A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway | Biography


Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois. At age 18 he volunteered to join the Italian army during World War I and served as an ambulance driver on the front lines. A few weeks after he arrived, a trench mortar exploded while he was distributing chocolate and cigarettes to soldiers. The explosion killed one soldier, blew the legs off another, and gravely wounded Hemingway. He was given a silver medal for valor and sent to recover in a Milan hospital, where he met and fell in love with a nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky. If this sounds familiar, it is because A Farewell to Arms is considered to be Hemingway's most autobiographical novel.

After the war Hemingway married Hadley Richardson, the first of his four wives, and worked as a foreign news correspondent in Paris. His first novel, The Sun Also Rises, was published in 1925. Hemingway divorced Richardson, married his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, and returned to the United States in 1928 for the birth of his son, Patrick. He wrote A Farewell to Arms during this time. Originally serialized in Scribner's Magazine, A Farewell to Arms was published as a complete novel in September 1929.

Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. In the award presentation, Hemingway was lauded for his determination to depict war truthfully. A Farewell to Arms was described as "an artistically complete account of his [Hemingway's] painfully confused impressions from the Piave front in 1918."

Hemingway returned to war as a reporter during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s. His writing career was interspersed with the pursuit of adventures that included big-game hunting, bullfighting, and deep-sea fishing. Throughout his life Hemingway was a picture of masculine bravado: a strong, red-blooded, American man. Privately he suffered from depression and alcoholism, which eventually contributed to his suicide on July 2, 1961, in Idaho.

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