Ernest Hemmingway



Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak

Park, Illinois. His father was the owner of a prosperous real

estate business. His father, Dr. Hemingway, imparted to Ernest the

importance of appearances, especially in public. Dr. Hemingway

invented surgical forceps for which he would not accept money. He

believed that one should not profit from something important for

the good of mankind. Ernest's father, a man of high ideals, was

very strict and censored the books he allowed his children to read.

He forbad Ernest's sister from 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 anything which

disturbed her perception of the world as beautiful. She hated

dirty diapers, upset stomachs, and cleaning house; they were not

fit for a lady. She taught her children to always act with

decorum. She adored the singing of the birds and the smell of

flowers. Her children were expected to behave properly and to

please her, always.

Mrs. Hemingway treated Ernest, when he was a small boy, as if

he were a female baby doll and she dressed him accordingly. This

arrangement 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 from his mother, and never forgave her for his humiliation.

The town of Oak Park, where Ernest grew up, was very old

fashioned and quite religious. The townspeople 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 his classmates, often insisting that a

friend listen to one of his stories. In spite of 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 English with a fervor. He contributed articles to the

weekly school newspaper. It seems that the principal did not

approve of Ernest's writings and he complained, often, about the

content of Ernest's articles.

Ernest was clear about his writing; he wanted people to "see

and feel" and he wanted to enjoy himself while writing. Ernest

loved having fun. If nothing was happening, mischievous Ernest

made something happen. He would sometimes use forbidden words just

to create a ruckus. Ernest, though wild and crazy, was a warm,

caring individual. He loved the sea, mountains and the stars and

hated anyone who he saw as a phoney.

During World War I, Ernest, rejected from service because of a

bad left eye, was an ambulance driver, in Italy, for the Red

Cross. Very much like the hero of A Farewell to Arms, Ernest is

shot in his knee and recuperates in a hospital, tended by a caring

nurse named Agnes. Like Frederick Henry, in the 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 in love. He would party late into the night and

invite, to his house, people his parents disapproved of. Ernest's

mother rejected him and he felt that he had to move from home.



He moved in with a friend living in Chicago and he wrote

articles for The Toronto Star. In Chicago he met and then married

Hadley Richardson. She believed that he should spend all his time

in writing, and bought him a typewriter for his birthday. They

decided that the best place for a writer 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. They

could not live on income from his stories and so Ernest, again,

wrote for The Toronto Star.

Ernest took Hadley to Italy to show her where he had been

during the war. He was devastated, everything had changed,

everything was destroyed.

Hadley became pregnant and was sick all the time. She and

Ernest decided to move to Canada. He had, by then written three

stories and ten poems. Hadley