A Farewell to Arms

Hemingway, Ernest

Ernest Hemingway, 1899–1961, American novelist and short-story writer, b. Oak Park, Ill. one of the great American writers of the 20th cent.


The son of a country doctor, Hemingway worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star after graduating from high school in 1917. During World War I he served as an ambulance driver in France and in the Italian infantry and was wounded just before his 19th birthday. Later, while working in Paris as a correspondent for the Toronto Star, he became involved with the expatriate literary and artistic circle surrounding Gertrude Stein. During the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway served as a correspondent on the loyalist side. He fought in World War II and then settled in Cuba in 1945. In 1954, Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. After his expulsion from Cuba by the Castro regime, he moved to Idaho. He was increasingly plagued by ill health and mental problems, and in July, 1961, he committed suicide by shooting himself.


Hemingway's fiction usually focuses on people living essential, dangerous lives—soldiers, fishermen, athletes, bullfighters—who meet the pain and difficulty of their existence with stoic courage. His celebrated literary style, influenced by Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, is direct, terse, muscular, and often monotonous, yet particularly suited to his elemental subject matter.

Hemingway's first books, Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923), In Our Time (short stories, 1924), and The Torrents of Spring (a novel, 1926), attracted attention primarily because of his literary style. With the publication of The Sun Also Rises (1926), he was recognized as the spokesman of the "lost generation" (so called by Gertrude Stein). The novel concerns a group of psychologically bruised, disillusioned expatriates living in postwar Paris, who take psychic refuge in such immediate physical activities as eating, drinking, traveling, brawling, and lovemaking.

His next important novel, A Farewell to Arms (1929), tells of a tragic wartime love affair between an ambulance driver and an English nurse. Hemingway also published such volumes of short stories as Men without Women (1927) and Winner Take Nothing (1933), as well as The Fifth Column, a play. His First Forty-nine Stories (1938) includes such famous short stories as "The Killers," "The Undefeated," and "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." Hemingway's nonfiction works, Death in the Afternoon (1932), about bullfighting, and Green Hills of Africa (1935), about big-game hunting, glorify virility, bravery, and the virtue of a primal challenge to life.

From his experience in the Spanish Civil War came Hemingway's great novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), which, in detailing an incident in the war, argues for human brotherhood. His novella The Old Man and the Sea (1952) celebrates the indomitable courage of an aged Cuban fisherman. Among Hemingway's other works are the novels To Have and Have Not (1937) and Across the River and into the Trees (1950); he also edited an anthology of stories, Men at War (1942). Posthumous publications include A Moveable Feast (1964, restored ed. 2009), a memoir of Paris in the 1920s; the novels Islands in the Stream (1970) and True at First Light (1999), a safari saga begun in 1954 and edited by his son Patrick; and The Nick Adams Stories (1972), a collection that includes previously unpublished pieces.


See his letters, ed. by C. Baker (1989), by M. J. Bruccoli (1996), and by S. Spanier et al. (2 vol., 2011–); biographies by C. Baker (1969, rev. ed. 1980), J. Meyers (1986), M. S. Reynolds (5 vol. 1987–99), K. Lynn (1988), and J. R. Mellow (1993); P. Hendrickson's biographical Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934–1961 (2011); B. Vejdovsky and M. Hemingway, Hemingway: A Life in Pictures (2011); P. Young, Ernest Hemingway: A Reconsideration (rev. ed. 1966); C. Baker, Hemingway, the Writer as Artist (4th ed. 1972), H. S. Villard and J. Nagel, Hemingway in Love and War (1989), and J. McLendon, Papa (1990); M. S. Reynolds, Hemingway: An Annotated Chronology (1991).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1987
Librarian’s tip: This is a book of literary criticism
Student Companion to Ernest Hemingway
Lisa Tyler.
Greenwood Press, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "A Farewell to Arms (1929)"
Ernest Hemingway: The Critical Heritage
Jeffrey Meyers.
Routledge, 1997
Librarian’s tip: "'A Farewell to Arms (1929)" begins on p. 121
Invalid Masculinity: Silence, Hospitals, and Anesthesia in a Farewell to Arms. (Articles)
Herndl, Diane Price.
The Hemingway Review, Vol. 21, No. 1, Fall 2001
Infantry and Infanticide: In A Farewell to Arms
Pozorski, Aimee L.
The Hemingway Review, Vol. 23, No. 2, Spring 2004
Dirty Tricks and Wordy Jokes: The Politics of Recollection in 'A Farewell to Arms.'
Kleinman, Craig.
The Hemingway Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, Fall 1995
'A Farewell to Arms' and Hemingway Protest Stance: To Tell the Truth without Screaming
Dow, William.
The Hemingway Review, Vol. 15, No. 1, Fall 1995
Partial Articulation: Word Play in a Farewell to Arms
Harrington, Gary.
The Hemingway Review, Vol. 20, No. 2, Spring 2001
"You Don't Know the Italian Language Well Enough": The Bilingual Dialogue of A Farewell to Arms
Cirino, Mark.
The Hemingway Review, Vol. 25, No. 1, Fall 2005
Ferguson and Lesbian Love: Unspoken Subplots in 'A Farewell to Arms.'
Mandel, Miriam.
The Hemingway Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, Fall 1994
Ernest Hemingway: Seven Decades of Criticism
Linda Wagner-Martin.
Michigan State University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of A Farewell to Arms begins on p. 128
Reclaiming Literature: A Teacher's Dilemma
William A. Glasser.
Praeger Publishers, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of A Farewell to Arms begins on p. 58
The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction
Judith Fetterley.
Indiana University Press, 1978
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Two "A Farewell to Arms: Hemingway's 'Resentful Cryptogram'"
Hemingway: Up in Michigan Perspectives
Frederic J. Svoboda; Joseph J. Waldmeir.
Michigan State University Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: "Manners and Morals in A Farewell to Arms" begins on p. 157 and "The Sexual Impasse to Romantic Order in Hemingway's Fiction: A Farewell to Arms, Othello, 'Orpen,' and the Hemingway Canon" begins on p. 177
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