The Snows of Kilimanjaro | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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Ernest Hemingway | Biography

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Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on July 21, 1899. Hemingway had four sisters and one brother. He grew up in the family home his grandfather had built. Both parents played an active role in raising Hemingway. His mother exposed him to music, and his father took him hunting and fishing. Outdoor activities instilled a lifelong love of nature and sportsmanship, which inspired some of Hemingway's travels, such as extended safaris in Africa, and his choice of homes, such as Key West, Florida, known for its fishing.

Hemingway started his writing career early. He worked on his high school newspaper and took a job as a correspondent for the Kansas City Star after graduation. Wanting to take part in World War I, Hemingway attempted to join the army. He wasn't allowed to enlist, however, because he had poor eyesight. When he learned the Red Cross would accept volunteer ambulance drivers, he joined up and was shipped to Europe in May 1918. By June Hemingway was actively serving. In July he was injured when a mortar shell exploded nearby. Despite his wounds, he helped save several seriously wounded soldiers, for which he was awarded the Italian Silver Medal for Valor.

Hemingway returned to the United States in 1919 and married Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, his first wife, in September 1921. Shortly afterward he took a job as a European correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star. Based in Paris, Hemingway became part of a rich community of writers and artists, including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso, and Joan Miró.

While living in Paris, Hemingway wrote a collection of short stories that was published in 1925 under the title In Our Time. His debut novel, The Sun Also Rises, which drew heavily on Hemingway's observations about bullfighting from frequent trips to Spain, was published in 1926. In 1927, soon after the novel was published, he and Richardson divorced. Hemingway married Pauline Pfeiffer later that year and returned to the United States to live in Key West, Florida. Hemingway's story collection Men without Women, which included the frequently anthologized story "Hills Like White Elephants," was also published in 1927. In 1928 his son Patrick was born, followed by another son, Gregory, in 1931. In 1929 A Farewell to Arms, an autobiographical World War I novel, was published.

In the 1930s Hemingway engaged in adventurous outdoor activities, such as hunting in Africa, bullfighting in Spain, and deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. During these years he published his story collection Winner Take Nothing (1933). Always drawn to the sea, Hemingway bought a boat, the Pilar, in 1934. He equipped it to catch big fish and traveled extensively around the Caribbean. One of his most famous stories, "The Snows of Kilimanjaro," was published in Esquire magazine in 1936. It would later be reprinted in several story collections.

In 1937 he covered the Spanish Civil War as a foreign correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance. He met fellow journalist Martha Gellhorn while in Spain. In 1939 he took the Pilar to Cuba, where Gellhorn joined him. Pauline then left him, and Hemingway and Gellhorn married in 1940, settling on a farm near Havana, Cuba. His novel about the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1941, but he did not win.

Hemingway served as a war correspondent in Europe during World War II. He met his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, a Time magazine correspondent, while living in London from 1944 to 1945. Always aiming to be at the center of events, Hemingway witnessed the Normandy landing at Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944; the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944; and the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. In 1946, following his divorce from Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway and Welsh married in Cuba.

In 1953 Hemingway won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Old Man and the Sea (1952). The novella, which celebrated his love of fishing, was the last complete work published before his death. An immediate commercial and critical success, it became an international best seller, making its author a celebrity after almost 10 years of virtual literary silence. The novella's critical acclaim helped cement Hemingway's reputation as a literary giant, and in 1954 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Hemingway sustained many injuries (automobile, hunting, airplane, household accidents) throughout his lifetime of adventures. He was a heavy drinker who suffered from depression and several chronic ailments, such as liver disease and hypertension. When Hemingway and his fourth wife moved to Ketchum, Idaho, after buying a house in 1959, his mental health continued to deteriorate. On July 2, 1961, Hemingway committed suicide, as his father, sister, and brother had done. His memoir A Moveable Feast was published posthumously in 1964.

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