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Who is Ernest Hemingway?

By Kathy Hawkins
Updated May 23, 2024
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Ernest Hemingway is one of America's most famous and most distinctive writers. During his lifetime, 1899-1961, he became an iconic figure in American literature and popular culture, publishing many classic novels and several journalistic narratives and memoirs. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for his novel, The Old Man and the Sea, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature the following year.

Growing up near Chicago, Ernest Hemingway's first job was as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. The newspaper's writing style influenced his work throughout his lifetime; Hemingway was known for short, clear, direct sentences, with a minimum of adjectives.

Ernest Hemingway left his job with the Star to join World War I, where he served as a Red Cross ambulance driver. He was wounded during a supply delivery run, which ended his career as a driver. His next job was at a Red Cross hospital in Milan, where he fell in love with an older nurse, Agnes Von Korowsky. Their relationship served as the inspiration for one of his first novels, A Farewell to Arms.

Upon Ernest Hemingway's return to North America, he spent several years working as a reporter for the Toronto Star. In 1921, Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, moved to Paris, where they became part of the famed expatriate American literary circle that included Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ezra Pound.

Ernest Hemingway's first published literary work was a collection of short stories called In Our Time, in 1925. His first successful novel, The Sun Also Rises, dealt with an injured soldier living in Europe, and is hailed today as a modern masterpiece. Some of his other best-known works include a memoir about his time in Paris, A Movable Feast, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Old Man and the Sea.

Though Ernest Hemingway's work won both critical and popular acclaim, his personal life was not as successful. Hemingway was a heavy drinker, and experienced many health problems. He also loved to adventure and take risks; later in life, he was seriously injured in two plane crashes while on an African safari.

Like his father, who committed suicide in 1928, Ernest Hemingway struggled with serious depression throughout his life. In 1961, at the age of 62, Hemingway committed suicide with a shotgun at his cabin in Ketchum, Idaho.

Since Ernest Hemingway's death, his artistic legacy has only grown. Several collections of unpublished works and letters have been published posthumously, and Hemingway has been cited as an influence for hundreds of writers, including J.D. Salinger, Hunter S. Thompson, and Chuck Palahnuik.

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Discussion Comments

By Engelbert — On May 11, 2011

My favorite story about Hemingway is how he used to brag that he could write a story with just six words and then he backed it up by actually doing it.

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

It even sounds like something you'd read in one of Ernest Hemingway's novels. Brilliant writer.

By lapsed — On May 09, 2011

It seems like depression, alcoholism and general roguish behavior is deeply rooted in the hereditary of the Hemingway family tree; Margaux Hemingway - Ernest Hemingway's daughter - also tragically killed herself with an overdose of the medication she was prescribed for epilepsy, coincidentally one day before the anniversary of Ernest Hemingway's death.

For those who don't know, Margaux Hemingway was a fashion model who was popular for a while during the 70s. She was also dyslexic, so she never got the chance to read her grandfathers books.

By SnowyWinter — On Nov 19, 2010

Hemingway volunteered to fight in World War I but was turned down because he had a bad eye. However, they allowed him to drive the ambulance and deliver supplies.

While serving as an ambulance driver, Hemingway, although seriously injured, carried an injured soldier to get him medical help. For this selfless act, he was awarded the Italian Silver Medal for Valor.

For Hemingway, courage was to be commended. In his writings, the characters might not always win, but they always lived and died bravely.

Hemingway married four different times. Most of the time, he would fall in love with a woman while still married to another one.

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