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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

Ernest Hemingway

Though he has a reputation for writing best about men in a man’s world of war or wilderness, Hemingway lived very much in a world of women. Born in the affluent Chicago suburb of Oak Park, he was surrounded by women as the second child and first son in a family of four sisters. He was sixteen before his only brother, Leicester, was born. Like his alter ego Nick Adams, who appears in over twenty stories, Hemingway went hunting and fishing with his physician father in upper Michigan. A story such as “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife” in In Our Time suggests the alignment Hemingway saw between the suburban world of his strong-willed mother, Grace, and the escape from its complexities provided by the Michigan woods that his father loved. An eye injury kept him out of the army in 1917 when he tried to enlist after high school graduation. Instead he began his writing apprenticeship as a reporter for the Kansas City Star.

Less than a year later, he succeeded in entering the Great War as a driver in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps. Hemingway uses his own war experiences in both the Nick Adams stories and A Farewell to Arms of 1929 and yet ties them to images of war in the work of contemporaries such as T.S. Eliot and nineteenth-century writers Ambrose Bierce and Stephen Crane. Crane’s protagonist in The Red Badge of Courage was named Henry Fleming; Hemingway’s narrator Frederic Henry becomes a direct descendant since he is usually referred to by his last name alone. Both characters are experiencing war for the first time, and both become disillusioned by the experience.

Like his narrator Frederic Henry, Hemingway was wounded in the leg soon after arriving in Italy to serve in the ambulance corps. He too fell in love with a British nurse and later found himself caught up in the Italian army’s retreat from Caporetto as the Austrian and German forces advanced. Henry’s real enemies are boredom, hunger, thirst, and random violence, all of which are exacerbated by class conflicts between enlisted men and officers and inept leadership. In the section excerpted in the book, Henry translates his conversations with Italian soldiers into English and allows himself the luxury of remembering nurse Catherine Barkley, who is pregnant with his child, only in a dazed moment of escape from the humdrum preparations for retreat.

Hemingway returned from World War I to an American Midwest constrained by Prohibition and the numbing strictures of family and smalltown life. Journalism and travel proved his escape. In 1921 he married Hadley Richardson, the first of his four wives, and returned to Europe as foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star.

Armed with a letter of introduction from Sherwood Anderson, Hemingway joined the coterie of American expatriates forming around Gertrude Stein in Paris. Later he would attribute much of the repetition in her work to her aversion to revising and deleting, steps in the writing process that he saw as vital. Yet as the neophyte writer, Hemingway’s competitive instincts were set aside while he profited from the lessons of more established writers such as Stein, Ezra Pound, and eventually F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Success and recognition complicated Hemingway’s life, as did the birth of his son John in 1923. Impending fatherhood and the responsibilities it entailed had a gloomy effect on Hemingway, much as it does for the American in “Hills Like White Elephants.” Most immediately, Hadley’s pregnancy meant a return to Canada for several months and a threatened end to the youthful freedom they had enjoyed in Paris. Their last European fling that July was the first of his three visits to Spain for the running of the bulls in Pamplona. This experience is embedded in his most highly acclaimed novel, The Sun Also Rises, which presents the rootless society of the “lost generation” on a secular pilgrimage that covers terrain similar to that of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.

Each of Hemingway’s four marriages marks a stage in his career that suggests an alignment of his personal and professional life. Marriage to Pauline Pfeiffer in 1927 signaled a turn toward domestic concerns. Key West, Florida, became his home base, though he traveled widely in America, Europe, and Africa, occasionally accompanied by Pauline and their two sons, Patrick and Gregory, as well as his older son John. He wrote personal essays against the background of bullfighting in Death in the Afternoon and big game hunting in Green Hills of Africa and a novel dealing with his Loyalist sympathies in the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Divorce and remarriage to foreign correspondent Martha Gellhorn in 1940 marked another stage in Hemingway’s life and work. For the first and only time, he chose a competitor as a wife, and by his standards this was the least successful of his marriages. He wrote little fiction in these years, and despite the homes he established with Martha Gellhorn in Cuba and Ketchum, Idaho, he led a nomadic life, sporadically covering the European theater of World War II. By the time Martha Gellhorn scooped him by being with the first wave of American troops to hit the beaches in the Normandy invasion, Hemingway had chosen a less aggressive journalist, Mary Welsh, to be his fourth wife. It was with Mary that Hemingway celebrated the liberation of Paris in August 1944.

Highlights of Hemingway’s career in the years of his marriage to Mary Welsh were the negative response to his highly autobiographical novel Across the River and Into the Trees, in contrast to the popular and critical success of his novella The Old Man and the Sea. This work, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1952, was the impetus for his receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Like Stephen Crane of an earlier generation, Hemingway put modern man in an open boat for a life-or-death struggle on the sea. Though his “old man” Santiago conquers the great fish, he loses all but the memory of his success.

Falling into depression exacerbated by bouts of hard drinking and writer’s block, Hemingway committed suicide at his ranch in Ketchum in 1961. His posthumously published works greatly increase the biographical dimensions of the man to be discerned from works published in his lifetime, but his reputation as a stylist and writer of fiction still rests squarely on those works he himself saw through many stages of revision to publication.

Margaret Anne O’Connor
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

In the Heath Anthology
Hills Like White Elephants (1927)
from A Farewell to Arms
      Chapter XXVII (1927)

Other Works
In Our Time (1925)
The Sun Also Rises (1926)
The Torrents of Spring (1926)
Men Without Women (1927)
Death in the Afternoon (1932)
Winner Take Nothing (1933)
Green Hills of Africa (1935)
To Have and Have Not (1937)
The Fifth Column and the First Forty-nine Stories (1938)
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940)
Across the River and Into the Trees (1950)
The Old Man and the Sea (1952)
A Moveable Feast (1964)
Islands in the Stream (1970)
That Dangerous Summer (1985)
The Garden of Eden (1986)

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Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Information about Hemingway's home in Florida and his famous cats with six toes per paw.

Hemingway Resource Center
Biography, bibliography, audio clips, and pictures.

Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961)
A comprehensive listing of online resources relating to Hemingway and his work provided by the Internet Public Library.

Timeless Hemingway
Extensive selection of resources, including photos, quotes, educational materials, and more.

Secondary Sources

Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story, 1969

Harold Bloom, Ernest Hemingway, 1990

Matthew J. Bruccoli, Dear Ernest, Dear Max: The Ernest Hemingway/Maxwell Perkins Correspondence, 1996

Scott Donaldson, By Force of Will, 1977

Ernest Hemingway A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work, 1999

Joseph M. Flora, Ernest Hemingway: A Study of the Short Fiction, 1989

Audre Hanneman, Ernest Hemingway: A Comprehensive Bibliography, 1967, supplement, 1975

Mary Hemingway, How It Was, 1976

A. E. Hotchner, Papa Hemingway, 1966

Bernice Kert, The Hemingway Women, 1983

Kenneth Lynn, Hemingway, 1987

Jeffrey Meyers, Hemingway, A Biography, 1985

Lillian Ross, Portrait of Hemingway, 1961

Earl Rovit, Ernest Hemingway, 1962, revised edition with Gerry Brenner, TUSAS 497, 1986

Philip Young, Ernest Hemingway, 1952