Essay about Ernest Miller Hemingway

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“Ernest Miller Hemingway is considered one of the greatest American authors of all time, but sadly his life was cut short when he commited suicide in 1961. He is famous for his different novels that are based off of his own adventures and war experiences. Hemingway is also widely known for his distinct writing style of short, to the point sentences that leave a lot of interpretation to the reader. He won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1953 and the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. Hemingway’s adventures and travels as a journalist were the inspirations for his novels, which received stellar reviews for his new writing style and deeper meanings, but also got criticized for his women-specific gender issues.

Hemingway’s career as a journalist took him on adventures around the world and into war where he experienced many different women and became known as a famous writer. “Hemingway, Ernest” explains that Ernest Hemingway started his writing career by being a student reporter for his school’s newspaper. The first job he got out of high school was a reporting job for the Kansas City Star, which was considered one of the best newspapers in America at the time.

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His job with the Kansas City Star influenced his style as an author because he had to learn the 110 rules of the Kansas City Star style sheet: Avoid adjectives, use short sentences, brief paragraphs, vigorous English, and fresh phrases. He then left the Kansas City Star with a friend of his to join an American Red Cross ambulance unit in April 1918, that aided the Italian Army. Hemingway was hit by shrapnel and suffered severe leg wounds and he used his experiences in Italy to form A Farewell to Arms. He arrived home from the war in January 1919, and attempted to have a career as a fiction writer.

Hemingway’s work was widely rejected by mass-market magazines, so he left home again to become a freelance reporter for the Toronto Star. In May of 1920, he returned to the United States to work for The Cooperative Commonwealth, a magazine out of Chicago. In Chicago, Ernest Hemingway met two people; Hadley Richardson, whom he married in September 1921, and Sherwood Anderson, who encouraged Hemingway’s writing and convinced him to move to Paris, France. Hemingway and his wife left for Paris at the end of 1921 and he met different publishers there.

The two most influential people that he met were Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. Pound helped Hemingway perfect his writing style, get his early works published, and she oversaw his literary education (2). Hemingway met Stein and she introduced Hemingway to a new group of artists, who were led by Henri Cezanne and different cubists, including Pablo Picasso (Pendergast 134).

Richard Andersen says, Gertrude Stein called this group the “Lost Generation” because they were frequently opinionated and they often rejected religious and moral principles because they thought life was meaningless. Many of these writers didn’t think they were lost, but few readers were interested in their new form of writing. Their editors weren’t concerned with advertisers and subscribers, so writers were able to focus on what they wanted to write, and not what would make a profit. This might have been the downfall of many though, because Hemingway was one of the few “Lost Generation” authors to join F. Scott Fitzgerald in the world of the rich and famous (21-23).

Ernest Hemingway developed the “iceberg theory” during his time in Paris. This theory states that only 5% should be seen on the surface, while the rest of the story is hidden in the pages and the information given (Pendergast 135). “Hemingway” writes, when World War II came around, Hemingway had divorced Hadley Richardson and Pauline Pfeiffer due to affairs and was going to report on the war with his third wife, Martha Gellhorn.

They were reporting on the war in China; Hemingway for PM and Gellhorn for Collier. Hemingway predicted certain war events, like the U.S. getting involed with Japan due to an attack on a base in the Pacific. When the couple returned to Cuba, Hemingway took over Gellhorn’s position in 1944 and became a front-line correspondent for Collier. Hemingway took part in some of the most iconic moments of the war. He landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy on June 6, 1944, which is known as D-Day. He was on a landing craft taking soldiers ashore, but opted to reboard the soldiers’ main transport ship.

This decision caused Hemingway to miss amazing opportunities, but it might’ve saved his life, as ten other landing craft were destroyed attempting to land. Hemingway was stationed with General Patton’s Third Army and then he participated in the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944. Ernest Hemingway began his final affair with Mary Welsh while reporting on the war and she followed him back to Cuba. He finalized his divorce with Martha Gellhorn and got married to Mary Welsh in 1946 (2-5). Once his struggle with depression and his work challenging him too much, he raised a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger on July 2, 196 (Pendergast 140).

