Ernest Hemingway His Life In His Work

Ernest Hemingway: His Life In His Work Essay, Research Paper

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote in a letter to Maxwell Perkins, This is to

tell you about a young man named Ernest Hemingway, who lives in Paris (an

American)… I d look him up right away. He s the real thing. This is perhaps the most

prophetic statement Fitzgerald ever made in his lifetime, because Ernest Hemingway was

indeed the real thing . Only months after that letter was written, Hemingway s first book

of short stories, In Our Time, was published, and so began the career of one of America s

greatest literary heroes. The works that followed stunned audiences around the world

with the clear, concise language that was used, and the elaborate details that allowed

millions of people an in depth look into the life of an amazingly interesting man.

However, the perfection achieved in his literature was always out of reach to the man

himself. But Hemingway was able to use his real life tragedies and make them into

timeless masterpieces. That is why to this day it can be said that Ernest Hemingway is

the most influential American writer of all time (Turnbull, 167).

Born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899, Hemingway was raised to appreciate

the beauty of nature and the importance of spending time in the wilderness. This love of

the outdoors, including fishing and hunting, becomes quite apparent in his later pieces of

literature. At the age of eighteen, Hemingway was stationed in Italy, during World War I,

as a Red Cross ambulance driver. It was there that he first fell in love with Europe. He

was immediately attracted to the beauty of the countryside and the elegance of the

cultures there, and would later spend many years of his life on the continent. Herman

Melville called the sea his Harvard and Yale , to Ernest Hemingway, the continent of

Europe was his (Baker, 17).

Not long after his arrival, Hemingway was wounded by an Austrian shell as it

exploded nearby killing an Italian soldier, and blowing the legs off of another. The

details that followed have been disputed, but one source states that Hemingway, with

shrapnel embedded in his leg, carried two wounded soldiers to safety as machine gun fire

ripped through his already bloodied limb. It was at the hospital in Milan, while having

his leg tended to, where Hemingway first fell in love. She was a Red Cross nurse more

than nine years his senior, but he loved her with all the passion that would become his

trademark. But he soon had to return to the states, and the affair was over (Nelson, 31).

His war experiences would prove to be very useful in the years to come. When he

returned to Illinois, he would give speeches at the public library recounting his adventures

in Italy. At one of these lectures, one of the women in the audience was so taken by the

young man s diction, she asked her husband, who was the editor of the Toronto Star, to

give him a job. Hemingway wrote for the paper, and soon asked to be a foreign

correspondent, so that he could move to Paris and begin his writing career (Baker, 28).

Hemingway arrived in Paris in 1923, and became part of a circle of writers which

included Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It wasn t long

before In Our Time was ready to be published, and with the help of his new friends the

book was being sold in Europe and America in no time. In Our Time is a collection of

short stories that seemed to chronicle Hemingway s life up to that point. This particular

book shows his unwillingness to expose any kind of weakness in his characters, because

his characters are almost always composites of himself, however the writing is some of

his finest (Nelson, 49).

After the publication of In Our Time, Ernest had the most productive years of his

life. From 1925 to 1928, Hemingway would pump out novel after novel gaining him a

reputation world wide as one of the greatest authors of the day. It was in this period that

such works as The Sun Also Rises, The Torrents of Spring, and A Farewell to Arms were

produced. Hemingway took the literary world by storm from his little apartment in Paris

(Loscalzo, 19).

However the days of his invincibility would soon end. Hemingway s marriage to

Hadley Richardson was failing by the end of 1928, and they were considering divorce

when Earnest learned of his father s death. Clearance Hemingway had shot himself in the

head (Nelson, 66).

Returning to the states gave Hemingway a new outlook on life, he soon moved to

Key West, Florida and took a new wife. Meanwhile, his status had risen to super

stardom. Throughout the world imitators attempted to recreate the simplicity of his short

stories (a pattern that continues to this day), and it wasn t uncommon to see his face on

the cover of several magazines. Ernest Hemingway, or Papa as he was now being

referred to, had infiltrated pop culture. In Key West, A Death in the Afternoon was

written and brought an age old culture to light in America, bullfighting in Spanish culture.

