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What Influence Did Ernest Hemingway Have on Creative Writing?

Hemingway was a giant in his time; he impacted culture and literature alike. For those hoping to pursue a career in creative writing, there are numerous stories and anecdotes they might tell about the man and his techniques.

The Gold Medal And Nobel Prize

Hemingway is perhaps most well-known for winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, which made him the first author to have ever won the prestigious award, and the first person to win it twice. In 1929, he became the first author to publish an anti-war novel, The Sun Also Rises. And his fiftieth and final collected works were published in 1966, entitled Farewell To Arms. The Gold Medal and Nobel Prize were undoubtedly well-deserved. 

A Master Storyteller

It is important to remember that not only was Ernest Hemingway a successful and prolific author, he was also a master storyteller; he was able to spin incredible tales that kept even the most cynical reader on the edge of their seat. Take, for example, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, a harrowing account of an expedition to Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, or The Old Man And The Sea, a story that draws from Hemingway’s experience as a fisherman in Cuba, among other locations. These are just two of the many incredible stories that made Hemingway one of the greatest authors of all time. 

The Master And Commander

If there was one book that exemplified Hemingway’s creativity, it was A Farewell To Arms, the story of an ambulance driver during World War I. However, that is just one of many books and tales he is accredited with writing. While A Farewell To Arms is a superb narrative, it is only one part of a much larger story. As evidenced by The Sun Also Rises, another brilliant example of his storytelling prowess, Hemingway was quite capable of weaving multiple narratives into one cohesive work. Even his non-fiction works, such as Without Feathers, follow this pattern. By combining various short stories into a single volume, The Second Novel, or The Short Stories, he was able to give his career as a whole a greater thematic flow. This ability to tell a story across different genres and from various perspectives definitely influenced his creative writing students, and those hoping to write their own stories, to create characters and worlds that are cohesive, but also have an element of unpredictability, as Hemingway himself was often able to achieve.

The Grand Tour

Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, journalist Martha Gellhorn, was the one who encouraged him to take a year off and go on a ‘world tour’. This was a period of travel that lasted from April 1922 until October 1923, during which Hemingway visited a number of locations, including much of northern Europe and North Africa. He kept a travel diary during this period, which was later published as One Trip Around the World in Eighty Books. During this time, he was also able to write The Adventures Of A Young Man, which was another important milestone in his literary career. It was also during this period that he wrote the short story that would eventually become A Farewell To Arms. The fact that he was able to put his thoughts and feelings on paper during this time is testament to the positive effect that the journey must have had on him.

Fellow Traveler

This was not the first time that Hemingway had traveled abroad. He had previously lived in Paris for several years, and had even taught at the Académie Française. However, it was his 1922-23 trip that truly changed his life. While he did not always get along with his wife and fellow journalist Martha, he learned to value the friendship he gained from other travelers. Amongst his friends was a Russian journalist, Alexander Kerensky. After seeing the success that Hemingway had, Kerensky encouraged him to continue writing. In 1926, Hemingway and Kerensky co-authored The Torrents of Spring, a collection of stories that were eventually turned into a play. During this time, they also formed a traveling theater company, which included Martha Gellhorn, with whom Hemingway had a daughter, Margaux. Although The Torrents of Spring was turned into a movie in 1943, it was not until 1960 that it was reissued in printed form. In addition to being a successful playwright, Kerensky went on to become the acting Prime Minister of Russia in 1917.

Creating An Outstanding University

When Hemingway returned from his travels, he went back to work, first at a bank in Cuba, and then he accepted a position at the University of Minnesota. It was during this time he began work on his novel, The Sun Also Rises, which he had started during his travels. In order to create a truly memorable experience for his readers, Hemingway decided to teach at the university level. Using his connections, he was able to attract several famous writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who taught a section of English Literature, and T.S. Eliot, who taught a section of Creative Writing. It was during this time that Eliot became a good friend, and perhaps even more than that, an important mentor to Hemingway. In turn, Hemingway taught Eliot about literature and poetry and helped him to find success as a writer.

The Final Years

After his time at the University of Minnesota, Hemingway worked as a charter yacht broker in St. Thomas and at a fishing camp in the Bahamas. He later went back to work as a boat captain for a wealthy family in Kansas. However, it was not long before his health began to decline, and so, in 1928, he moved to another fishing camp in Canada. In later life, Hemingway’s health deteriorated, and he suffered from heart problems, as well as respiratory ailments. He also underwent a quadruple bypass surgery in 1960. He remained active until his death in October 1961, at the age of 75. If you would like to learn more about the life and legacy of Ernest Hemingway, visit the Stanford University Library’s website, which has an incredible collection of primary and secondary source documents, as well as biographies and memoirs.