Ernest Hemingway: How His Life Affected His Writing
There is no doubt that Ernest Hemingway was one of the best American writers of his time, but what was it that made him write what he did? He experienced many things people don’t experience today. Beginning at a young age he was introduced to camping, hunting, and death.
Just those few things impacted Hemingway’s choice of writing. It was his “distinctive prose” (shmoop.com) writing style that was created through his early and late life experiences. Experiences such as vacationing along Lake Michigan, his time in World War I, personal heartbreaks, his relationship with his father, and bullfighting. “All you have to do is write one true sentence.
Write the truest sentence that you know,” says Hemingway. This belief created many books, poems, and short stories that impacted American Literature. Hemingway wrote mostly fictional stories but in each story, there was a truth, a truth about his life. He created characters with lives parallel to his own. He shared his own experiences and thoughts through made up names.
For example, the character Nick Adams. He shows up in twenty-four of Hemingway’s writings. Most people believe that Nick Adams is simply Ernest Hemingway himself. The Nick Adams Stories is a collection of stories featuring Adams. These stories show a close parallel to Hemingway and his relationship with his father, survival, time in the war, and life later on.
Hemingway’s relationship with his father had a big affect on his writing. Clarence Hemingway, his father, was a doctor. Because of this, Hemingway was exposed to death and disease at a very young age. His father tried to shelter him from these disturbing scenes but couldn’t. In The Nick Adams Stories, there is an account of Nick’s father trying to hide a suicide from him as a young child but failed to do so. His father was known to be a man in control who rarely loses his temper; however, in The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife story, Nick’s father tried to instigate a fight with a man who was sent to cut wood for him and his family.
He lost his temper but resisted the urge to act violently because of his family only being a few feet away from him. Nick’s father went back into the house and lied to his wife about the fight. He was cleaning his gun repetitively showing signs that he was still angry and frustrated. This story is portraying the real life Clarence Hemingway as an in-control man with a rarely shown temper. A lot of stories Hemingway wrote other than his own life experiences were about his father.
This is because of shared interests, experiences with his father, and his haunting thoughts of his father’s suicide. Hemingway grew up in Oak Park, Illinois with his parents and five siblings. They took vacations to Lake Michigan where Hemingway experienced many things he later shared in his writing. He explored different locations, was taught by his father and uncle how to survive, learned how to hunt animals, and acquired a skill of fishing. This type of exploration let Hemingway get in touch with nature. He used a lot of these nature experiences in his writings especially those in the character of Nick Adams.
For example, in The Nick Adams Stories there is an account of how Nick and his sister, Littless are hiding from town officers and they need to escape into the forest for a few days. This account, The Last Good Country, shows Nick’s strong survival skills as well as responsibility, both being taught by his father when he was a young child. In Hemingway’s later years, he was an ambulance driver during World War I. He was stationed in Milan, Italy where he was injured and put into a hospital for the remainder of his time there. In the hospital, he met nurse Agnes von Kurowsky. When Hemingway made plans for the both of them to go back to the United States, she ended the love affair and found a new love interest in an Italian officer.
A heartbroken Hemingway decided to take this event and transform it into one of his famous novels, “A Farewell to Arms.” This book marked him as one of the biggest writers in his time along with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Mark Twain. After this heartbreak, Hemingway went back to America and decided that writing will be the center and the most important part of his life. “Friends and lovers will come and go, but he would always have his writing” (Mammadov).
Hemingway’s writing is how he wanted people to distinguish him amongst every one else. Not his family or his social class, but his pure talent4. After living in Paris for about five years, Hemingway and his new wife traveled to Pamplona, Spain and gained an interest in bullfighting. He went to many festivals accompanied by a few friends. He began writing The Sun Also Rises in July, returned back to Paris in August, and finished the novel in September.
Only taking two months, this novel is about Hemingway’s experience and thoughts on bullfighting. The novel also includes British and American companions who travel to Spain to watch the Festival of San Fermin. This isn’t the only book by Hemingway influenced by bullfighting; Death in the Afternoon is a non-fiction novel by Hemingway about the tradition of Spanish bullfighting. Ernest Hemingway experienced many events in his life that affected his writing. He saw suicide at a very young age, shot a gun at the age of six, learned survival skills at about 10, participated in World War I as an ambulance driver, and fell in love numerous times.
He was awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor, a Bronze Star, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Although some of his experiences were painful, he learned from them. Just two simple events in his life gave him the title of one of the “greatest literary lights of the twentieth century” (Scribner). His love affair in Milan and his trip to Spain created two of the biggest novels in the 1900s, A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway’s writing style of “English prose” (Scribner) was what really put him on top of American Literature and what made him a huge influence on American writers today.
Yes, a lot of writers use their personal experiences in their writing, but Ernest Hemingway did in such a way that made him stand out from the others. He took these experiences and made them into characters. Nick Adams is an unforgettable character portraying a young boy who quickly turns into a man, a parent and a writer. Nick Adam’s life portrays Ernest Hemingway’s. Starting out as a scared boy alone in the forest, later transforming into one of the greatest writers in American history.