume, in our time (without capitals), was published. The small volume included six vignettes and a dozen stories Hemingway had written the previous summer during his first visit to Spain, where he discovered the thrill of the corrida. He missed Paris, considered Toronto boring, and wanted to return to the life of a writer, rather than live the life of a journalist.
Spanish Civil War
In 1937, Hemingway agreed to report on the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA), arriving in Spain in March with Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens. Ivens, who was filming The Spanish Earth, wanted Hemingway to replace John Dos Passos as screenwriter, since Dos Passos had left the project when his friend José Robles was arrested and later executed.The incident changed Dos Passos’ opinion of the leftist republicans, creating a rift between him and Hemingway, who later spread a rumor that Dos Passos left Spain out of cowardice. Journalist and writer Martha Gellhorn, whom Hemingway had met in Key West the previous Christmas (1936), joined him in Spain. Like Hadley, Martha was a St. Louis native, and like Pauline, she had worked for Vogue in Paris. Of Martha, Kert explains, «she never catered to him the way other women did». Late in 1937, while in Madrid with Martha, Hemingway wrote his only play, The Fifth Column, as the city was being bombarded. He returned to Key West for a few months, then back to Spain twice in 1938, where he was present at the Battle of the Ebro, the last republican stand, and he was among the British and American journalists who were some of the last to leave the battle as they crossed the river. In the spring of 1939, Hemingway crossed to Cuba in his boat to live in the Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana. This was the separation phase of a slow and painful split from Pauline, which had begun when Hemingway met Martha.Martha soon joined him in Cuba, and they almost immediately rented «Finca Vigia» («Lookout Farm»), a 15-acre (61,000 m2) property 15 miles (24 km) from Havana. Pauline and the children left Hemingway that summer, after the family was reunited during a visit to Wyoming. After Hemingway’s divorce from Pauline was finalized, he and Martha were married November 20, 1940, in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As he had after his divorce from Hadley, he changed locations, moving his primary summer residence to Ketchum, Idaho, just outside the newly built resort of Sun Valley, and his winter residence to Cuba. Hemingway, who had been disgusted when a Parisian friend allowed his cats to eat from the table, became enamored of cats in Cuba, keeping dozens of them on the property.
Gellhorn inspired him to write his most famous novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, which he started in March 1939 and finished in July 1940. It was published in October 1940. Consistent with his pattern of moving around while working on a manuscript, he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls in Cuba, Wyoming, and Sun Valley. For Whom the Bell Tolls became a Book-of-the-Month Club choice, sold half a million copies within months, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and as Meyers describes it, «triumphantly re-established Hemingway’s literary reputation».
In January 1941 Martha was sent to China on assignment for Collier’s magazine. Hemingway went with her, sending in dispatches for the newspaper PM, but in general he disliked China. A 2009 book suggests during that period he may have been recruited to work for Soviet intelligence agents under the name «Agent Argo». They returned to Cuba before the declaration of war by the United States that December, when he convinced the Cuban government to help him refit the Pilar, which he intended to use to ambush German submarines off the coast of Cuba.
World War II
From May 1944 to March 1945, Hemingway was in London and Europe. When Hemingway first arrived in London he met TIME magazine correspondent, Mary Welsh, with whom he became infatuated. Martha, who had been forced to cross the Atlantic in a ship filled with explosives because he refused to help her get a press pass on a plane, arrived in London to find Hemingway hospitalized with a concussion from a car accident. Unsympathetic to his plight, she accused him of being a bully and told him she was «through, absolutely finished». The last time he saw Martha was in March 1945, as he was preparing to return to Cuba. Meanwhile, he had asked Mary Welsh to marry him on their third meeting.
Hemingway, wearing a large head bandage, was present at the D-Day landing, although he was kept on a landing craft because military officials considered him «precious cargo»; biographer Kenneth Lynn claims Hemingway fabricated accounts that he went ashore during the landings. Late in July, he attached himself to «the 22nd Infantry Regiment commanded by Col. Charles ‘Buck’ Lanham, as it drove toward Paris», and Hemingway became de facto leader to a small band of village militia in Rambouillet outside of Paris.Of Hemingway’s exploits, World War II historian Paul Fussell remarks: «Hemingway got into considerable trouble playing infantry captain to a group of Resistance people that he gathered because a correspondent is not supposed to lead troops, even if he does it well».This was in fact in contravention of the Geneva Convention, and Hemingway was brought up on formal charges; he said he «beat the rap» by claiming that he only offered advice.
