Hemingway: A How-To Guide to Living the Life of Literature’s Manly Man

Ernest Hemingway & Gary Cooper

Ernest Hemingway & Gary Cooper


Disclosure: I understand the sexism inherent within the title. It is intended as somewhat tongue-in-cheek, though by society’s standards I would definitely label Hemingway as such.

Below is the telling, in brief, of the life of one Ernest Hemingway, a man whose adventures were many and whose stories were great. Here is your guide to living as he did.

Step One: Have a manly childhood.

At the age of three, Hemingway’s father gives him his first fishing rod; at the age of ten, his first shotgun.

Hemingway grows up near Chicago, one of six kids belonging to strict, conservative parents. He is taught to hunt and fish when he is a boy, spending many a day out in the wilderness near the family vacation home in Michigan.

Hemingway excells in school and at sports, primarily football and boxing, though writing quickly becomes his passion. Because of this, he spends his final year of school editing The Trapeze, Oak Park High School’s magazine, and upon graduating joins the Kansas City Star as a junior reporter.

Despite his successes and what seems like the ideal upbringing, Hemingway still runs away from school, and home, twice. He has an anxiousness build-up inside of him, a desire to do more, to see more. He wants adventure.

Step Two: Go on an adventure.

This comes to him in the form of the U.S.A. declaring war on Germany. In the final year of the First World War, Hemingway joins the Red Cross as an ambulance driver, where he is sent to Italy. Here on the Piave Front, during an act of rescue, Hemingway is wounded. For this act of bravery under fire, Hemingway is decorated by both the Italian and American governments. He returns home a war hero.

Already Hemingway’s life reads like a novel, with drama, action and suspense. When he arrives home, PTSD sets in and he begins to suffer from terrible nightmares and insomnia. During this time he spends most of his waking hours reading or drinking. It is also during this time that he begins to write seriously.

Step Three: Remember, this takes time.

But in the same year that Fitzgerald publishes This Side of Paradise, Hemingway is having no luck at all. What he has written is met with disinterest or disapproval. However, he is able to join the Toronto Star and by the next year is married to Hadley Richardson and off to Paris as a correspondent.

Step Four: Travel the world.

Hemingway travels Europe as a correspondent, covering various wars and conventions for the Toronto Star. It is here in Paris and Europe that Hemingway finds what he needs to propel his writing career. Firstly, he meets Gertrude Stein, the woman who would eventually take him under her wing and help his literature bear fruit. Secondly, and seemingly unconnected, Hemingway sees his first bullfight.

Step Five: Follow sports.

It isn’t two years after his first bullfight that Hemingway becomes hooked, following the fights and the fighters. It is during this time that he begins writing The Sun Also Rises, pulling from his experiences of Spain and bullfighting.

Though Hemingway has already started receiving praise and acknowledgement for his writing in the years leading up to The Sun Also Rises, it is this book that brings him to fame’s door. And it turns out to be not just a literary success, but a financial one as well. Hemingway also publishes several other books in these years, including Men Without Women, another great success.

Step Six: Find a hobby.

By this point, Hemingway is not wanting for time or money and is spending much of that time (and money) fishing and hunting, an appropriate pastime given his childhood. He has remarried reporter Pauline Pfeiffer after an affair with her ended his first marriage (a similar incident would occur not ten years later when Hemingway has an affair with, and later marries, Martha Gellhorn). In 1928, he helps create Esquire Magazine.

If one were to stop at this point and live the rest of life in peace and quiet, the life would still be considered a memorable one, full of stories and adventures. It would be a life worth telling at the Christmas party.

Step Seven: Don’t stop.

But Hemingway doesn’t stop; it seems his life was to get even more surreal. He buys a deep-sea fishing boat, catches a record-breaking Black Marlin in 1934 which he presents to the Miami Deep Sea Fishing Club, and the next year wins every deep-sea fishing competition in what’s known as the Key West-Havana-Bimini Triangle.

Step Eight: Have scars.

During one of these fishing voyages, Hemingway shoots himself in the foot trying to kill a shark.

Step Nine: Do awesome things.

During the Spanish Civil War, Hemingway goes as a war correspondent, spending his spare time locating food and funding for the combatants there, especially the wounded. It was this place that inspired Hemingway’s other great and probably most famous novel, For Whom The Bell Tolls.

In 1941, he goes submarine chasing, customising his boat so as to help the U.S. Navy in the hunt for German U-boats off the coast of the Mediterranean.

Step Ten: Be presumed dead… twice.

The success of his novels, particularly For Whom The Bell Tolls, has made him very popular. While in London as a war correspondent during the latter years of the Second World War, Hemingway is involved in a car crash and the world’s press report him dead.

But it wasn’t to be. Hemingway is alive and traveling around Europe, though his life is beginning to slow down. He remarries, this time to Mary Welsh, and spends most of his time in Cuba, attending boxing matches and cockfights (See step five). In 1953 he is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for both Fiction and Drama, his winning works being Old Man and the Sea and Picnic.

He is reported dead again when his plane crashes during an African safari later that year. The first plane crash was minor, the second plane crash finds Hemingway suffering from a fractured skull (he used it to bash open the plane doors); two cracked discs in his spine; a dislocated right shoulder; a ruptured spleen, right kidney and liver; a paralysed sphincter muscle and burns to his arms, face and head (see step eight). His vision and hearing are also impaired.

Step Eleven: Be successful.

The next year he wins the Nobel Prize for Literature, which due to medical reasons he fails to attend, as well as the Annual Prize of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.


Over the few years following, life begins to fade for Hemingway. He becomes sicker and sicker, though he still travels between the USA, Europe and Cuba. And though he continues to write, his focus has changed to the study of bullfighting. In 1961, after suffering from serious depression, Hemingway commits suicide on July 2nd.

He is 61 years old. It is his third suicide attempt that year.


It’s hardly a happy ending for our hero, and his life was never wanting of misfortune. He married four times; suffered from PTSD, anxiety, paranoia, alcohol addiction and depression, not to mention his physical injuries; and lived an incredibly solitary, lonely life.

It was a life that epitomised the lost generation, who found themselves in the middle of Europe, wandering around without really knowing what was happening or what to do. Hemingway was also a workaholic, and by the time of his death had published approximately a dozen novels, numerous letters and articles, had worked on a play, and many of his works were developed into films, several during his lifetime. Several unfinished novels would be published after his passing.

Perhaps it isn’t the life to aspire towards, but it is one to admire and reflect upon. It is not often that the life of a great writer parallels, and often exceeds, the adventures found in the same writer’s books.