Ernest Hemingway used a lot of connections to the real world, his time in war, and his world travels/adventures when writing his novels, and his journaling career influenced his writing style because his sentences had to be short and to the point. “A Farewell to Arms” explains, A Farewell to Arms is often considered Hemingway’s best artistic achievement and it was written in 1929. It was easily his greatest commercial success, as it sold 80,000 copies in the first four months.

Sadly though, the money didn’t come in quick enough and his father killed himself due to financial stress and a long and difficult struggle with diabetes. This novel established Hemingway as the literary master of a writing style that brisk and assertive with crisp, precise prose. The book also gave rise to the infamous myth that Hemingway was the epitome of American machismo. This myth came about partly to the popularity of the novel, his friendship with Gary Cooper, and Hemingway’s own heroism.

A Farewell to Arms is about a young American named Frederic Henry who went into World War One with the Italian Army. He fell in love with Catherine Barkley, the English nurse that helped in during the war. They escaped to Switzerland and live peacefully, until her and the child both die during pregnancy. With this came a major debate involving the main point of the novel: Is it about machismo and the sex object, Catherine Barkley? However, A Farewell to Arms isn’t about masculinity and testosterone release, or a novel praising war.

The novel is a sad love story whose farewell is from Frederic to the woman who carried his baby as well as the sanity of the world during the crazy times of World War One (158). “Farewell” points out that there has also been discussions about the different writing styles Ernest Hemingway used in A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway put a lot of effort into realism throughout the story, which disables any chance to discover his position on any of the themes in the novel. Due to the story telling itself through the involved characters, the reader is left with his or her own thoughts on the subject.

These thoughts are influenced by the way the characters speak, not Hemingway’s stance on the matter (167). Henry Hazlitt says “Dialogue is best when it is of a narrow range. This is a good thing because Hemingway’s characters are never complicated people, either emotionally or intellectually, for if they were,…Hemingway manner would be incapable of dealing with them” (167). A Farewell to Arms used four main writing techniques throughout the novel, which include media res, persona, black humor, and dialogue in the story.

“Farewell” states, A Farewell to Arms begins in media res, which literally means, in the middle of the thing. In the case of this novel, this “thing”, which is constantly referred to as “it”, is World War One. Homer’s Iliad is another famous work to open this way. The Iliad opens in the middle of the Trojan War. The way Hemingway used this technique, the reader enters a world described by someone already knowing, as there are no clues about time, place, or characters name. It even takes awhile to learn the narrator’s name.

The second style used is persona; the image of the character as it is expressed in reaction to its environment. This term originally referred to the masks that stage actors wore in Ancient Greece. Hemingway reveals the persona of his main character by the way he reacts to what others say. A Farewell to Arms is told from Frederic’s point of view, so the story has his voice. Another development of his persona is that his telling of the story rarely goes to an individual, “I did this.” Frederic normally speaks in terms of “we” during the novel, until Catherine dies, and is therefore an “I”. The third technique Hemingway used in the novel was black humor, also known as graveyard humor.

It’s repressing fear through laughter and is used to mask the very real feel of death. The most obvious use of black humor is used by Catherine Barkley when she is dying. She is in great pain and utters “black humor” when the doctor says that she must not be silly because she’s not going to die. The final technique Hemingway used in the novel is the use of dialogue in the story. He would include dialogue at the cost of the story whenever he could. He did this to avoid long passages of unnecessary writing.

Ernest then reveals information about the plot through dialogue with terse, direct language which can be called common speech (167). Joyce Moss and George Wilson say, another one of Ernest Hemingway’s famous novels is The Old Man and the Sea, which was written and published in 1952. It is about Santiago, a Cuban fisherman who spends three days fighting with a giant marlin. He catches it, but by the time he gets it back to shore, sharks have already eaten the entire fish. The village featured in the novel is Cojmar, which Hemingway visited frequently when he lived in Cuba.