On August 25, he was present at the liberation of Paris, although contrary to the Hemingway legend, he was not the first into the city, nor did he liberate the Ritz. In Paris he did, however, attend a reunion hosted by Sylvia Beach, where he «made peace with» Gertrude Stein.Later that year, he was present at heavy fighting in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. On December 17, 1944, a feverish and ill Hemingway had himself driven to Luxembourg to cover what would later be called The Battle of the Bulge. As soon as he arrived, however, Lanham handed him to the doctors, who hospitalized him with pneumonia; by the time he recovered a week later, most of the fighting in this battle was over.
In 1947 Hemingway was awarded a Bronze Star for his bravery during World War II. He was recognized for his valor, having been «under fire in combat areas in order to obtain an accurate picture of conditions», with the commendation that «through his talent of expression, Mr. Hemingway enabled readers to obtain a vivid picture of the difficulties and triumphs of the front-line soldier and his organization in combat».
Cuba and the Noble Prize
Hemingway said he «was out of business as a writer» from 1942 to 1945. In 1946 he married Mary, who had an ectopic pregnancy five months later. The Hemingway family suffered a series of accidents and health problems in the years following the war: in a 1945 car accident he «smashed his knee» and sustained another «deep wound on his forehead»; Mary broke first her right ankle and then her left in successive skiing accidents. A 1947 car accident left Patrick with a head wound and severely ill. Hemingway sank into depression as his literary friends began to die: in 1939 Yeats and Ford Madox Ford; in 1940 Scott Fitzgerald; in 1941 Sherwood Anderson and James Joyce; in 1946 Gertrude Stein; and the following year in 1947, Max Perkins, Hemingway’s long-time Scribner’s editor and friend. During this period, he suffered from severe headaches, high blood pressure, weight problems, and eventually diabetes—much of which was the result of previous accidents and many years of heavy drinking. Nonetheless, in January 1946 he began work on The Garden of Eden, finishing 800 pages by June. During the post–war years he also began work on a trilogy tentatively titled «The Land», «The Sea» and «The Air», which he wanted to combine in one novel titled The Sea Book. However, both projects stalled, and Mellow says that Hemingway’s inability to continue was «a symptom of his troubles» during these years.
In 1948, Hemingway and Mary traveled to Europe, staying in Venice for several months. While there, Hemingway fell in love with the then 19-year-old Adriana Ivancich. The platonic love affair inspired the novel Across the River and Into the Trees, written in Cuba during a time of strife with Mary, and published in 1950 to negative reviews.The following year, furious at the critical reception of Across the River and Into the Trees, he wrote the draft of The Old Man and the Sea in eight weeks, saying that it was «the best I can write ever for all of my life». The Old Man and the Sea became a book-of-the-month selection, made Hemingway an international celebrity, and won the Pulitzer Prize in May 1952, a month before he left for his second trip to Africa.
In 1954, while in Africa, Hemingway was almost fatally injured in two successive plane crashes. He chartered a sightseeing flight over the Belgian Congo as a Christmas present to Mary. On their way to photograph Murchison Falls from the air, the plane struck an abandoned utility pole and «crash landed in heavy brush». Hemingway’s injuries included a head wound, while Mary broke two ribs. The next day, attempting to reach medical care in Entebbe, they boarded a second plane that exploded at take-off, with Hemingway suffering burns and another concussion, this one serious enough to cause leaking of cerebral fluid. They eventually arrived in Entebbe to find reporters covering the story of Hemingway’s death. He briefed the reporters and spent the next few weeks recuperating and reading his erroneous obituaries. Despite his injuries, Hemingway accompanied Patrick and his wife on a planned fishing expedition in February, but pain caused him to be irascible and difficult to get along with. When a bushfire broke out, he was again injured, sustaining second degree burns on his legs, front torso, lips, left hand and right forearm. Months later in Venice, Mary reported to friends the full extent of Hemingway’s injuries: two cracked discs, a kidney and liver rupture, a dislocated shoulder and a broken skull. The accidents may have precipitated the physical deterioration that was to follow. After the plane crashes, Hemingway, who had been «a thinly controlled alcoholic throughout much of his life, drank more heavily than usual to combat the pain of his injuries.»
