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Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak
Park, Illinois. His father was the owner of a prosperous real
estate business. His father, Dr. Hemingway, imparted to Ernest the
importance of appearances, especially in public. Dr. Hemingway
invented surgical forceps for which he would not accept money. He
believed that one should not profit from something important for
the good of mankind. Ernest's father, a man of high ideals, was
very strict and censored the books he allowed his children to read.
He forbad Ernest's sister from studying ballet for it was
coeducational, and dancing together led to "hell and damnation".
Grace Hall Hemingway, Ernest's mother, considered herself pure
and proper. She was a dreamer who was upset at anything which
disturbed her perception of the world as beautiful. She hated
dirty diapers, upset stomachs, and cleaning house; they were not
fit for a lady. She taught her children to always act with
decorum. She adored the singing of the birds and the smell of
flowers. Her children were expected to behave properly and to
please her, always.
Mrs. Hemingway treated Ernest, when he was a small boy, as if
he were a female baby doll and she dressed him accordingly. This
arrangement was alright until Ernest got to the age when he wanted
to be a "gun-toting Pawnee Bill". He began, at that time, to pull
away from his mother, and never forgave her for his humiliation.
The town of Oak Park, where Ernest grew up, was very old
fashioned and quite religious. The townspeople forbad the word
"virgin" from appearing in school books, and the word "breast" was
questioned, though it appeared in the Bible.
Ernest loved to fish, canoe and explore the woods. When he
couldn't get outside, he escaped to his room and read books. He
loved to tell stories to his classmates, often insisting that a
friend listen to one of his stories. In spite of his mother's
desire, he played on the football team at Oak Park High School.
As a student, Ernest was a perfectionist about his grammar and
studied English with a fervor. He contributed articles to the
weekly school newspaper. It seems that the principal did not
approve of Ernest's writings and he complained, often, about the
content of Ernest's articles.
Ernest was clear about his writing; he wanted people to "see
and feel" and he wanted to enjoy himself while writing. Ernest
loved having fun. If nothing was happening, mischievous Ernest
made something happen. He would sometimes use forbidden words just
to create a ruckus. Ernest, though wild and crazy, was a warm,
caring individual. He loved the sea, mountains and the stars and
hated anyone who he saw as a phoney.
During World War I, Ernest, rejected from service because of a
bad left eye, was an ambulance driver, in Italy, for the Red
Cross. Very much like the hero of A Farewell to Arms, Ernest is
shot in his knee and recuperates in a hospital, tended by a caring
nurse named Agnes. Like Frederick Henry, in the book, he fell in
love with the nurse and was given a medal for his heroism.
Ernest returned home after the war, rejected by the nurse with
whom he fell in love. He would party late into the night and
invite, to his house, people his parents disapproved of. Ernest's
mother rejected him and he felt that he had to move from home.
He moved in with a friend living in Chicago and he wrote
articles for The Toronto Star. In Chicago he met and then married
Hadley Richardson. She believed that he should spend all his time
in writing, and bought him a typewriter for his birthday. They
decided that the best place for a writer to live was Paris, where
he could devote himself to his writing. He said, at the time, that
the most difficult thing to write about was being a man. They
could not live on income from his stories and so Ernest, again,
wrote for The Toronto Star.
Ernest took Hadley to Italy to show her where he had been
during the war. He was devastated, everything had changed,
everything was destroyed.
Hadley became pregnant and was sick all the time. She
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Literature, American literature, Fiction, Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, Hadley Richardson, A Farewell to Arms, Martha Gellhorn, Maxwell Perkins, Knights of the Garter, True at First Light, Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
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