Ernest Hemingway: Major Accomplishments and Most Famous Works

Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

In the history of American literature and journalism Ernest Hemingway undoubtedly deserves the distinguished spot that he occupies. The Oak Park, Illinois-born author had a massive impact on American fiction and culture of the 20th century. His personal experiences in some of the most brutal wars, notably World War One and the Spanish Civil War, of the first half of the 20th century were life-changing, which in turn influenced many of his novels and short stories.  A Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Ernest Hemingway produced many masterpieces, including classics such as A Farewell to Arms (1929), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), and The Old Man and the Sea (1952).

Sadly Hemingway committed suicide by shooting himself with a double-barreled shotgun on July 2, 1961. The 61-year-old author had spent his last few years living with depression, high blood pressure, and liver disease.

Quick facts about Ernest Hemingway

Born: July 21, 1899

Place of birth: Oak Park, Illinois, United States

Died on: July 2, 1961

Place of death: Ketchum, Idaho, United States

Died at age: aged 61

Famous as: author and journalist

Education: Oak Park and River Forest High School (1913-1917)

Most famous books: The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Awards: Pulitzer Prize in 1953, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954


Spouses: Hadley Richardson (1921-1927), Pauline Pfeiffer (1927-1940), Martha Gellhorn (1940-1945), Mary Welsh Hemingway (married in 1946)

Children: Jack Hemingway, Patrick Hemingway, Gregory Hemingway

Father: Clarence Edmonds Hemingway (1871-1928)

Mother: Grace Hall Hemingway (1872-1951)

Siblings: Marcelline Hemingway (1898-1963), Ursula Hemingway (1902-1966), Madelaine Hemingway (1904-1995), Carole Hemingway (1911-2002), Leicester Hemingway (1915-1982)

Ernest Hemingway’s Writing Career and Major achievements

Ernest Hemingway – accomplishments

Who was Ernest Hemingway, and why is he considered one of the most acclaimed writers of the 20th century? What were some of his most notable accomplishments? Below, World History Edu explores the life, major achievements and contributions to American literature.

Started honing his talents right from an early age

Hemingway started honing his talents in journalism and writing right from his mid-teens. He was active in his high school newspaper called Trapeze and Tabula. He frequently wrote in the sports section for about two years, writing sometimes under the pen name Ring Lardner Jr.

After high school, he went on to work as a journalist for the Kansas City Star in Kansas city, Missouri. He stayed with the newspaper from mid-autumn of 1917 to the spring of 1918.

Ernest Hemingway received the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery

Ernest Hemingway in World War I

Ernest Hemingway in World War I | Image: Ernest Hemingway in uniform in Milan, 1918. He drove ambulances for two months until he was wounded

At a time when World War One was at its crescendo, Hemingway traveled to Europe to volunteer as an ambulance driver in the Italian Army. He braced terrible and quite frankly dangerous conditions at the Italian front. His defining moment came when he saved the lives of two Italian soldiers. This altruistic feat of his earned him the Italian Silver Medal of Bravery. Just moments before that he had come under severe attacks from a mortar fire. He sustained life-threatening injuries when he was shot at with machine-guns. The budding writer would be rushed to a military hospital in Milan, where he was immediately operated on for the shrapnel wounds he had sustained. He recuperated for about six months in the hospital.

Did you know: Ernest Hemingway was rejected by the U.S. Army because of his poor eyesight?

Hemingway on war

The Sun Also Rises (1926) helped lay the groundwork for his brilliant writing career

The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway’s debut novel titled The Sun Also Rises was published in 1926. Although the novel was met with mixed reviews, Hemingway biographer Jeffrey Meyers regards the novel as Hemingway’s greatest work. The Sun also Rises (1926) was influenced by Hemingway’s 1925 trip with his wife and other British and American expatriates to the Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain.

