Ernest Hemingway: how his Life Affected his Writing

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Ernest Hemingway was worldly known for his writing style that was composed of brief, straightforward sentences. Hemingway’s unique style eventually led to him being rewarded with the Nobel Prize in 1954. Not only was he known for his style of writing, but the main ideas used in his stories were from experiences he faced in his life himself and he just dramatitized them himself. Some more novels that Hemingway wrote include: The Sun Always Rises, A Farewell to Arms, To Have and Have Not, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway’s decisions and things he underwent in his early life ultimately led to events that transpired in his later life.

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Ernest’s father Clarence Edmonds Hemingway or Ed Hemingway started practice towards being a doctor and when he served his internship re-met his later wife, Grace Hall. Ed Hemingway was helping tend to Grace’s mother because she had cancer. Ed Hemingway and Grace Hall had previously seen each other when they went to the same high school, Oak Park High School. Their letters they sent to each other over a span of six years later led to their marriage in the year of 1896. Grace enjoyed playing music and later found herself teaching music to people. Ed Hemingway and Grace Hemingway had 6 children together, including Ernest. Ernest had an older sister, Marcelline, which was born in January 1898. Ernest also had three younger sisters and younger brother: Ursula, Madelaine or Sunny, Carol and Leicester. Ursula was born in 1902, Madelaine in 1904, Carol in 1911 and Leicester in 1915 (Dearborn 18).

Ernest’s mom, Grace Hemingway recorded things about Ernest as a child in his baby book, she would record things that Ernest did as a child that were special and embarrassing. There were photos of Ernest as a baby with his sister and it looked like they were twins and both girls. In that century, it was common for boys to wear girls clothes, but even after, there began to be differences in the clothes between boys and girls. Ernest’s mom still dressed Ernest in girl’s clothes. As a child Ernest was very close with his oldest sister Marcelline. Grace always treated his two older kids as twins, because she had always wanted twins. Not only did Grace dress up Ernest like Marcelline, but she wanted them to be in the same grade so she held Marcelline back a year. Ernest and Marcelline’s relationship were really close as they were children and continued to grow as they became older but their relationship soon became toxic as they reached adulthood. There were certain traits that Ernest pointed out in Marcelline’s personality that he didn’t like because they were the same bad traits his mother had (Dearborn 22).

Ernest’s parents bought a house on Walloon Lake in northern Michigan the year before he was born. A third of Ernest’s summers were spent at this Michigan lake house. This summer home had a big impact on Ernest as he was growing up and later on in his writings. Michigan is where Ernest experienced the fun in nature and the wilderness in the world. All the Hemingway kids were taught how to shoot a gun and the safety about them by Ed Hemingway, he taught them how to shoot an animal and catch a fish. While at the house on the lake the kids would always fish and hunt. Even though Ernest went to the house in his earlier years there were still consistent appearances of the Michigan house in many of his later works, but one major work that it appeared in was The Nick Adam Stories. The Nick Adam Stories were a group of short stories describing major events in Ernest’s life, from childhood to adulthood. Not only did the summers going to Walloon Lake help develop some of his writings, but I believe that it caused Ernest to have a liking for traveling to places and seeing the world (O’Connor, “When Hemingway Was a Young Fisherman in Michigan”).

As Ernest entered in as a freshman into Oak Park and River Forest High School, he wasn’t serious about English and actually had plans to become a doctor. After taking English classes and courses in writing, his plan began to change and he became serious about English. Marcelline and Ernest enjoyed reading magazines that came to their house and competed to see who could finish reading things first, like King James Bible. The later years in high school was when Ernest really began to grow an inspiration and love for writing. Two teachers influenced him extremely, Margaret Dixon and Fannie Biggs. Both teachers took a were interested in helping Ernest, but each helped him differently. Ernest was encouraged and motivated by Miss Dixon when he was beginning to write. Miss Biggs had an club that both Ernest and Marcelline were heavily involved in. Throughout the club, students would send in work and critique each other’s work with help from Miss Biggs. Miss Biggs was a big influence for Ernest to focus on the genre of short stories, but Miss Biggs was more influential to Ernest on his path to journalism. Miss Biggs’s journalism class was known for being ran like an actual newspaper office. Both Ernest and Marcelline were picked to be rotating editors for the newspaper. The editors were specifically chosen by Miss Biggs’s to write about different things in the newspaper. Ernest found that sports writing was the easiest for him especially since he played on a couple of sports teams in high school. Ernest’s passion for writing definitely started from high school and flowered into something amazing as can be seen in his writings. His teachers gave him the motivation and opportunity to further his English and writing skills in high school(Dearborn 37-38).

