Ernest Miller Hemingway


Ernest Miller Hemingway was born at eight o\'clock in the morning on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. In the nearly sixty two years of his life that followed he forged a literary reputation unsurpassed in the twentieth century. In doing so, he also created a mythological hero in himself that captivated not only serious literary critics but the average man as well. In a word, he was a star.


Born in the family home at 439 North Oak Park Avenue, a house built by his widowed grandfather Ernest Hall, Hemingway was the second of Dr. Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway\'s six children; he had four sisters and one brother. He was named after his maternal grandfather Ernest Hall and his great uncle Miller Hall.


As a boy he was taught by his father to hunt and fish along the shores and in the forests surrounding Lake Michigan. The Hemingways had a summer house called Windermere on Walloon Lake in northern Michigan, and the family would spend the summer months there trying to stay cool. Hemingway would either fish the different streams that ran into the lake, or would take the row boat out to do some fishing there. He would also go squirrel hunting in the woods near the summer house, discovering early in life the serenity to be found while alone in the forest or wading a stream. It was something he could always go back to throughout his life, wherever he was. Nature would be the touchstone of Hemingway\'s life and work, and though he often found himself living in major cities like Chicago, Toronto and Paris early in his career, once he became successful he chose somewhat isolated places to live like Key West, or San Francisco de Paula, Cuba, or Ketchum, Idaho. All were convenient locales for hunting and fishing.


Hemingway received his formal schooling in the Oak Park public school system. In high school he was mediocre at sports, playing football, swimming, water basketball and serving as the track team manager. He enjoyed working on the high school newspaper called the Trapeze, where he wrote his first articles, usually humorous pieces in the style of Ring Lardner, a popular satirist of the time. Hemingway graduated in the spring of 1917 and instead of going to college the following fall like his parents expected, he took a job as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star; the job was arranged for by his Uncle Tyler who was a close friend of the chief editorial writer of the paper.


At the time of Hemingway\'s graduation from High School, World War I was raging in Europe, and despite Woodrow Wilson\'s attempts to keep America out of the war, the United States joined the Allies in the fight against Germany and Austria in April, 1917. When Hemingway turned eighteen he tried to enlist in the army, but was deferred because of poor vision; he had a bad left eye that he probably inherited from his mother, who also had poor vision. When he heard the Red Cross was taking volunteers as ambulance drivers he quickly signed up. He was accepted in December of 1917, left his job at the paper in April of 1918, and sailed for Europe in May. In the short time that Hemingway worked for the Kansas City Star he learned some stylistic lessons that would later influence his fiction. The newspaper advocated short sentences, short paragraphs, active verbs, authenticity, compression, clarity and immediacy. Hemingway later said: "Those were the best rules I ever learned for the business of writing. I\'ve never forgotten them."


When Hemingway returned home from Italy in January of 1919 he found Oak Park dull compared to the adventures of war, the beauty of foreign lands. He was nineteen years old and only a year and a half removed from high school, but the war had matured him beyond his years. Living with his parents, who never quite appreciated what their son had been through, was difficult. Soon after his homecoming they began to question his future, began to pressure him to find work or to further his education, but Hemingway couldn\'t seem to muster interest in anything.