Hemingway’s respect for the fishermen of Cuba and their daily struggle for survival gave him the idea to write this novel. Throughout the book, there are different references to Cuban culture, and the first is Cuban religion. Moss and Wilson say, that in the 1950s, 85% of Cuban people were nominally members of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church never had as great an influence in Cuba compared to other Latin American countries (1-2).

Lack of serious religion is seen in the novel when Santiago says, “I am not religious, but I will say ten Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys that I should catch this fish” (qtd. in Moss and Wilson 2). Prayers like this are seen throughout the novel and show that religion is based more on custom and culture, rather than true devotion (Moss and Wilson 2). Moss and Wilson state, another reference is the use of luck in Cuban culture. Cubans believe in destiny, which is a combination of spiritual forces and luck. Luck plays a major role in Santiago’s belief system. He thinks that his 85th day fishing will be good, so he wants to buy number 85 in the lottery drawing.

Manolin’s parents also believe this because they know Santiago is a great fisherman, but says he is salao, which is the worst form of unlucky. This is why Manolin can’t fish with Santiago anymore (3). The third reference to Cuban culture is the importance of marlin fishing. Moss and Wilson talk about how the waters off the coast of Cuba have large amounts of game fish, most notably marlin. Hemingway way said that the blue marlin that arrive in September are considered heavyweights.

Marlin fishing is also a great sport for tourists in cuba, but it is much more important to Cuban fisherman who rely on the fish to make their living. The meat of a marlin is highly prized and has enormous commercial value. This is the reason Santiago battles so hard, because he knows he’ll make a fortune if he can get the giant fish back to the village in one piece. Manolin knows the same thing, as his financial condition improves greatly after catching just three fish in two days while out on the water (1-2).

Moss and Wilson explain, the final part of Cuban culture referenced is machismo, which is the strong or aggressive masculine pride, which occurs throughout the novel. In Cuba and other Latin American countries, success in competition and mastering the environment can be demonstrated in a wide range of a man’s personal qualities. The most common and admired is machismo, or maleness. Machismo can be developed in many ways and should consist of several elements. Some major components of machismo, are sexual prowess, military power, and athletic prowess.

Despite his old age, Santiago appears to be a strong and macho character. He displays his physical prowess during his time battling the marlin and the sharks. He also shows a strong mental prowess when he uses his vast knowledge of fishing and tricks to conserve strength and endure his three-day fight. He is able to push through by remembering past feats of strength and encouraging himself to persevere.

He recalls winning an arm-wrestling match against the black man from Cienfuegos. The struggle lasted all day and all night, and when Santiago won, he earned a great amount of respect (4-5). At another point, Santiago realizes that the fish is fearless and confident; so Santiago says to himself, “You better be fearless and confident yourself, old man” (qtd. in Moss and Wilson 5). A final time where Santiago does this is when the fish jerks the line, slicing into Santiago’s hands, he encouraged himself by saying, “Pain does not matter to a man” (qtd. in Moss and Wilson 5).

Hemingway received mostly positive criticism for his famous works and is regarded as one of the most influential authors of his time, but people also claimed he created women to be second class, sexual objects. Ernest Hemingway’s first burst into the novel writing scene came when he wrote The Sun Also Rises. The New York Times thought it fulfilled the promise of Hemingway’s earlier work and was “Unquestionably one of the events of an unusually rich year in literature” (qtd. in “Hemingway” 6). In New York Herald Tribune Books, Conrad Aiken writes, “In many respects, Hemingway was the most exciting of contemporary writers of fiction” (qtd. in “Hemingway” 6).

This book had such an influence on young men and women, that Hemingway had them acting out roles that were like the novel’s characters (“Hemingway” 6). “Farewell” claims, A Farewell to Arms is considered as Hemingway’s finest artistic achievement because the subject blended well with Hemingway’s writing method. Due to this novel, many critics said Hemingway had become a master of his short, precise writing style (170). “Hemingway” states that this book was widely reviewed, and was predominantly positive.