In Ernest’s senior year of high school, he started thinking about college. Ernest’s father wanted him to follow his sister, Marcelline, and attend Oberlin, but Ernest liked Cornell better. Ernest told many people that he was going to the University of Illinois, but Ernest’s interest in college disappeared and was more interested at working for the newspaper, The Kansas City Star. Ernest’s uncle Tyler helped Ernest get the apprenticeship at The Kansas City Star because he knew a writer at the newspaper. The newspaper gave Ernest a full-time job in the fall. Ernest was new to writing newspapers, but eventually, he became a very talented newspaper writer. Ernest had the job of interviewing people in a certain area of Kansas, through this he met many people and became more associated with the city. He was taught the rules of the newspaper and the rules happened to become the reason he was such a unique writer. Certainly, obtaining these skills early on in his life helped him because the rules he was taught at the newspaper was the style he was later known for (Dearborn 45-49).

During Ernest’s time at the newspaper he wanted to serve in the Great War. Ever since his senior year in high school, Ernest saw the societies’ shift to militarism. This patriotism drew Ernest towards the military life, and caused him to sign with the 7th Missouri Infantry of the National Guard. Ernest’s family was known for having bad eyesight and this caused for the U.S. Unit to not accept him. Luckily, for Ernest the American Red Cross was giving opportunities through ambulance driving in France. The Red Cross was actively recruiting because of the major defeats the Italians faced due to the Austrians. Ernest signed up and told The Kansas City Star he was leaving in April. Ernest made his way from Mestre to Fossalta, which would be the Red Cross base camp. Ernest would go from trench to trench handing out supplies to Italian soldiers. One day as Ernest walking out of the trench and the Austrians started shooting their mortars at them. The explosion caused soldiers to lie dead on the ground or cause major wounds to them. Ernest who had been badly wounded from the shrapnel, caused by the explosion, lifted a badly wounded soldier and walked to the Red Cross dugout. On Ernest’s last steps to the dugout his leg was shot by a machine gun, causing him to be unconscious in the trench. Red Cross drivers took Ernest to Fornaci where they would clean his wounds. For Ernest’s act of heroism, he was awarded The Silver Medal of Military Valor. Many different versions of Ernest’s story would surface. While in the Red Cross hospital in Milan, Ernest was trying to come up with a good fictional novel about his war wounds. Eventually, Ernest wrote, A Farewell to Arms, in 1929. A Farewell to Arms was a love story about a hero, Frederic Henry, and a nurse, Catherine Barkley, that while recovering from his wounds they fell in love. Just like in Ernest’s novel, Ernest ends up having a liking for a nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky while he was recovering from his war wounds. They spent time together, digging shrapnel out of his leg, sightseeing, and going to races at San Siro. While in the hospital, many have said that Ernest’s experiences had caused his personality to change from a fresh, boyish character to being self-centered. He thought of himself so highly by wearing his uniform with all of his medals and wounds stripes. Not only did this event that Ernest experience tremendously help his fan base later in his life, but it also changed Ernest as a person (Dearborn 59-68).

Ernest Hemingway’s early life seeded the origins for his great writing skills and success. From his experience in the wilderness that later led to his love for traveling, his teachers that sparked his inspiration for writing in high school, to his career in journalism that made him known for his unique writing style, to his near death experience that led him to writing an amazing novel. These are only a few examples in Hemingway’s early life that helped his success in his later life. Without these important events Hemingway experienced in his early life, I believe that he wouldn’t be nearly as successful and well-known today. 

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Ernest Hemingway: How His Life Affected His Writing. (2019, Jul 26). Retrieved December 8, 2022 , from

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