In what is arguably Hemingway’s greatest novel, The Sun Also Rises (1926), the American writer uses his experiences while touring Europe with a group of American socialites to come out with the masterpiece. In the book, the main character is member of a group of youth who suffer postwar disillusionment. The book summarizes the mental and emotional state of young people who were part of what some authors described as the “Lost Generation”. The book was a huge success, establishing the Illinois-born writer’s career.

Ernest Hemingway's memoir A Movable Feast

Hemingway was a strong admirer of the Parisians’ love of arts and intellectual disciplines – i.e. during the ‘roaring twenties’

A Farewell to Arms (1929) established him as renowned modern writer of the 20th century

Ernest Hemingway's novels

Known as one of his greatest literary works, A Farewell to Arms (1929) was inspired by his experiences as an ambulance driver in World War I, where he met and fell in love with a Red Cross nurse, only for her to reject his marriage proposal. The 355-page novel received favorable criticism, making it one of Hemingway’s best novels.

Back in the U.S., Hemingway and his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer made a home in Key West, Florida. It was around this time that he put finishing touches to his next hit book, A Farewell to Arms. To this day the book remains of one of his most famous works. It is a semi-autobiographical novel based on his experiences in WWI as an ambulance driver. In the novel, the main character gets very disillusioned with the whole war thing and then elopes with a Spanish woman to Switzerland.

Covered the Spanish Civil War

In 1937, Hemingway accepted an assignment to cover the Spanish Civil War for the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA). While there he called for international support for the Popular Front – a military group fighting the fascist regime of Franco.

It was during this assignment of his that he met his third wife Martha Gellhorn, a fellow war correspondent who many consider one of the greatest war correspondent of the 20th century.

In writing, he had the ability to drawn on his experiences in very dangerous situations. This was evident when in 1937 he wrote a play titled The Fifth Column while the city of Madrid was attacked by forces loyal to General Franco.

Read More: Causes and Timeline of the Spanish Civil War

For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) – Hemingway’s most critically acclaimed work

Inspired by his third wife Martha Gellhorn to write the novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway sold about 500,000 copies in just a few months. | Image: First edition cover of For Whom the Bell Tolls, a novel by Ernest Hemingway which was published in 1940

This novel by Hemingway was based on the horrible acts that he witnessed during the Spanish Civil War. The novel follows the life of an American volunteer who interacts with members of the Republican guerrilla unit during the brutal three year war. The novel, which is generally regarded as one of Hemingway’s best works, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Following its publication in 1940, it went on to sell about half a million copies in just a few months.

Correspondent during the Second World War

Ernest Hemingway with Col. Charles Buck Lanham in Germany, 1944, during the fighting in Hürtgenwald in WWII

Perhaps owing to his free-spirited lifestyle and insatiable appetite for adventure, Hemingway never shied away from immersing himself in very dangerous settings. In late spring of 1944, he traveled to Europe to cover World War II as a foreign correspondent.

He joined Allied Forces during the Normandy landings in early June 1944 and the liberation of Paris on August 25, 1944. Like all war correspondents on D-Day, Hemingway was not allowed ashore. The landing craft that he was on did come very close to the Omaha Beach before it was repelled away by a barrage of enemy fire.

As Allied Forces’ efforts to push back Nazi forces intensified that year, Hemingway proceeded to cover the Battle of Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. He braced it all, in some of the most difficult of situations. He came back with pneumonia, which took him about a week to recover.

After getting himself attached to U.S. Army Col. Charles “Buck” Lanham’s of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, Hemingway would find himself acting as the leader of a small group of militia from the French village of Rambouillet just on the outskirts of Paris.

Ernest Hemingway accompanied the Allied Forces that carried out the D-Day landing, an amphibious landing which formed part of an operation to liberate the whole of France from the grips of Nazi forces. Hemingway, however, was not allowed to ashore, as he was a war correspondent.