In October 1954 Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature. He modestly told the press that Carl Sandburg, Isak Dinesen and Bernard Berenson deserved the prize, but the prize money would be welcome. Mellow claims Hemingway «had coveted the Nobel Prize», but when he won it, months after his plane accidents and the ensuing world-wide press coverage, «there must have been a lingering suspicion in Hemingway’s mind that his obituary notices had played a part in the academy’s decision.» Because he was suffering pain from the African accidents, he decided against traveling to Stockholm. Instead he sent a speech to be read, defining the writer’s life: «Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.»
From the end of the year in 1955 to early 1956, Hemingway was bedridden. He was told to stop drinking to mitigate liver damage, advice he initially followed but then disregarded. In October 1956 he returned to Europe and met Basque writer Pio Baroja, who was seriously ill and died weeks later. During the trip Hemingway became sick again and was treated for «high blood pressure, liver disease, and arteriosclerosis».
In November, while in Paris, he was reminded of trunks he had stored in the Ritz Hotel in 1928 and never retrieved. The trunks were filled with notebooks and writing from his Paris years. Excited about the discovery, when he returned to Cuba in 1957 he began to shape the recovered work into his memoir A Moveable Feast. By 1959 he ended a period of intense activity: he finished A Moveable Feast (scheduled to be released the following year); brought True at First Light to 200,000 words; added chapters to The Garden of Eden; and worked on Islands in the Stream. The last three were stored in a safe deposit box in Havana, as he focused on the finishing touches for A Moveable Feast. Reynolds claims it was during this period that Hemingway slid into depression, from which he was unable to recover.
The Finca Vigia became crowded with guests and tourists, as Hemingway, beginning to become unhappy with life there, considered a permanent move to Idaho. In 1959 he bought a home overlooking the Big Wood River, outside Ketchum, and left Cuba—although he apparently remained on easy terms with the Castro government, telling The New York Times he was «delighted» with Castro’s overthrow of Batista. He was in Cuba in November 1959, between returning from Pamplona and traveling west to Idaho, and the following year for his birthday; however, that year he and Mary decided to leave after hearing the news that Castro wanted to nationalize property owned by Americans and other foreign nationals. In July 1960 the Hemingways left Cuba for the last time, leaving art and manuscripts in a bank vault in Havana. After the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Finca Vigia was expropriated by the Cuban government, complete with Hemingway’s collection of «four to six thousand books».
Idaho and suicide
Hemingway continued to rework the material that would be published as A Moveable Feast through the end of the 1950s. In the summer of 1959 he visited Spain to research a series of bullfighting articles commissioned by Life magazine, returning to Cuba in January 1960 to work on the manuscript. Life only wanted 10,000 words, but the manuscript grew out of control. For the first time in his life unable to organize his writing, he asked A. E. Hotchner to travel to Cuba to help. Hotchner helped him trim the Life piece to 40,000 words, and Scribner’s agreed to a full-length book version (The Dangerous Summer) of almost 130,000 words. Hotchner found Hemingway to be «unusually hesitant, disorganized, and confused», and he was suffering badly from failing eyesight.
On July 25, 1960, Hemingway and Mary left Cuba, never to return. Hemingway then traveled alone to Spain to be photographed for the front cover of the current Life magazine piece. A few days later he was reported in the news to be seriously ill and on the verge of dying, which panicked Mary until she received a cable from him telling her, «Reports false. Enroute Madrid. Love Papa.» However, he was seriously ill and believed himself to be on the verge of a breakdown. He was lonely and took to his bed for days, retreating into silence, despite the first installments of The Dangerous Summer being published in Life in September 1960 to good reviews. In October he left Spain for New York, where he refused to leave Mary’s apartment on the pretext that he was being watched. She quickly took him out to Idaho, where George Saviers (a Sun Valley physician) met them at the train.
At this time Hemingway was worried about money and about his safety. He worried about his taxes, and that he would never return to Cuba to retrieve the manuscripts he had left there in a bank vault. He became paranoid and thought the FBI was actively monitoring his movements in Ketchum. The FBI had opened a file on him during World War II, when he used the Pilar to patrol the waters off Cuba, and J. Edgar Hoover had the agent in Havana watch Hemingway during the 1950s. By the end of November Mary was at wits’ end and Saviers suggested Hemingway go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where he may have believed he was to be treated for hypertension. The FBI knew Hemingway was at the Mayo Clinic, as an agent later documented in a letter written in January 1961. In an attempt at anonymity, he was checked in under Saviers’ name. Meyers writes that «an aura of secrecy surrounds Hemingway’s treatment at the Mayo», but confirms he was treated with electroconvulsive therapy as many as 15 times in December 1960, then in January 1961 he was «released in ruins».Reynolds accessed Hemingway’s records at the Mayo which indicate the combination of medications may have created a depressive state, for which he was treated.