A Farewell to Arms confirmed Hemingway as a major writer who had strong influence on American literature. This book strengthened the “Hemingway cult” due to his dialogue and distinct style, which caused older and younger authors to imitate Hemingway (6). Not all of the reviews for A Farewell to Arms were positive however. Written in “Farewell”. Hemingway’s reputation was soiled for a short time by a group of feminist critics who denounced his portrayal of women and said Catherine Barkley was a one-dimensional sex object.

During the 1970s, Ernest Hemingway was viewed as the epitome of a sexist male who believed women were secondary beings and belonged in the house cleaning and cooking. Unfortunately, the application of this myth caused people to read his novels differently. An example of this is how people think Catherine Barkley is just a simple figure, but this came from hating Hemingway’s misogynist cult, instead of any textual evidence. Now, so that no one will fight anymore, Catherine Barkley is considered a complex figure instead of either a second tier being or a brave woman (171). One of Ernest Hemingway’s last works, was also one of his best works.

Moss and George explain, The Old Man and the Sea began receiving positive reactions as soon as the manuscript was finished. Cosmopolitan $10,000 to publish the story in one issue, but Hemingway declined. He said that this was the prose he’d been working on his whole life and claimed it was the best prose he could write at the time. May 1952, Hemingway accepted $40,000 from Life to publish the story and it sold 5.3 million copies in two days. A year later, it released in novel form with the first printing of the Book-of-the-Month-Club edition selling 153,000 copies.

The Old Man and the Sea rose to the top of the bestsellers list and stayed there for six months. The novel won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and helped Hemingway receive the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature (6). Overall as an author, very few have made their mark on American literature and culture like Ernest Hemingway did. Pendergast claims, with the publication of In Our Time Hemingway announced himself as a major literary presence and the founder of a new style of writing. His best writing was in the 1920s, but his persona as the cool and tough guy developed in the 1930s and 40s. His writing style has influenced the style of writers like Norman Mailer, Thomas Pynchon, and Raymond Carver.

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Hemingway single handedly established a new standard for precision and clarity in short stories. Hemingway wrote of people who were misplaced and disoriented by a social system that no longer made sense, which was a lot like the “Lost Generation” he was apart of. His characters had to call upon themselves to develop skills and survive in the modern world. Using this style, Hemingway reinvented American individualism for a new generation of people. He threw this style in the face of every other living author, but eventually the challenge of his philosophy and his style was to great for him to endure (131).

Ernest Hemingway was one of the greatest American authors of the 20th century. He had many different experiences that shaped who he was and what his writing was like. He was a journalist for many companies and was in two different wars. His most famous works received predominantly positive reviews, but he also received negative reviews for the way he depicted women in his novels. Ernest Hemingway was an amazing author and while he is missed, his work is still influencing authors around the world.

Works Consulted

  1. “A Farewell to Arms.” Novels for Students, Edited by Diane Telgen, vol. 1, Gale Research Inc., 1997, pp. 158-179.
  2. Andersen, Richard. Ernest Hemingway and World War I, Edited by Kristen Susienka, Cavendish Square Publishing, 2015. Writers and Their Times.
  3. “Hemingway, Ernest.” Gale Contextual Encyclopedia of American Literature, vol. 2, 2009, pp. 721-726. Gale Virtual Reference Library,
  4. Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. “The Old Man and the Sea.” Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them, vol. 4, 1997, pp. 274-280. Gale Virtual Reference Library,
  5. Pendergast, Tom. “Ernest Hemingway.” Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Edited by Thomas McMahon, vol. 19, Gale Research Inc., 1996, pp. 129-143.
  6. “The Old Man and the Sea.” Novels for Students, Edited by Marie Rose Napierkowski and Deborah A. Stanley, vol. 6, The Gale Group, 1999, pp. 195-215.”

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Essay About Ernest Miller Hemingway. (2021, Oct 15). Retrieved from