HemmingwayErnest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois. Hisfather was the owner of a prosperous real estate business. His father, Dr.
Hemingway, imparted to Ernest the importance of appearances, especially inpublic. Dr. Hemingway invented surgical forceps for which he would not acceptmoney. He believed that one should not profit from something important for thegood of mankind. Ernest’s father, a man of high ideals, was very strict andcensored the books he allowed his children to read.
He forbad Ernest’s sisterfrom studying ballet for it was coeducational, and dancing together led to”hell and damnation”. Grace Hall Hemingway, Ernest’s mother,considered herself pure and proper. She was a dreamer who was upset at anythingwhich disturbed her perception of the world as beautiful. She hated dirtydiapers, upset stomachs, and cleaning house; they were not fit for a lady. Shetaught her children to always act with decorum. She adored the singing of thebirds and the smell of flowers. Her children were expected to behave properlyand to please her, always.
Mrs. Hemingway treated Ernest, when he was a smallboy, as if he were a female baby doll and she dressed him accordingly. Thisarrangement was alright until Ernest got to the age when he wanted to be a”gun-toting Pawnee Bill”. He began, at that time, to pull away fromhis mother, and never forgave her for his humiliation.
The town of Oak Park,where Ernest grew up, was very old fashioned and quite religious. Thetownspeople forbad the word “virgin” from appearing in school books,and the word “breast” was questioned, though it appeared in the Bible.Ernest loved to fish, canoe and explore the woods. When he couldn’t get outside,he escaped to his room and read books.
He loved to tell stories to hisclassmates, often insisting that a friend listen to one of his stories. In spiteof his mother’s desire, he played on the football team at Oak Park High School.As a student, Ernest was a perfectionist about his grammar and studied Englishwith a fervor. He contributed articles to the weekly school newspaper. It seemsthat the principal did not approve of Ernest’s writings and he complained,often, about the content of Ernest’s articles.
Ernest was clear about hiswriting; he wanted people to “see and feel” and he wanted to enjoyhimself while writing. Ernest loved having fun. If nothing was happening,mischievous Ernest made something happen. He would sometimes use forbidden wordsjust to create a ruckus. Ernest, though wild and crazy, was a warm, caringindividual. He loved the sea, mountains and the stars and hated anyone who hesaw as a phoney.
During World War I, Ernest, rejected from service because of abad left eye, was an ambulance driver, in Italy, for the Red Cross. Very muchlike the hero of A Farewell to Arms, Ernest is shot in his knee and recuperatesin a hospital, tended by a caring nurse named Agnes. Like Frederick Henry, inthe book, he fell in love with the nurse and was given a medal for his heroism.Ernest returned home after the war, rejected by the nurse with whom he fell inlove. He would party late into the night and invite, to his house, people hisparents disapproved of. Ernest’s mother rejected him and he felt that he had tomove from home. He moved in with a friend living in Chicago and he wrotearticles for The Toronto Star.
In Chicago he met and then married HadleyRichardson. She believed that he should spend all his time in writing, andbought him a typewriter for his birthday. They decided that the best place for awriter to live was Paris, where he could devote himself to his writing.
He said,at the time, that the most difficult thing to write about was being a man. Theycould not live on income from his stories and so Ernest, again, wrote for TheToronto Star. Ernest took Hadley to Italy to show her where he had been duringthe war. He was devastated, everything had changed, everything was destroyed.Hadley became pregnant and was sick all the time. She and Ernest decided to moveto Canada.
He had, by then written three stories and ten poems. Hadley gavebirth to a boy who they named John Hadley Nicano Hemingway. Even though he hadhis family Ernest was unhappy and decided to return to Paris.
It was in Paristhat Ernest got word that a publisher wanted to print his book, In Our Time, butwith some changes. The publisher felt that the sex was to blatant, but Ernestrefused to change one word. Around 1925, Ernest started writing a novel about ayoung man in World War I, but had to stop after a few pages, and proceeded towrite another novel, instead.
This novel was based on his experiences whileliving in Pamplona, Spain. He planned on calling this book Fiesta, but changedthe name to The Sun Also Rises, a saying from the Bible. This book, as in hisother books, shows Hemingway obsessed with death. In 1927, Ernest found himselfunhappy with his wife and son.
They decided to divorce and he married Pauline, awoman he had been involved with while he was married to Hadley. A year later,Ernest was able to complete his war novel which he called A Farewell to Arms.The novel was about the pain of war, of finding love in this time of pain. Itportrayed the battles, the retreats, the fears, the gore and the terrible wasteof war.
