Ernest Hemingway Biography (Breif) Essay, Research Paper
Ernest Miller Hemingway was born at eight o’clock in the morning on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. In the nearly sixty two years of his life that followed he forged a literary reputation unsurpassed in the twentieth century and created a mythological hero in himself that captivated (and at times confounded) not only serious literary critics but the average man as well…in a word, he was a star.
Hemingway was a product of the public school system. In high school he was mediocre at sports, playing football, swimming, water basketball and serving as the track team manager. He enjoyed working on the high school newspaper called the Trapeze, where he wrote his first articles, usually humorous pieces in the style of Ring Lardner, a popular satirist of the time. Hemingway graduated in the spring of 1917 and instead of going to college the following fall like his parents expected, he took a job as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star. Hemingway did not remain at the Star for a long time. He did after all, enlist as an ambulance drive in World War I since he was turned down by the army for bad vision. At the Star he learned some stylistic lessons that would later influence his fiction. The newspaper advocated short sentences, short paragraphs, active verbs, authenticity, compression, clarity and immediacy. Hemingway later said: “Those were the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing. I’ve never forgotten them.
In this Biography, Lillian Ross mostly depicts his writing style. Focusing more on his writing; from 1925 to 1929 Hemingway produced some of the most important works of 20th century fiction, including the landmark short story collection In Our Time (1925) which contained “The Big Two-Hearted River.” In 1926 he came out with his first true novel, The Sun Also Rises (after publishing Torrents of Spring, a comic novel parodying Sherwood Anderson in 1925). He followed that book with Men Without Women in 1927; it was another book of stories, which collected “The Killers,” and “In Another Country.” In 1929 he published A Farewell to Arms, arguably the finest novel to emerge from World War I. “In four short years he went from being an unknown writer to being the most important writer of his generation, and perhaps the 20th century,” Lillian Ross, Portrait of Hemingway, 1997.
The first version of in our time (characterized by the lowercase letters in the title) illustrated Hemingway’s new theories on literature. This small 32 page book, of which only 170 copies were printed, contained the essence of Hemingway’s aesthetic theory which stated that omitting the right thing from a story could actually strengthen it. Hemingway equated this theory with the structure of an iceberg where only 1/8 of the iceberg could be seen above water while the remaining 7/8 under the surface provided the iceberg’s dignity of motion and contributed to its momentum,” Lillian Ross. Hemingway felt a story could be constructed the same way and this theory shows up even in these early “vignettes”. In 1923, Hemingway published his second novel The Sun Also Rises, which the publisher had bought sight unseen. The Sun Also Rises introduced the world to the “lost generation” and was a critical and commercial success. Set in Paris and Spain, Lillian Ross describes it, “the book was a story of unrequitable love against a backdrop of bars and bullfighting.” In 1927 came Men Without Women and soon after he began working on A Farewell To Arms.
While he could do no wrong with his writing career, his personal life had began to show signs of wear. He divorced his first wife Hadley in 1927 and married Pauline Pfeiffer, an occasional fashion reporter for the likes of Vanity Fair and Vogue, later that year. In 1928 Hemingway and Pauline left Paris for Key West, Florida in search of new surroundings to go with their new life together. They would live there for nearly twelve years, and Hemingway found it a wonderful place to work and to play, discovering the sport of big game fishing, which would become a life-long passion and a source for much of his later writing. That same year Hemingway received word of his father’s death by suicide.
But even the beautiful landscapes of his writing couldn’t hide the fact that something was seriously wrong with Hemingway. In the fall of 1960 Hemingway flew to Rochester, Minnesota and was admitted to the Mayo Clinic, ostensibly for treatment of high blood pressure but really for help with the severe depression his wife Mary could no longer handle alone. After Hemingway began talking of suicide his doctor agreed with Mary that they should seek expert help. He registered under the name of his personal doctor and they began a medical program to try and repair his mental state. The Mayo Clinic’s treatment would ultimately lead to electro shock therapy. According to Jefferey Meyers Hemingway received “between 11 to 15 shock treatments that instead of helping him most certainly hastened his demise.” One of the sad side effects of shock therapy is the loss of memory, and for Hemingway it was a catastrophic loss. Without his memory he could no longer write, could no longer recall the facts and images he required to create his art. Writing, which had already become difficult was now nearly impossible.
Hemingway spent the first half of 1961 fighting his depression and paranoia, seeing enemies at every turn and threatening suicide on several more occasions. On the morning of July 2, 1961 Hemingway rose early, as he had his entire adult life, selected a shotgun from a closet in the basement, went upstairs to a spot near the entrance-way of the house and shot himself in the head. It was little more than two weeks until his 62nd birthday.