Three months later in April 1961, back in Ketchum, one morning in the kitchen Mary «found Hemingway holding a shotgun». She called Saviers who sedated him and admitted him to the Sun Valley hospital; from there he was returned to the Mayo Clinic for more electro shock treatments. He was released in late June and arrived home in Ketchum on June 30. Two days later, in the early morning hours of July 2, 1961, Hemingway «quite deliberately» shot himself with his favorite shotgun. He unlocked the basement storeroom where his guns were kept, went upstairs to the front entrance foyer of their Ketchum home, and «pushed two shells into the twelve-gauge Boss shotgun …put the end of the barrel into his mouth, pulled the trigger and blew out his brains». Mary called the Sun Valley Hospital, and a doctor quickly arrived at the house. Despite his finding that Hemingway «had died of a self-inflicted wound to the head», the story told to the press was that the death had been «accidental».
During his final years, Hemingway’s behavior was similar to his father’s before he himself committed suicide; his father may have had the genetic disease hemochromatosis, in which the inability to metabolize iron culminates in mental and physical deterioration. Medical records made available in 1991 confirm that Hemingway’s hemochromatosis had been diagnosed in early 1961. His sister Ursula and his brother Leicester also committed suicide. Added to Hemingway’s physical ailments was the additional problem that he had been a heavy drinker for most of his life.
Hemingway’s family and friends flew to Ketchum for the funeral which was officiated by the local Catholic priest, who believed the death accidental. Of the funeral (during which an altar boy fainted at the head of the casket), his brother Leicester wrote: «It seemed to me Ernest would have approved of it all.»
In a press interview five years later, Mary Hemingway admitted that her husband had committed suicide.
The New York Times wrote in 1926 of Hemingway’s first novel, «No amount of analysis can convey the quality of The Sun Also Rises. It is a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame.» The Sun Also Rises is written in spare, tight prose that influenced countless crime and pulp fiction novels and made Hemingway famous. In 1954, when Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, it was for «his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style.» Paul Smith writes that Hemingway’s first stories, collected as In Our Time, showed he was still experimenting with his writing style. He avoided complicated syntax. About 70 percent of the sentences are simple sentences—a childlike syntax without subordination.
Henry Louis Gates believes Hemingway’s style was fundamentally shaped «in reaction to [his] experience of world war». After World War I, he and other modernists «lost faith in the central institutions of Western civilization» by reacting against the elaborate style of 19th century writers and by creating a style «in which meaning is established through dialogue, through action, and silences—a fiction in which nothing crucial—or at least very little—is stated explicitly.»
Developing this connection between Hemingway and other modernist writers, Irene Gammel believes his style was carefully cultivated and honed with an eye toward the avant-garde of the era. Hungry for «vanguard experimentation» and rebelling against Ford Madox Ford’s «staid modernism», Hemingway published the work of Gertrude Stein and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven in The Transatlantic Review. As Gammel notes, Hemingway was «introduced to the Baroness’s experimental style during a time when he was actively trimming the verbal ‘fat’ off his own style, as well as flexing his writer’s muscles in assaulting conventional taste.»
Because he began as a writer of short stories, Baker believes Hemingway learned to «get the most from the least, how to prune language, how to multiply intensities and how to tell nothing but the truth in a way that allowed for telling more than the truth.» Hemingway called his style the iceberg theory: the facts float above water; the supporting structure and symbolism operate out of sight. The concept of the iceberg theory is sometimes referred to as the «theory of omission». Hemingway believed the writer could describe one thing (such as Nick Adams fishing in «The Big Two-Hearted River») though an entirely different thing occurs below the surface (Nick Adams concentrating on fishing to the extent that he does not have to think about anything else).
Jackson Benson believes Hemingway used autobiographical details as framing devices about life in general—not only about his life. For example, Benson postulates that Hemingway used his experiences and drew them out with «what if» scenarios: «what if I were wounded in such a way that I could not sleep at night? What if I were wounded and made crazy, what would happen if I were sent back to the front?» Writing in «The Art of the Short Story», Hemingway explains: «A few things I have found to be true. If you leave out important things or events that you know about, the story is strengthened. If you leave or skip something because you do not know it, the story will be worthless. The test of any story is how very good the stuff that you, not your editors, omit.»