This novel was well-received by his publisher, Max Perkins,but Ernesthad to substitute dashes for the “dirty” language. Ernest used hislife when he wrote; using everything he did and everything that ever happened tohim. He nevertheless remained a private person; wanting his stories to be readbut wanting to be left alone.
He once said, “Don’t look at me. Look at mywords.” A common theme throughout Hemingway’s stories is that no matter howhard we fight to live, we end up defeated, but we are here and we must go on. Atage 31 he wrote Death in the Afternoon, about bullfighting in his beloved Spain.Ernest was a restless man; he traveled all over the United States, Europe, Cubaand Africa.
At the age of 37 Ernest met the woman who would be his third wife;Martha Gellhorn, a writer like himself. He went to Spain, he said, to become an”antiwar correspondent”, and found that war was like a club whereeveryone was playing the same game, and he was never lonely. Martha went toSpain as a war correspondent and they lived together. He knew that he washurting Pauline, but like his need to travel and have new experiences, he couldnot stop himself from getting involved with women.
In 1940 he wrote For Whom theBell Tolls and dedicated it to Martha, whom he married at the end of that year.He found himself traveling between Havana, Cuba and Ketchum, Idaho, which he didfor the rest of his life. During World War II, Ernest became a secret agent forthe United States. He suggested that he use his boat, the “Pillar”, tosurprise German submarines and attack them with hidden machine guns. It was atthis time that Ernest, always a drinker, started drinking most of his days away.He would host wild, fancy parties and did not write at all during the next threeyears.
At war’s end, Ernest went to England and met an American foreigncorrespondent named Mary Welsh. He divorced Martha and married Mary in Havana,in 1946. Ernest was a man of extremes; living either in luxury or happy to dowithout material things.
Ernest, always haunted by memories of his mother, wouldnot go to her funeral when she died in 1951. He admitted that he hated hismother’s guts. Ernest wrote The Old Man and the Sea in only two months. He wason top of the world, the book was printed by Life Magazine and thousands ofcopies were sold in the United States. This novel and A Farewell to Arms wereboth made into movies. In 1953 he went on a safari with Mary, and he was inheaven hunting big game.
Though Ernest had a serious accident, and later becameill, he could never admit that he had any weaknesses; nothing would stop him,certainly not pain. In 1954 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Toward theend, Ernest started to travel again, but almost the way that someone does whoknows that he will soon die.
He suddenly started becoming paranoid and to forgetthings. He became obsessed with sin; his upbringing was showing, but still wasinconsistent in his behavior. He never got over feeling like a bad person, ashis father, mother and grandfather had taught him. In the last year of his life,he lived inside of his dreams, similar to his mother, who he hated with all hisheart. He was suicidal and had electric shock treatments for his depression andstrange behavior. On a Sunday morning, July 2, 1961, Ernest Miller Hemingwaykilled himself with a shotgun.
Ernest Hemingway takes much of the storyline ofhis novel, A Farewell to Arms, from his personal experiences. The main characterof the book, Frederick Henry, often referred to as Tenete, experiences many ofthe same situations which Hemingway, himself, lived. Some of these similaritiesare exact while some are less similar, and some events have a completelydifferent outcome. Hemingway, like Henry, enjoyed drinking large amounts ofalcohol. Both of them were involved in World War I, in a medical capacity, butneither of them were regular army personnel. Like Hemingway, Henry was shot inhis right knee, during a battle.
Both men were Americans, but a difference worthnoting was that Hemingway was a driver for the American Red Cross, while Henrywas a medic for the Italian Army. In real life, Hemingway met his love, Agnes, anurse, in the hospital after being shot; Henry met his love, Catherine Barkley,also a nurse, before he was shot and hospitalized. In both cases, therelationships with these women were strengthened while the men werehospitalized. Another difference is that Hemingway’s romance was short-lived,while, the book seemed to indicate that, Henry’s romance, though they nevermarried, was strong and would have lasted. In A Farewell to Arms, Catherine andher child died while she was giving birth, this was not the case with Agnes wholeft Henry for an Italian Army officer. It seems to me that the differencesbetween the two men were only surface differences.
They allowed Hemingway tocall the novel a work of fiction. Had he written an autobiography the book wouldprobably not have been well-received because Hemingway was not, at that time, awell known author. Although Hemingway denied critics’ views that A Farewell toArms was symbolic, had he not made any changes they would not have been asimpressed with the war atmosphere and with the naivete of a young man whoexperiences war for the first time.
