Ernest Hemingway: The Man Behind the Legend (Part 1)

On July 21st, 1899, Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois to his father Clarence Edmonds and mother Grace Hall Hemingway. His father was a physician while his mother was a musician; both were very educated and respected in their own community. The man that we call Hemingway is famous for his love of outdoors and adventure. When he was a young child, Hemingway expressed this passion for the outdoors while spending time at his families summer home in Michigan.


Photo: Bust

Ernest Hemingway spent his high school years at Oak Park and River Forest High School where he was very active and involved. He excelled in sports such as boxing, track, and water polo, but also performed well in English and even orchestra. One year he decided to take a journalism class which was where Hemingway published his first piece in the school newspaper in 1916. His interest in journalism sparked his interest in writing and when Hemingway graduated high school he went on to work at The Kansas City Star as a reporter. However, this passion was short lived, Hemingway only worked for the newspaper for 6 months.

In 1918, Hemingway was recruited by the Red Cross where he signed up to drive an ambulance in Italy during World War I. Hemingway was wounded on July 8th from a mortar fire that took place helping men on the front line. He suffered shrapnel wounds in both legs and eventually underwent surgery to remove the shrapnel. Hemingway continued to assist Italian soldiers despite his injury, his bravery received him the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery. During his recuperation, Hemingway met and fell in love with a young woman named Agnes von Kurowsky. Agnes and Ernest were engaged for a brief period of time before she left him for another man. In 1919 Agnes became engaged to an Italian officer and left Hemingway.

Heartbroken and still recovering Hemingway returned to the United States in 1919. In the fall of 1919 Ernest accepted a job from a family friend working in Toronto for the Toronto Star Weekly. Hemingway began as a staff writer and eventually moved back to United States, but continued to write stories for the newspaper. While living in Chicago, Ernest picked up another job as an associate editor for the Cooperative Commonwealth. This is where Hemingway met his first wife Hadley Richardson, the two were married on September 3rd, 1921. After being married the couple immediately left for Paris to achieve their dreams of traveling through Europe.


Hemingway and Hadley’s wedding day. Photo: Tulip by any Name

It could be said that Paris is the place that shaped Hemingway into the author that he was. Many famous authors lived and worked in Paris at this time and Hemingway was among the best of them including Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound. While living in Paris Hemingway continued to write for the Toronto Star, reporting on the Greco Turkish War and the burning of Smyrna. After spending quite a bit of time in Paris Ernest and Agnes eventually moved back to Toronto and Hemingway’s son John was born. While away from Paris Hemingway was published, the book titled Three Stories and Ten Poems was his debut publication in the literary world. The coupe spent a few months in Toronto until Hemingway became bored with the city and eventually moved back to Paris in January 1924.


Hemingway and his second wife Pauline. Photo: Dailymail

While working on The Sun Also Rises, Ernest began an affair with Pauline Pfeiffer. In October 1926, Scribners published Hemingway’s first novel The Sun Also Rises. This year marked the same year that his wife Hadley became aware of Hemingway’s affair. Hadley requested a divorce which Hemingway agreed to, the two were officially divorced in January 1927. A few months later, Hemingway and Pfeiffer were married. In another couple months Hemingway’s third book was published, Men without Women, which was a collection of short stories.


Photo: Ink Tank

By the end of 1927, Ernest and Pauline decided to leave Paris and come back to the United States. This marked the beginning of Hemingway’s time spent in Key West. After the birth of his second son, Hemingway began working on a draft of A Farewell to Arms which was published as a serialization in Scribners Magazine, and published as a novel in September 1929. This novel established Hemingway as a serious author and the first edition of the novel sold around 30,000 copies. Ernest continued to live with his wife Pauline in Key West while working on other writing projects.


Hemingway and Gellhorn. Photo: Pinterest

In 1937, Hemingway decided to begin reporting on the Spanish Civil War and traveled to Spain with filmmaker Joris Ivens. Hemingway replaced John Dos Passos on the film and became the screenwriter for The Spanish Earth. While working on this project Hemingway was joined by writer Martha Gellhorn, who he would eventually marry later on. This affair continued on until Pauline left Hemingway and their divorce was finalized. A few months after Pauline and Ernest’s divorce, Hemingway married Martha Gellhorn on November 20th, 1940.