7. Ernest Hemingway

7. Ernest Hemingway
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1. Biography

Ernest Hemingway was born in Illinois in 1899. He spent his childhood in an active way hunting and fishing in the Great Lake region with his father boxing and playing rugby. In 1917 he worked as a reporter for the ‘Kansas City Star’. He started learning and mastering the rules of pure objective writing. 

As America decided to enter the Great War, Hemingway tried to join the army but he was rejected for military service. In 1918 he volunteered as an ambulance driver on the Italian front, he received a silver medal and decoration from the Italian government. 

In 1924 he published his first collection of short stories ‘In Our Time’. He started writing the novel ‘The Sun also rises’ and published ‘Fiesta’. 

In 1929 he published ‘Farewell to Arms’ a love story set among the horrors and sufferings of the war. He would lead to many stories such as ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’, ‘The Green Hills of Africa’. During the Spanish Civil War he recorded in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’

Hemingway’s post-war fiction led to appraisals: ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, ‘Across the river and into the trees’, ‘Islands in the stream’, ‘The garden of Eden’. 

In 1954 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. Hemingway suffered from hypertension, diabetes and acute depression. He feared physical decline and committed suicide in 1961. 

Hemingway wrote in an explicit autobiographical way. The key experience of his childhood was the encounter with nature in which man is rewarded for fighting with skill and courage. Life and death are presented as the driving and mysterious forces of existence. Life is identified with a set of actions which gives man the measure of his control over events. 

He is sensitive to the chaotic world he lives in the pain it inflicts and he wishes he were braver. He is able to live beyond the reach of ordinary human beings. 

Hemingway considered writing a means to reach the knowledge of his own identity. His characters are revealed through dialogue and descriptive passages that evoke a mood. There is very little introspection or analysis of personal feelings and sensations. 

2. A Farewell to Arms (1929)

The Plot

This novel deals with the story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front during World War I. There he falls in love with a beautiful English nurse, Catherine. He meets her again at a Milan hospital where he is sent after being wounded. Eventually Henry decides to desert the army, since all he wants is to be with Catherine. She is pregnant and they escape to Switzerland where she finally dies giving birth to the baby, who also dies. 


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Hemingway employs the technique of the first-person narrator. Henry is full of noble ideals when he joins the army. The language employed is simple but the active participation of the reader in the act of understanding is required. The meaning of the story is revealed through suggestions, omissions and use of free direct speech. 

4. The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1938)

The Plot

The Snows of Kilimanjaro begins with an epigraph describing the snow-covered summit of the mountain called the House of God and close to it there is a dried frozen carcass of a leopard. This animal is the symbol of the protagonist, the writer Harry, who is dying of gangrene in an African hunting-camp, surrounded by vultures and hyenas. 


This short story reflects several of Hemingway’s personal concerns during the 1930s regarding his existence as a writer and his life in general. Hemingway remarked in Green Hills that ‘politics, women, drink, money and ambition’ had damaged American writers. 

The text in Italics reveals Hemingway’s fear of leaving his own work of life unfinished. Hemingwayfound himself in a moral vacuum when he felt alienated from the church which was closely affiliated with Franco in Spain and he felt obliged to distance himself from. As a result he made a mixture of hedonism and sentimental humanism. 

4. The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

The old man and the sea is the novel that earned him the Pulitzer Prize in 1953, which was followed by the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

The plot of The Old Man and the Sea is inspired by Herman Melville’s Moby Dick but this is not a tale of death and defeat. The central theme is in fact the profound link between man and nature. The protagonist feels strongly connected with the environment, the prey itself is not an enemy to be destroyed but a companion to whom, during the long pursuit, the old fisherman turns with respect.

The plot

Santiago is an old Cuban fisherman struck by a misfortune that does not abandon him. It is now 84 days since he has not caught anything and is almost reduced to misery. But returning home one evening with the young man, who usually accompanied him, he feels that the next day, the 85th, he will get better.


The descriptions are numerous and narrated in chronological order, with some flash-backs of the old sailor and past adventures. There are different types of speeches between the characters: direct speeches and above all indirect speeches (when the old Santiago is in the boat alone that he thinks).

The narrator is external: he does not intervene with comments and above all his purpose is to relate the facts realistically. The novel is divided into two large macro sequences: in the first we find the events on land, the story of Santiago and Manolin while in the second part we find the story of the duel at sea and of the landscape in which the clash takes place, or the sea of the gulf of Cuba.

The story is centered on a single story, it involves the reader in a passionate way and so, even those who are not interested in the world of fishing, appreciate this story full of ideas in different areas:

  • the cruel challenge, but based on loyalty and respect, between the old man and the fish;
  • the story of an experienced fisherman who wants to catch a prey that has eluded him for eighty-four days;
  • observe the fisherman who admires his enemy, the strength and courage that he demonstrates;
  • loyalty in the challenge: the two fight on equal terms;
  • observe how even an elderly person, immersed in his reality, can imagine living in the savannah and having sports idols capable of giving him the energy to continue fighting in his own adversity.
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