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Author Study: Ernest Hemingway Curated by Joyce Hur '17

Terse sentences, Modernist Movement, symbolism, Lost Generation, masculinity, alcohol, hunting, complex love affairs - Ernest Hemingway.

Take a Case in Point...

Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961) was one of the most acclaimed writers of the 20th century, especially influential in the Modernist Movement that took place after World War I. His second novel The Sun Also Rises, a novel about the moral atrophy of the expatriate “lost generation” that suffered the traumatic experiences of the war, brought young Hemingway to literary stardom. He was prompted to write this novel from his own experience of the wars – he served in the army multiple times himself – and the huge casualties caused by them, and he wrote about the fidelity of existence and the devastation wars can have on humanity. War is the ultimate conflict in this novel, which makes young Jake and Brett’s love impossible.

1957 Film adaptation of The Sun Also Rises, directed by Henry King, starring Tyrone Power, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer and Errol Flynn.

His Life in His Works

Hemingway was known for inserting his own self into his own novels, thus making his works nearly indistinguishable from himself. Much like many of his protagonists, he drank, hunted, served in the army, boxed, and was a bullfight aficionado. Though this caused controversies during his lifetime, his works continue their legacy after his death and are acclaimed as American classics. Hemingway was born in a small town in Oak Park and was raised in a very religious family and lived under a strictly feminine mother and masculine father, which influenced the gender roles of the characters in his later works. 

Young Hemingway holding his father's gun. Public domain image.

Lost Generation

The Sun Also Rises takes place in Paris of the mid-1920s. This was a time that many Americans were drawn to the artistic glamor of life in Paris, and many writers who found the United States to limit their literary freedom went to France to bloom their writing careers, thanks to the fortunate exchange rate. This was also a time that many people were still scarred from the First World War, and disillusioned by a large number of casualties caused by the war. The novel begins with an epigraph by Ecclesiastes:

What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.”

Here, Hemingway refers to people of his generation losing “human essence,” from painful memories of the war. 

Writers of the Lost Generations, 1923 who moved to Paris to express creativity