The simplicity of the prose is deceptive. Zoe Trodd believes Hemingway crafted skeletal sentences in response to Henry James‘s observation that World War I had «used up words». Hemingway offers a «multi-focal» photographic reality. His iceberg theory of omission is the foundation on which he builds. The syntax, which lacks subordinating conjunctions, creates static sentences. The photographic «snapshot» style creates a collage of images. Many types of internal punctuation (colons, semicolons, dashes, parentheses) are omitted in favor of short declarative sentences. The sentences build on each other, as events build to create a sense of the whole. Multiple strands exist in one story; an «embedded text» bridges to a different angle. He also uses other cinematic techniques of «cutting» quickly from one scene to the next; or of «splicing» a scene into another. Intentional omissions allow the reader to fill the gap, as though responding to instructions from the author, and create three-dimensional prose.
In his literature, and in his personal writing, Hemingway habitually used the word «and» in place of commas. This use of polysyndeton may serve to convey immediacy. Hemingway’s polysyndetonic sentence—or in later works his use of subordinate clauses—uses conjunctions to juxtapose startling visions and images; Jackson Benson compares them to haikus. Many of Hemingway’s followers misinterpreted his lead and frowned upon all expression of emotion; Saul Bellow satirized this style as «Do you have emotions? Strangle them.» However, Hemingway’s intent was not to eliminate emotion, but to portray it more scientifically. Hemingway thought it would be easy, and pointless, to describe emotions; he sculpted collages of images in order to grasp «the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always. This use of an image as an objective correlative is characteristic of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Proust. Hemingway’s letters refer to Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past several times over the years, and indicate he read the book at least twice.
The popularity of Hemingway’s work to a great extent is based on the themes, which according to scholar Frederic Svoboda are love, war, wilderness and loss, all of which are strongly evident in the body of work. These are recurring themes of American literature, which are clearly evident in Hemingway’s work. Critic Leslie Fiedler sees the theme he defines as «The Sacred Land»—the American West—extended in Hemingway’s work to include mountains in Spain, Switzerland and Africa, and to the streams of Michigan. The American West is given a symbolic nod with the naming of the «Hotel Montana» in The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls. According to Stoltzfus and Fiedler, Hemingway’s nature is a place for rebirth, for therapy, and the hunter or fisherman has a moment of transcendence when the prey is killed. Nature is where men are without women: men fish; men hunt; men find redemption in nature. Although Hemingway writes about sports, Carlos Baker believes the emphasis is more on the athlete than the sport, while Beegel sees the essence of Hemingway as an American naturalist, as reflected in such detailed descriptions as can be found in «Big Two-Hearted River».
Fiedler believes Hemingway inverts the American literary theme of the evil «Dark Woman» versus the good «Light Woman». The dark woman—Brett Ashley of The Sun Also Rises—is a goddess; the light woman—Margot Macomber of «The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber«—is a murderess. Robert Scholes admits that early Hemingway stories, such as «A Very Short Story«, present «a male character favorably and a female unfavorably».According to Rena Sanderson, early Hemingway critics lauded his male-centric world of masculine pursuits, and the fiction divided women into «castrators or love-slaves». Feminist critics attacked Hemingway as «public enemy number one», although more recent re-evaluations of his work «have given new visibility to Hemingway’s female characters (and their strengths) and have revealed his own sensitivity to gender issues, thus casting doubts on the old assumption that his writings were one-sidedly masculine.» Nina Baym believes that Brett Ashley and Margot Macomber «are the two outstanding examples of Hemingway’s ‘bitch women.’»
The theme of women and death is evident in stories as early as «Indian Camp«. The theme of death permeates Hemingway’s work. Young believes the emphasis in «Indian Camp» was not so much on the woman who gives birth or the father who commits suicide, but on Nick Adams who witnesses these events as a child, and becomes a «badly scarred and nervous young man». Hemingway sets the events in «Indian Camp» that shape the Adams persona. Young believes «Indian Camp» holds the «master key» to «what its author was up to for some thirty-five years of his writing career».Stoltzfus considers Hemingway’s work to be more complex with a representation of the truth inherent in existentialism: if «nothingness» is embraced, then redemption is achieved at the moment of death. Those who face death with dignity and courage live an authentic life. Francis Macomber dies happy because the last hours of his life are authentic; the bullfighter in the corrida represents the pinnacle of a life lived with authenticity. In his paper The Uses of Authenticity: Hemingway and the Literary Field, Timo Müller writes that Hemingway’s fiction is successful because the characters live an «authentic life», and the «soldiers, fishers, boxers and backwoodsmen are among the archetypes of authenticity in modern literature».
