Key West, Florida
raised in First Congregational Church and later converted to Catholicism
1899: born in Oak Park, Illinois
1917: receives job on Kansas City Star
1918: becomes a Red Cross ambulance driver and is sent to Italian front
during First World War where he is wounded; meets Agnesvon Kurowsky in
1919: sails home to America; Agnes writes letter to break off relationship
1920: accepts job at Toronto Star Weekly; meets Hadley Richardson;
leaves Toronto for Chicago to write for The Cooperative Commonwealth
1921: Hemingway marries Hadley Richardson; moves to Paris
1923: Three Stories and Ten Poems and In Our Time (only 170
copies) published in Europe; first son, John, born
1925: In Our Time, American edition, is the first of Hemingway's
books to appear in his own country
1926: The Torrents of Spring and The Sun Also Rises; Hadley
and Hemingway separate
1927: Hemingway marries Pauline Pfeiffer; Men Without Women
1928: moves to Key West, Florida; father commits suicide; birth of second
1929: A Farewell to Arms
1930: Hemingway is severely injured in an automobile accident (1st of three
serious car crashes)
1932: Third son and last child, Gregory, born; Death in the Afternoon
1933: Winner Take Nothing
1935: The Green Hills of Africa
1937: To Have and Have Not
1940: marries Martha Gellhorn; For Whom the Bell Tolls
1945: he and Martha divorce; marries Mary Welsh
1950: Across the River and Into the Trees
1951: mother dies
1952: The Old Man and the Sea; wins Pulitzer Prize; survives two
1954: wins Nobel Prize for literature
1961: commits suicide on July 2
1964: A Moveable Feast
Issues and Themes
In his early years, Hemingway was very close to Sherwood Anderson, a
writer he highly admired. Anderson found a willing, enthusiastic pupil
in Hemingway. Gurko has pointed out that like Anderson, Hemingway thought
the mind was "treacherous and abstract", and the senses were always to
be trusted (18). Hemingway used his senses at the center of his writing.
In Modern Critical Views: Earnest Hemingway, Robert Penn Warren
comments that "this intense awareness of the world of the senses is,
of course, one of the things that made the early work of Hemingway seem,
upon its first impact, so fresh and pure." He adds, "Physical nature is
nowhere rendered with greater vividness than in his work, and probably
his only competitors in the department of literature are William Faulkner,
among the modern, and Henry David Thoreau , among the old American writers"
(45). Not long after the relationship that started with Anderson, people
began labeling Hemingway as Anderson's disciple. Hemingway didn't like
this because he wanted to be his own man. What resulted was The Torrents
of Spring in which Hemingway "ridiculed and parodied Anderson's style
of writing, his characters, and his most cherished ideas about life." Obviously,
their friendship ended. (Gurko 29)
Hemingway was greatly disturbed by his father's suicide. He questioned
his father's courage, or lack of courage. His father had taught him to
admire courage. Once, Hemingway defined courage as grace under pressure.
Yet his father could not handle this extreme pressure. He felt his father
had somehow failed him. Soon, Hemingway assumed the nickname Papa, which
he held to the end of his life. He was taking on the burden of being the
person, or ideal papa, that his own father had failed to be. (Gurko 35)
By 1952, Hemingway had become the most publicized writer in America.
Gurko notes that "everything he said and did was avidly recorded by the
columnists" and "his emphatic personality supplied newspapers and
magazine editors with endlessly colorful copy" (Gurko 48).
Hemingway's stories are concerned with death. In Our Time is
a good example of how his stories
relate to death. There are fourteen brief italicized scenes between
the short tales. These are numbered as chapters. The keynote of these
interchapters is violence which contains the threat of death in its most
aggressive form. Gurko comments that "loss and approaching death may be
the unavoidable fact of human existence" and that "the central lesson of
existence, however, is that death must be accepted, faced without demoralization,
and thereby mastered." He adds, "Hemingway's stories are as much
a demonstration of the lesson as they are of the fact; their drama arises
from the tension between them" (Gurko 177-78).
Hemingway has had an enormous influence on American writers, mainly
because of his unique writing style. He used simple nouns and verbs and
was still able to capture the scene precisely. He provided detached descriptions
of action in that he avoided describing the thoughts and emotions of his
characters in a direct way. In an interview from Modern Critical Views:
Ernest Hemingway, Hemingway was asked how detached from and experience
must he be before writing about it in fictional terms; i.e., the African
air crashes. Hemingway responded:
It depends on
the experience. One part of you sees it with complete detachment from the
part is very involved. I think there is no rule about how soon one should
It would depend on how well adjusted the individual was and on his or her
powers. Certainly it is valuable to a trained writer to crash in an aircraft
Hemingway made the reading of the story as close to the actual experience
as possible. Authenticity in writing was important to him and he
felt that one's treatment of a subject in writing was more honest if the
person had actually experienced it or observed the subject closely.
Below are more excerpts from an interview edited by George Plimpton
in Modern Critical Views: Ernest Hemingway.
Interviewer: Would you admit to there
being symbolism in your novels?
