Essay Preview: Hemmingway
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Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1899, the son of a doctor and a music teacher. He began his writing career as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. At age eighteen, he volunteered to serve as a Red Cross ambulance driver in World War I and was sent to Italy, where he was badly injured by shrapnel. Hemingway later fictionalized his experience in Italy in what some consider his greatest novel, A Farewell to Arms. In 1921, Hemingway moved to Paris, where he served as a correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star. In Paris, he fell in with a group of American and English expatriate writers that included F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and Ford Madox Ford. In the early 1920s, Hemingway began to achieve fame as a chronicler of the disaffection felt by many American youth after World War I–a generation of youth whom Stein memorably dubbed the “Lost Generation.” His novels The Sun Also Rises (1926) and A Farewell to Arms (1929) established him as a dominant literary voice of his time. His spare, charged style of writing was revolutionary at the time and would be imitated, for better or for worse, by generations of young writers to come.
After leaving Paris, Hemingway wrote on bullfighting, published short stories and articles, covered the Spanish Civil War as a journalist, and published his best-selling novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). These pieces helped Hemingway build up the mythic breed of masculinity for which he wished to be known. His work and his life revolved around big-game hunting, fishing, boxing, and bullfighting, endeavors that he tried to master as seriously as he did writing. In the 1930s, Hemingway lived in Key West, Florida, and later in Cuba, and his years of experience fishing the Gulf Stream and the Caribbean provided an essential background for the vivid descriptions of the anglers craft in The Old Man and the Sea. In 1936, he wrote a piece for Esquire about a Cuban angler who was dragged out to sea by a great marlin, a game fish that typically weighs hundreds of pounds. Sharks had destroyed the anglers catch by the time he was found half-delirious by other anglers. This story seems an obvious seed for the tale of Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea.
A great fan of baseball, Hemingway liked to talk in the sports lingo, and by 1952, he badly “needed a win.” His novel Across the River and Into the Trees, published in 1950, was a disaster. It was his first novel in ten years, and he had claimed to friends that it was his best yet. Critics, however, disagreed and called the work the worst thing Hemingway had ever written. Many readers claimed it read like a parody of Hemingway. The control