The theme of emasculation is prevalent in Hemingway’s work, most notably in The Sun Also Rises. Emasculation, according to Fiedler, is a result of a generation of wounded soldiers; and of a generation in which women such as Brett gained emancipation. This also applies to the minor character, Frances Clyne, Cohn’s girlfriend in the beginning in the book. Her character supports the theme not only because the idea was presented early on in the novel but also the impact she had on Cohn in the start of the book while only appearing a small number of times. Baker believes Hemingway’s work emphasizes the «natural» versus the «unnatural». In «Alpine Idyll» the «unnaturalness» of skiing in the high country late spring snow is juxtaposed against the «unnaturalness» of the peasant who allowed his wife’s dead body to linger too long in the shed during the winter. The skiers and peasant retreat to the valley to the «natural» spring for redemption.
Some critics have characterized Hemingway’s work as misogynistic and homophobic. Susan Beegel analyzed four decades of Hemingway criticism, published in her essay «Critical Reception». She found, particularly in the 1980s, «critics interested in multiculturalism» simply ignored Hemingway; although some «apologetics» have been written. Typical is this analysis of The Sun Also Rises: «Hemingway never lets the reader forget that Cohn is a Jew, not an unattractive character who happens to be a Jew but a character who is unattractive because he is a Jew.» During the same decade, according to Beegel, criticism was published that investigated the «horror of homosexuality», and racism in Hemingway’s fiction.
Influence and legacy
Hemingway’s legacy to American literature is his style: writers who came after him emulated it or avoided it. After his reputation was established with the publication of The Sun Also Rises, he became the spokesperson for the post–World War I generation, having established a style to follow. His books were burned in Berlin in 1933, «as being a monument of modern decadence». His parents disavowed his literature as «filth». Reynolds asserts the legacy is that «he left stories and novels so starkly moving that some have become part of our cultural heritage». In a 2004 speech at the John F. Kennedy Library, Russell Banks declared that he, like many male writers of his generation, was influenced by Hemingway’s writing philosophy, style, and public image. Müller argues that Hemingway «has the highest recognition value of all writers worldwide».On the other hand, in 2012, novelist John Irving rejected most of Hemingway’s work «except for a few short stories», saying that the «write-what-you-know dictum has no place in imaginative literature». Irving also objected to the «offensive tough-guy posturing—all those stiff-upper-lip, don’t-say-much men» and contrasted Hemingway’s approach to that of Herman Melville, citing the latter’s advice: «Woe to him who seeks to please rather than appall.»
Benson believes the details of Hemingway’s life have become a «prime vehicle for exploitation», resulting in a Hemingway industry. Hemingway scholar Hallengren believes the «hard boiled style» and the machismo must be separated from the author himself. Benson agrees, describing him as introverted and private as J. D. Salinger, although Hemingway masked his nature with braggadocio. In fact, during World War II, Salinger met and corresponded with Hemingway, whom he acknowledged as an influence. In a letter to Hemingway, Salinger claimed their talks «had given him his only hopeful minutes of the entire war» and jokingly «named himself national chairman of the Hemingway Fan Clubs».
The International Imitation Hemingway Competition was created in 1977 to publicly acknowledge his influence and the comically misplaced efforts of lesser authors to imitate his style. Entrants are encouraged to submit one «really good page of really bad Hemingway» and winners are flown to Italy to Harry’s Bar.
The influence is evident with the many restaurants named «Hemingway»; and the proliferation of bars called «Harry’s» (a nod to the bar in Across the River and Into the Trees). A line of Hemingway furniture, promoted by Hemingway’s son Jack (Bumby), has pieces such as the «Kilimanjaro» bedside table, and a «Catherine» slip-covered sofa. Montblanc offers a Hemingway fountain pen, and a line of Hemingway safari clothes has been created.
In 1965 Mary Hemingway established the Hemingway Foundation and in the 1970s she donated her husband’s papers to the John F. Kennedy Library. In 1980 a group of Hemingway scholars gathered to assess the donated papers, subsequently forming the Hemingway Society, «committed to supporting and fostering Hemingway scholarship».
Ray Bradbury wrote The Kilimanjaro Device, in which Hemingway is transported to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The 1993 film Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, about the friendship of two retired men in a seaside town in Florida, is named after a story one of the characters (played by Richard Harris) tells about having wrestled Hemingway in the 1930s.
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