54 Years Ago, Ernest Hemingway Died
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54 Years Ago, Ernest Hemingway Died


Ernest Hemingway was an American writer and pretty much the greatest thing to happen to this country before—and even after—sliced bread. Born on July 21st, just two days before yours truly (albeit in 80 years prior), under the zodiac sign of Cancer, Hemingway one of the most influential people of the 20th century. Besides having won a Pulitzer Prize in 1952 and a Nobel Prize in 1954, the infamous expatriate became of the more notable members of the “Lost Generation.” He was known for his novels and short stories, as well as his renegade lifestyle and acute drinking problem.

Off and Running

Some of us (say, er, me) chose to ignore our God-given gifts until we sobered up but the legacy of Hemingway began as early as 1916, when a piece he wrote about the Chicago Symphony was chosen to be published in The Trapeze, his high school newspaper. He soon became a regular contributor and eventually moved on to become editor not only of the paper but also the yearbook. After graduation, he skipped college and immediately joined The Kansas City Star staff as a sports reporter.

The idea of the Ernest Hemingway lending his The Sun Also Rises talents to pontificate about the Chicago Cubs is an interesting dichotomy to me, but it just goes to show that we all have to start somewhere.

A Classics Machine

Hemingway’s career was fluid and upward moving. By the time he was 24, he had moved to Paris, was reporting for the Toronto Star Weekly and had debuted his first personal collection of works. Three Stories and Ten Poems, while a shockingly mundane title for a first publication, was representative of Hemingway’s unique style of simple sentences and to-the-point expression (but let’s face it, this would probably be a hard sell in today’s market without a powerhouse of a PR team).

Just two years later, Hemingway produced the classic American novel The Sun Also Rises, followed by A Farewell to Arms—where the author reflects upon his short-lived career in the military during World War I. He continued to work and publish steadily until 1940 when he came out with For Whom the Bell Tolls, another revered classic. In 1951, The Old Man and The Sea was Hemingway’s final masterpiece, though he continued writing for the next decade, until his death in 1961, and had several works published posthumously.

The Not-So-Great Decline

Hemingway didn’t die from alcoholism but from its second cousin: suicide. Although some argue that severe depression and paranoia and fear—all of which plagued the writer for the years leading up to his death—are characteristics of advanced alcohol abuse, for Hemingway, there may have been other factors at play. His father, Clarence Hemingway, had a genetic disorder called hemochromatosis, which affected his mental health and caused him to take his own life—as did Hemingway’s sister Ursula and brother Leicester. So drinking or not, Hemingway might have been facing his own genetic death penalty all along.

Despite his vices, mental health issues and physical ailments—such as hypertension and diabetes—Hemingway completed more over his 61-year lifetime than most couldn’t accomplish in five lives. Four wives, three children and an impressive collection of novels, short stories, poems, plays and non-fiction works make it no wonder that Americans regard him as a literary demigod. Hemingway’s short and short, choppy prose and raw, gruff tone changed the way the world views modern art and literature, arguably making him a trail blazer for writers like Charles Bukowski and artists like Tom Waits. Still, I have to ask: is it any accident that they also shared the same demons?

Photo courtesy of Not specified, owned by John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (resized and cropped)

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.