In Our Time: Biography

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Ernest Miller Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on July 21, 1899. His father, Clarence Hemingway, was a doctor, and his mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, taught music lessons. Hemingway had four sisters and one brother; he was the second oldest child. Growing up in Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago, Hemingway was exposed to the conservative, religious Midwestern values of the upper middle class. He did not grow up solely in the city, however. The family had a summer lake homein Michigan. There, Hemingway learned to hunt and fish from his father; he developed a taste for solitary, peaceful moments spent outdoors.

In high school in Oak Park, Hemingway also developed a taste for writing. He worked for the school newspaper, and after graduation in 1917, Hemingway went straight to work as a reporter for the Kansas City Star. Hemingway quickly learned to write in journalistic style that dictated brevity and clarity.

Hemingway left the Star in April 1918 when he volunteered to be an ambulance driver for the Red Cross during World War I. Only weeks after arriving in Italy, a mortar shell exploded near him and sent dozens of fragments into his legs. Despite his wounds, he continued to see to wounded Italian soldiers around him, and he was awarded the Italian Silver Medal of Valor.  Hemingway recovered in an Italian hospital, falling in love with a nurse there; the affair later inspired A Farewell to Arms.

Upon his return to his parents’ home in 1919, Hemingway did not fit into the conventional suburban life among people who did not understand what he had experienced during the war. Finally, Hemingway found his feet and began to write for the Toronto Star Weekly. After marrying Hadley Richardson in 1921, he moved to France as European correspondent for the Toronto Daily Star. In Paris, he met literary luminaries such as Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce.

From 1925 to 1928, Hemingway wrote the short stories that would become In Our Time (American version published in 1925), The Torrents of Spring (1925), The Sun Also Rises (1926), and Men Without Women (1927). After marrying a second wife (he had four), Pauline Pfeiffer, and moving to Key West, Florida, in 1928, Hemingway embraced sport fishing and published A Farewell to Arms in 1929.After a trip to Africa in 1933, he wrote two of his best-known short stories, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” After traveling to Spain to report on the Spanish Civil War in 1937, Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). Hemingway did not have another critical success until he published The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. In 1954, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

After a plane crash in 1954, Hemingway suffered deteriorating health and severe depression. His hard-living lifestyle finally caught up with him. After enduring shock treatments for his depression, Hemingway could no longer write. On July 2, 1961, he committed suicide.

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