Ernest Miller Hemingway: His Influences

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Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois. Alongside his love for sports and alcohol, he forged a successful career as an esteemed writer and emerged as a pivotal figure in 20th-century literature.

Ernest Hemingway’s life and artwork were influenced by a variety of factors, which included his injury in Italy, time spent as an expatriate in Paris, and his passion for sports and adventure. These influences played a significant role in shaping both Hemingway’s life and his artwork. Following high school graduation, he joined the Kansas City Star, one of the prominent newspapers in the United States during that period.

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As a young reporter, Hemingway received valuable advice on writing that greatly influenced his literary style. The guidance included using short sentences and brief first paragraphs, employing strong English language, and maintaining a positive tone (Guide 7). Incorporating journalistic techniques, this advice shaped his writing approach. Shortly after, World War I erupted and Hemingway felt a strong desire to contribute. He eagerly volunteered for the Red Cross and bravely served in the front lines of northern Italy.

During his time in the trenches, Hemingway encountered the desired action. While distributing chocolate to the injured, a mortar shell detonated above him, causing him to be struck by shrapnel and collapsing. Shortly after, two bearers arrived to transport him but were targeted by a machine gunner, resulting in all three individuals being injured. Hemingway endured a total of 227 wounds before reaching a place of safety.

Hemingway earned a reputation as the first person to be injured on the Italian front. While there is no definitive proof, it became widely known that Hemingway, despite his own injuries from shrapnel and bullets, transported a wounded soldier to the red cross tent. Whether this account is true or not, Hemingway was honored by the Italian government with their highest medal for his courage and wounds. After recuperating and coming back to the United States, Hemingway gave a speech to students at his former high school.

“The explosion created a chaotic, red atmosphere that made me feel completely submerged. In that moment, the idea came to mind, ‘Wow! Stein, you’re no more,’ but gradually I returned to awareness of the real world and eventually regained consciousness.” (Bruccoli 4) Nonetheless, Hemingway was forever haunted by the event and could no longer sleep without illumination.

According to Hemingway, any experience of war is valuable to a writer but can be destructive if it is too much (Guide 8). A critic named Philip Young, along with many others, believed that this wound played a significant role in Hemingway’s writing (Bruccoli 114). However, Hemingway himself did not agree with this perspective.

Bruccoli (115) states that the impact of wounds can vary significantly, with minor wounds having little consequence and potentially even boosting confidence. However, injuries that cause extensive damage to bones and nerves are harmful not only to writers but also to anyone else. Despite differing viewpoints, Hemingway’s early love for war novels such as For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms, and The Sun Also Rises, along with many early short stories, shows a deep understanding of the losses associated with warfare. Another notable period in Hemingway’s life was his time in Paris, where he exclusively worked as a writer.

After World War I, Hemingway started working as a journalist for the Toronto Star. Later, he moved to Paris and became a foreign correspondent. However, he eventually moved away from journalism and relied on his wife Hadley’s inheritance and income from publishing his early work in journals. While living in Paris, Hemingway had the opportunity to interact with renowned writers such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Ford Madox Ford, and others.

Ernest Hemingway greatly admired Paris for its lively literary and artistic community, which he fully embraced. Sherwood Anderson, a writer, played a pivotal role in introducing Hemingway to this society. It was during their time together in Chicago post-war that Hemingway not only developed a friendship with Anderson but also met his future wife, Hadley. The opportunities offered by Anderson in Paris held immense value for Hemingway. Thanks to Anderson’s connections, Hemingway had the privilege of becoming acquainted with Gertrude Stein, an unconventional writer and art collector. Stein’s home became a regular gathering place for Hemingway.

Gertrude Stein’s salon in Rue de Fleurus served as the artistic center for expatriates such as Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Ford Madox Ford (Criticisms 8). It was here that Stein read Hemingway’s early work and advised him to trim it down and search for “one true sentence.” Concurrently, Stein was experimenting with repetition and rhythms in her own writing. Following Stein’s death, there arose a dispute regarding her influence on Hemingway. As an established writer, Hemingway remarked, “Miss Stein wrote extensively and with significant inaccuracies about her impact on my work.”

After learning to write dialogue from The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway expressed his gratitude towards Gertrude Stein for teaching him about the abstract relationship of words. It is difficult to determine how much he truly gained from his interactions with these renowned writers. However, he did adopt Pound’s philosophy of “make it new” and followed Stein’s advice of distrusting adjectives and maintaining concise and authentic sentences. As Hemingway grew older, he acknowledged that writing was a lonely pursuit. Additionally, his Epicurean lifestyle greatly influenced his body of work.

Burwell (xvii) suggests that Hemingway’s life was a continuous pursuit of thrilling experiences. From his youth, he actively engaged in boxing and hunting. Following his high school education, he joined the military before embarking on a journey to Paris to fully embrace the vibrant expatriate community that thrived during the interwar period.

After taking part in the Spanish Civil War, he armed his fishing boat called The Pilar to patrol the Florida Keys waters in World War II. While in Spain, he developed a strong passion for bullfighting and often mingled with bullfighters. Additionally, he was an enthusiastic hunter of large game and a committed sport fisherman. Despite these interests, he successfully married four times and had several affairs. His novels reflect the thrilling adventures of his life.

In Hemingway’s work, every activity mentioned above has a literary equivalent. Hemingway himself expresses it in the following way: “The good parts of a book may be only something a writer is lucky enough to overhear or it may be the wreck of his whole damn life and one is as good as the other” (Bookshelf 98). Understanding the influences of one’s own life is challenging, and attempting to determine the major influences on another person’s life is almost impossible. However, when it comes to Hemingway, I believe that the best way to understand him is by reading his novels and short stories.

To gain a genuine understanding of Ernest Miller Hemingway, it is necessary to delve into his life. It would be presumptuous to assert the three utmost sources of inspiration and growth for him. Nevertheless, considering the aforementioned particulars, it becomes clear that Hemingway’s involvement in the military, sojourn in Paris, and embrace of an Epicurean way of life were three pivotal elements that molded his persona.

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Ernest Miller Hemingway: His Influences. (2019, Feb 16). Retrieved from

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