Hemingway, because he was so private,probably did not want to expose his life to everyone, and so the slight changeswould prove that it was not himself and his own experiences which he was writingabout. I believe that Hemingway had Catherine and her child die, not to lookdifferent from his own life, but because he had a sick and morbid personality.There is great power in being an author, you can make things happen which do notnecessarily occur in real life.
It is obvious that Hemingway felt, as a youngchild and throughout his life, powerless, and so he created lives by writingstories. Hemingway acted out his feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness byhunting, drinking, spending lots of money and having many girlfriends. I thinkthat Hemingway was obsessed with death and not too sane. His obsession showsitself in the morbid death of Miss Barkley and her child. Hemingway was probablyvery confused about religion and sin and somehow felt or feared that peoplewould or should be punished for enjoying life’s pleasures. Probably, thestrongest reason for writing about Catherine Barkley’s death and the death ofher child was Hemingway’s belief that death comes to everyone; it wasinevitable.
Death ends life before you have a chance to learn and live. Hewrites, in A Farewell to Arms, “They threw you in and told you the rulesand the first time they caught you off base they killed you. …
they killed youin the end. You could count on that. Stay around and they would kill you.”Hemingway, even in high school, wrote stories which showed that people shouldexpect the unexpected. His stories offended and angered the principal of hisschool.
I think that Hemingway liked shocking and annoying people; he wascertainly rebellious. If he would have written an ending where Miss Barkley andher child had lived, it would have been too easy and common; Hemingway wascertainly not like everyone else, and he seemed to be proud of that fact. Eventhe fact that Hemingway wrote curses and had a lot of sex in his books showsthat he liked to shock people. When his publisher asked that he change somewords and make his books more acceptable to people, Hemingway refused, then wasforced to compromise. I think that the major difference between Hemingway andHenry was that Henry was a likable and normal person while Hemingway was strangeand very difficult. Hemingway liked doing things his way and either people hadto accept him the way he was or too bad for them.
I think that Hemingwayprobably did not even like himself and that was one reason that he couldn’treally like other people. Hemingway seemed to use people only for his ownpleasure, and maybe he wanted to think that he was like Henry who was a nicerperson. In the book, Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Farewell to Arms,Malcolm Cowley focuses on the symbolism of rain. He sees rain, a frequentoccurrence in the book, as symbolizing disaster. He points out that, at thebeginning of A Farewell to Arms, Henry talks about how “things went verybadly” and how this is connected to “At the start of the winter camepermanent rain”. Later on in the book we see Miss Barkley afraid of rain.
She says, “Sometimes I see me dead in it”, referring to the rain. Itis raining the entire time Miss Barkley is in childbirth and when both she andher baby die. Wyndham Lewis, in the same book of critical essays, points outthat Hemingway is obsessed with war, the setting for much of A Farewell to Arms.
He feels that the author sees war as an alternative to baseball, a sport ofkings. He says that the war years “were a democratic, a levelling,school”. For Hemingway, raised in a strict home environment, war is arelease; an opportunity to show that he is a real man. The essayist, EdgarJohnson says that for the loner “it is society as a whole that is rejected,social responsibility, social concern” abandoned.
Lieutenant Henry, likeHemingway, leads a private life as an isolated individual. He socializes withthe officers, talks with the priest and visits the officer’s brothel, but thoserelationships are superficial. This avoidance of real relationships andinvolvement do not show an insensitive person, but rather someone who isprotecting himself from getting involved and hurt. It is clear that in all ofHemingway’s books and from his own life that he sees the world as his enemy.Johnson says, “He will solve the problem of dealing with the world bytaking refuge in individualism and isolated personal relationships andsensations”. John Killinger says that it was inevitable that Catherine andher baby would die. The theme, that a person is trapped in relationships, isshown in all Hemingway’s stories.
In A Farewell to Arms Catherine asks Henry ifhe feels trapped, now that she is pregnant. He admits that he does, “maybea little”. This idea, points out Killinger, is ingrained in Hemingway’sthinking and that he was not too happy about fatherhood.
In Cross Country Snow,Nick regrets that he has to give up skiing in the Alps with a male friend toreturn to his wife who is having a baby. In Hemingway’s story Hills Like WhiteElephants the man wants his sweetheart to have an abortion so that they cancontinue as they once lived. In To Have and Have Not, Richard Gordon took hiswife to “that dirty aborting horror”. Catherine’s death, in A Farewellto Arms, saves the author’s hero from the hell of a complicated life.
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