Hemingway: I suppose there are symbols
since critics keep finding them. If you do not mind, I dislike talking
about them and being questions about them. It is hard enough to write books
and stories without being asked to explain them as well. If five or six
more good explainers can keep going why should I interfere with them? Read
anything I write for the pleasure of reading it. Whatever else you find
will be the measure of what you brought to the reading. (128-29)
Interviewer: How complete in your own
mind is the conception of a short story? Does the theme, or the plot, or
a character change as you go along?
Hemingway: Sometimes you know the story.
Sometimes you make it up as you go along and have no idea how it will come
out. Everything changes as it moves. That is what makes the movement which
makes the story. Sometimes the movement is so slow it does not seem to
be moving. But there is always change and always movement. (131)
Interviewer: We've not discussed character.
Are the characters of your work taken without exception from real life?
Hemingway: Of course they are not.
Some come from real life. Mostly you invent people from a knowledge and
understanding and experience of people.
Interviewer: Could you say something
about the process of turning a real-life character into a fictional one?
Hemingway: If I explained how that
is sometimes done, it would be a handbook for libel lawyers. (132)
Interviewer: Finally, a fundamental
question: namely, as a creative writer what do you think is the function
of your art? Why a representation of fact, rather than fact itself?
Hemingway: Why be puzzled by that?
From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from things
that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through
your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer
than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it
well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no
other reason that you know of. But what about all the reasons that no one
"The Snows of Kilimanjaro"
What was the cause of the injury to the leg of the main character, Harry?
Was the ending expected? Why or why not?
Hemingway declared this his favorite story. Why do you think he felt this
way? There are obvious parallels between Harry Street and Hemingway. What
The journey is camouflaged as an actual event until the end when we discover
that the whole thing was a dream and Harry is dead. Find specific passages
or phrases that support this idea.
In relation to a literary technique, how does Hemingway's description of
death in the story compare with Emily Dickinson's description of death
in her poetry.
Death hangs over the story, especially over Harry's gangrenous leg. How
else does it relate to Harry in terms of his life?
Knowing Hemingway's background, how might have he incorporated his own
experiences into the story?
How might the snows of Kilimanjaro serve as irony to Harry's misspent life.
Consider the epigraph where Hemingway mentions the frozen leopard found
near the summit and remarks that no one explained what the animal was seeking
at that altitude.
How might the snowy top of Kilimanjaro symbolize Harry's effort to
cleanse and reorder his life? Think about this line, "And then he knew
where he was going".
The Sun Also Rises
In what ways is Robert Cohn both a marginal and a central character in
Hemingway is famous for his prose style. What makes it distinctive? How
does it complement the themes he develops in the novel? In addition to
being short, what is remarkable about his sentences? Try to dissect several
and compare them to sentences written by another writer, such as Henry
James, Thomas Wolfe, or William Faulkner. Does Hemingway prefer coordination
or subordination? What difference does this preference make in the way
we read and understand his prose?
Jake Barnes, like Hemingway himself, is an expatriate. What are Barnes
and his friends looking for in Europe? What do they find? Among the passages
that you may want to examine is Bill's allusion to Horace Greeley: "'Mothers
should tell their daughters about this faced. My son'--he pointed the razor
at me--'go west with this face and grow up with the country'" (108).
World War I is over by the time this novel begins, but it still manages
to influence some of the characters. Analyze this influence.
Hemingway includes a quotation from Gertrude Stein--"You are all a lost
generation"--in the prefatory matter for The Sun Also Rises. What
is the relevance of this quotation for the novel? Identify several details
and passages that suggest that Barnes, Lady Brett, and the other characters
are "lost." Consider Bill's "secret" of success: "Never been daunted."
Compare the loss that these characters feel to the loss pervades other
novels of this time, such as Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel.
What role does religion--specifically Catholicism--play in the novel?
Analyze the motivation of one of the novel's major characters. For example,
if you choose to analyze Jake Barnes, consider his reaction to receiving
a telegram from Lady Brett. He decides not to show it to anyone else, particularly
Robert Cohn, and says: "Why I felt that impulse to devil him I do not know.
Of course I do know. I was blind, unforgivingly jealous of what had happened
to him" (105). What is the significance of Jake's injury? Why does
Cohn call him a "pimp" (194)?
How does the fiesta affect the characters? What is its role in the novel?
Consider, in particular, the references to the dancers on page 168 and
Why are people attracted to the young bullfighter Pedro Romero?
Interpret the novel's conclusion.
Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Charles
Scribner's Sons, 1969
"Ernest Hemingway" Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter
Fourth Edition. New York: W.W. Norton, 1995. 2062-2080.
Gurko, Leo. Ernest Hemingway and the Pursuit of Heroism. New York:
Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968.
Hays, Peter. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Continuum Publishing Company.
Modern Critical Views: Ernest Hemingway. New York: Chelsea House
Plimpton, George, ed. "Interview with Ernest Hemingway." Writers
At Work: The Paris Review Interviews, Second Series. New York:
The Viking Press, Inc., 1963.
Smith, Paul. A Reader's Guide to the Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway.
Boston, Mass.: G.K. Hall and Company.
Written and designed by Sherri Byrd, Ashley Lawler, and
Misty Wilson, students, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, 1997
Edited by Mark Canada, Ph.D., professor of English, University of North
Carolina at Pembroke