Hemingway had, in essence, taken an entire nation to Madrid to see one of these

marvelous displays that he had admired during his days in Europe. Though the book did

not receive critical acclaim, it is widely regard as one of his best novels (Miller, 116).

At this point in his life, Hemingway began thinking about his childhood and his

love of the outdoors and decided to go on an African safari. He had always admired

Theodore Roosevelt and wished to go big game hunting as he did. It wasn t long before

he and his wife were traveling to Africa (Baker, 49).

During his time in Africa, Hemingway was able to compile enough experience to

begin work on The Green Hills of Africa, which was the story of a man on safari. This

book was criticized because of the apparent flawlessness of the main character, who no

doubt was meant to be Hemingway himself. This was common of his works, he very

seldom allowed the reader to see any flaws in the characters that reflected his personality.

However, the short story The Snows of Kilamanjaro, which was also written based on his

experiences in Africa, begins to change that self serving (as some would call it) style of

writing. It is in this piece that we see Hemingway as an old man, who is on the verge of

death, looking back on his life and having regrets. This is one of his most famous and

acclaimed short stories (Sands, 72).

After Africa, Ernest moved to Cuba, where he would spend most of the remainder

of his life. Hemingway left an indelible mark on the city of Havana which can still be

seen today. It was there, after reporting on World War II, that he completed Over the

River and Into the Trees, in which the main character is antagonized by a pretentious,

journalist ex-wife, not unlike Hemingway s ex-wife Martha Gilhorn. Again we see

Hemingway s own life right on the pages of a book of fiction. In Cuba, Hemingway s

depression began to severely affect his life, and his marriage. He began drinking more,

sometimes up to a quart of liquor a day, and he began gaining more weight (at one point

he weighed as much as 270 pounds). He threatened suicide on several occasions, but his

personality was the kind that very few people would stand up and say something to. For

as kind and loving as he was, he could be equally angry and violent. At this point, most

people considered Hemingway s career to be over, and he knew that he had to publish

something that could re-establish him as champion (Hemingway liked to speak in

boxing terms). It was then that he published his most famous short novel (Miller, 171).

It was a fish story. A fish story that Hemingway had been kicking around in his

head for years. And when it was finally written (some say that the first draft was the

final, because the words fit so right that there was no need for a re-write), The Old Man

and the Sea was considered his masterpiece. It won him a Pulitzer prize in 1953, and

gave him enough money to travel back to Africa for one last safari. However, on this trip

Hemingway s plane would crash and leave him with very severe injuries (Sands, 113).

Hemingway returned to Cuba, but only for a while. He traveled to Idaho, to his

boyhood home in Illinois, but where ever he went there was this terrible depression. He

tried many different kinds of therapy, even shock therapy, but none helped. In fact, the

shock therapy affected his memory, which basically destroyed his ability to write, and

Hemingway was very distressed by that. At the end of 1961, Hemingway shot himself in

the head, ending his life (Loscalzo, 62).

After his death, several novels were edited and published, some of them were very

good. But the real impact that Hemingway had after his death, could be seen in every

American short story that followed. And it could be seen on the streets of Havana, where

every year thousands of fans come to sit and drink where he drank, to sleep where he

once slept, and to fish where he found the peace and serenity to write the perfect book.

Hemingway has been imitated, but never equaled, and it will probably be a very long time

before we see another American with his talent, intelligence, and lust for life, emerge

with a piece of writing that can thrill us like Hemingway can. Though biographical

information has been disputed (much due to the fact that Ernest was known for his

tremendous exaggerations), it has been said that to find the truth (about Hemingway),

you must first look at his fiction . Hemingway s life is in his books, and we all have the

opportunity to read it (Miller, 181).

Baker, Carlos Heard. Ernest Hemingway; A Life Story. New York, NY. Scribner. 1969.

Loscalzo, Jim. Hemingway s Cuba . U.S. News and World Report. 26 May 1997.

Vol. 122, P. 62.

Miller, Louis M. Hemingway: The Writer as Artist. Columbus, Ohio. 1983.

Nelson, Gerald B. Hemingway, Life and Works. New York, NY. Facts on File. 1984.

Sands, Garret. The Life and Times of Ernest Hemingway. San Francisco, CA. Eliot

Publishing. 1981.

Turnbull, Andrew. Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York. 1963.


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