Ernest Hemingway Biography

Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Cicero (now Oak Park), Illinois, to Clarence and Grace Hemingway. Hemingway was the second of six children. As a child, Hemingway often spent summers at the family cabin by Walloon Lake in northern Michigan, where Hemingway developed a love of the outdoors. In high school, Hemingway began writing for the school paper, the Trapeze, and edited the school yearbook, basing his style on professional journalists he admired. He graduated in 1917. Eager to leave his conservative suburb, Hemingway became a journalist for the Kansas City Star. The stylistic demands of the newspaper—short sentences and vigorous language—would go on to influence Hemingway’s famously sparse writing style. He only stayed at the newspaper for about six months.

Later in 1917, Hemingway applied for military service to support the United States’ efforts in World War I. However, he was rejected from the Army because of his poor eyesight. Instead, he signed up with a Red Cross volunteer ambulance unit, and shipped off to Italy in May 1918. Unfortunately, that July, Hemingway was caught in mortar fire while delivering supplies to troops on the front line. Heedless of his injuries, he worked to get Italian troops to safety, and the Italian government awarded him with the Silver Medal of Bravery. Hemingway spent months in a Red Cross Hospital in Milan recovering. There, he met and fell in love with nurse Agnes von Kurowsky. He returned to the United States in January 1919, assuming Agnes would join him, but she left him for another man. This heartbreak would later influence some of his writing, including his novel A Farewell to Arms (1929).

Hemingway had a difficult time readjusting to life back in Chicago because of his experience in the war. He worked as a journalist in both Michigan and Toronto before returning to Chicago to edit the journal Cooperative Commonwealth. Around this time, he met Hadley Richardson, whom he married in 1921. They had a son, Jack, in 1923. In 1921, Hemingway took a job as a foreign correspondent for The Toronto Star, and he and Hadley moved to Paris. Throughout the 1920s, Hemingway covered The Greco-Turkish War for the Star. This period also introduced Hemingway to some of the most important relationships of his career. Many American writers and intellectuals lived in the Montparnasse neighborhood, including Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ezra Pound. They shared a disillusionment with modernity that caused Gertrude Stein to dub them “The Lost Generation,” which Hemingway would portray in his first novel The Sun Also Rises (1926). The novel also drew on his visits to the San Fermín festival of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Hadley and Hemingway divorced in 1927 after Hadley discovered Hemingway’s affair with another American expat, Pauline Pfeiffer. Hemingway and Pauline married in May 1927. The couple moved to Key West, Florida in 1928, where they had their two sons, Patrick and Gregory. Throughout this period, Hemingway spent a lot of time outdoors, hunting in Wyoming and fishing in Cuba. He returned to Spain briefly to research bullfighters for his nonfiction work Death in the Afternoon (1932). In 1933, Hemingway and Pauline went on safari in East Africa, which inspired another work of nonfiction, Green Hills of Africa (1935), and several short stories. Hemingway took up a war correspondence post in Spain for the North American Newspaper Alliance in 1937, where he covered the Spanish Civil War. There, he met fellow journalist Martha Gellhorn, who would become his third wife in 1940, after he and Pauline divorced. His experience covering the war led to his writing For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). Hemingway became a foreign correspondent again during World War II. While on assignment he met and fell in love with journalist Mary Welsh. His marriage with Martha crumbled, and Hemingway and Mary wed in 1946.

After the war, Hemingway began to spend his winters in Cuba. His time there inspired The Old Man and the Sea, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1952. His significant catalogue of novels and short fiction led to his winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. The committee in particular admired The Old Man and the Sea, and praised his “straightforward” prose and effective use of understatement. Despite this crowning achievement, Hemingway fell into a deep depression in the 1950s as many of his literary contemporaries began to die. He also faced numerous injuries from successive plane crashes, alongside liver trouble from years of heavy drinking. Despite these setbacks, he began work on a memoir about his expat days in Paris, A Moveable Feast (1964). In 1959, he bought a house in Ketchum, Idaho, where he would live out the remainder of his life. He died by suicide on July 2, 1961.

Ernest Hemingway Study Guides

Ernest Hemingway Quotes

You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.

Going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.

What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order.

Ernest Hemingway Novels

The Sun Also Rises

Published 1926

A Farewell to Arms

Published 1929

To Have and Have Not

Published 1937

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Published 1940

Across the River and into the Trees

Published 1950

The Old Man and the Sea

Published 1952

Islands in the Stream (posthumous)

Published 1970

The Garden of Eden (posthumous)

Published 1986

True at First Light (posthumous)

Published 1999

Ernest Hemingway Novellas

The Torrents of Spring

Published 1926

Ernest Hemingway Short Stories

In Our Time

Published 1924

Men Without Women

Published 1923

Winner Take Nothing

Published 1933

The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories

Published 1938

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories

Published 1961

Ernest Hemingway Nonfiction

Death in the Afternoon

Published 1932

Green Hills of Africa

Published 1935

A Moveable Feast (posthumous)

Published 1964

The Dangerous Summer (posthumous)

Published 1985

Under Kilimanjaro (posthumous)

Published 2005