Ernest Hemingway - An American Contemporary

Jason Milford
April 2000

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American novelist, journalist, writer of short stories, and winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature. He created a distinguished body of prose fiction, much of it based on adventurous life. He was born on July 21, 1899, the second of six children, in Oak Park, Ill., in a house built by his widowed grandfather, Ernest Hall. Oak Park was a Protestant, upper middle class suburb of Chicago. He died on July 2, 1961.
Early Years
Hemingway stated in Green Hills of Africa that civil war is the best war for a writer. Both of his grandfathers fought in the Civil War and the family was proud of its military traditions. The Hemingway children were brought up on heroic tales of the Civil War. Ernest was also fascinated by the wars and heroes at the turn of the century: the Spanish-American War (1898);, the Goer War (1899-1902); and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), which inspired him to collect military cartoons. Ernest loved to read the Old Testament when he was a boy because it was so full of battles. (Meyers 3)
Ernest Hemingway\'s maternal grandfather was Ernest Hall, who was injured in the Civil War. He tried to shoot himself when he was near death, but Hemingway\'s father had removed the bullets from his gun. Ernest was six years old at the time, and thought his father shouldn\'t have prevented his grandfather from committing suicide.
His paternal grandfather was Anson Hemingway. He was a formal, serious, and deeply religious man who was active in the temperance movement. He established a prosperous real-estate business. Both families were prosperous.
Hemingway\'s parents were Clarence Edmonds "Ed" Hemingway and Grace Hall. They had a fairly happy marriage although they were very different. Grace was the dominant one in the marriage.
Hemingway was an active, imaginative, and fearless youngster. He said at an early age that he wasn\'t afraid of anything. He was aggressive, self-confident, and had a tendency to exaggerate. His mother said that he delighted in shooting imaginary wolves, bears, lions, buffalo, etc., and liked to pretend he was a "soldser". She also said he threw temper tantrums if he didn\'t get his way. (Meyers 9)
Hemingway\'s mother, Grace was an accomplished singer and at one time wanted a career on stage. She settled for being a wife and mother and taught private piano lessons in her home. His father, "Ed", was a doctor who pursued science. His father was a strict disciplinarian while Grace was more permissive. She saw that her children had music lessons and were exposed to the arts. Ernest never had a knack for music and suffered through choir practices and cello lessons.
The gift of the doctor to his children was a knowledge and love of nature. He taught Ernest how to build fires and cook in the open, how to use and ax to build a shelter, how to make fishing flies, how to make bullets, and how to handle fishing gear and guns. He also taught them how to prepare small animals for mounting and how to dress and cook game.
Ernest inherited the temperament and artistic talent of mother and the looks and sporting skills of his father. Both parents, when he was a boy, were foes of dirt and disorder. They brought up their children to follow strict schedules, stand inspection and be scrupulously neat and tidy.
Ernest went to high school in Oak Park where he enjoyed writing for the school\'s literary magazine, reporting for the school\'s weekly newspaper called The Trapeze. He was mediocre at sports, playing football, swimming, water basketball and serving as the track team manager.
Upon graduation in 1917, he was faced with three choices: college, war, or work. His father wanted him to go to college and be a doctor, but he rejected that; he was not in any hurry to go to war, and a job with the Kansas City Star wouldn\'t open until October, so he spent the summer on the farm in Michigan. In October, he took the job as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star and got seven educational months with them.
As a boy his father taught him to hunt and fish along the