Reporter, soldier, short-story writer, novelist, playwright, deep-sea fisherman, and big game hunter, Hemingway was a man whose unique mastery of the art of writing influenced the style of an entire generation of writers. That influence spread far beyond the English language, far beyond the borders of the United States. It is an influence that persists today.
Ernest Hemingway, one of six children, was born into the family of a small town doctor at Oak Park, Illinois, on July 21, 1899. He was active in sports; and under the guidance of his father, he came to love the outdoors, becoming an excellent hunter and fisherman. His parents wanted him to become a doctor, but after graduation from high school, he began his writing career as a sports reporter for the Kansas City Star. When the USA entered World War I, Hemingway left his job and tried to enlist in the army. After repeated rejections because he was under age, he was finally accepted as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross in Italy. Shortly before his 19th birthday, he was badly waunded by enemy fire and spent several weeks in a hospital in Milan. This experience would provide material for his future novel A Farewell to Arms (1929).
Hemingway returned to Chicago in 1919 and then went to Canada to work for the Toronto Star. From 1921 to 1927, he lived in Europe where he worked hard to become a writer. In 1937, he went to Spain to work as a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance. Out of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War came his longest novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940).
World War II saw Hemingway serving again in the role of war correspondent. When the war ended, he settled in Cuba where he lived until 1959. Out of this period of his life came his short novel, The Old Man and the Sea (1952). The novel led to Hemingway’s receiving the Pulitzer Prize. In 1954 the Swedish Academy awarded him the Nobel Prize.
During the last years of his life, Hemingway was a figure of heroic proportion. He had been honored internationally, and his rugged life which he had lived presented the public with an image of superman. Yet Hemingway suffered fits of depression made worse by an increasingly serious stomach ailment. Writing was becoming impossible as he realized his own human weaknesses and frailties.
On July 2, 1961, firing both charges of a double barrelled shotgun, Hemingway committed suicide.
He died but his techniques, his attitudes, his sensitivity to the spirit of the age, and to violence, which has played such a role in it, made him one of the greatest of modern writers, and the best of his work seems likely to secure him a permanent and prominent place in the history of American literature.