Received a Bronze Star from the U.S. Armed Forces

For his gallant efforts in covering World War in 1944, he was honored with a Bronze Star by the U.S. Armed Forces in 1947. The award is presented to individuals that chalk heroic achievement or perform a heroic service or meritorious service in combat zone. Hemingway did exactly that by putting his life on the line to cover the horrific events as well as expose the truths during WWII.

In 1947, he received a Bronze Star for his heroics in WWII. He, thus, did not shy away from trying to get an accurate picture of WWII conditions even though he sometimes had to do all of that while under immense fire. The U.S. Armed Forces decoration is bestowed upon individuals for heroic achievement or heroic service or meritorious service in a combat zone

Pulitzer Prize winner in 1953 for The Old Man and the Sea

Original book cover of The Old Man and the Sea, a 1952 short novel by American novelist and journalist Ernest Hemingway. The book earned Hemingway a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953 as well as a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954

Picking himself up from the slightly negative reviews he received for his 1950 novel Across the River and into the Trees, he proceeded to write The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway took about two months to finish the draft of the novel, describing it as the best of his works at the time.

In May 1952, the novel fetched him the Pulitzer Prize, one of the most coveted honors in literature, magazine, and journalism.

Published in 1952, The Old Man and the Sea is a short novel that follows the story of a Cuban fisherman named Santiago who wrestles with a huge marlin fish just off the coast of Cuba. Hemingway wrote the novel while in Cuba.

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1954)

A few months after his two successive plane crashes in Africa, Hemingway received some positive news: the Nobel Prize jury in Stockholm had selected him as the recipient of the winner of 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature. His critically acclaimed 1952 novel The Old Man and the Sea helped garner him enough votes to win the distinguished honor.

In the year that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, he somehow believed that other writers were more deserving of the honor than him. Some say that he got quite a bit of sympathy from the jury – because of the news of his near-death. But there is no doubt that the American writer truly deserved the honor, at least once in his lifetime.

Ernest Hemingway Nobel Prize in Literature

Citation for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954

Developed an iconic style of writing known as the Iceberg Theory

Coming from a background of journalism and writing short stories, Hemingway properly honed his skill set by using a minimalistic writing style. Thus, he came out with the Iceberg theory (also known as the theory of omission), which pays more attention on the facts in a very concise manner while allowing the underlying themes to remain beneath the surface.

Hemingway is most known for a technique that tries to be as concise as possible as well as using words in a very economical manner. This reflective of his interpretation of modernist style, a style that went against the turgid style of the 19th century.

This style of Hemingway was the reason why he became one of the most renowned modern writers of the 20th century. Historians and critics say that the style emerged because of his overexposure to war in Europe, which meant that he had to use simple sentences, often without subordinates, in explaining events. A master of simplicity, Hemingway often infused stylistic and grammatical structures from other languages, especially Spanish. He brilliantly applies this technique in many of his novels, especially in The Sun Also Rises.

More Ernest Hemingway Facts

Ernest Hemingway facts

  • Born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park (formerly Cicero), Illinois, Ernest Hemingway grew up in a very deeply religious Protestant home. His parents were Grace and Clarence Hemingway. His father, Clarence Edmonds Hemingway, was a physician, while his mother, Grace Hall Hemingway, was a musician.
  • He was the second of six children of his parents. He was named after his maternal grandfather, Ernest Miller Hall.
  • At his family’s cabin in northern Michigan, he learned how to fish and hunt, as well as engage in other outdoor activities.
  • He was taught the cello by his mother. As a child, he was reluctant to learn the musical instrument; however, he later stated that the musical instrument helped with his writing style.
  • He played sports in school, including track and field, football, and boxing. He also played in the school orchestra for a number of years.
  • Hemingway followed in the footsteps of journalist-turned-authors like Stephen Crane (1871-1900), Harry Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951), and Mark Twain (1835-1910).
  • Ernest Hemingway performed very well  in his English classes in school.
  • All in all, Hemingway published seven novels, two nonfiction works, and six short-story collections. After his death, a number of his works have been posthumously published, including a short story titled “A Room on the Garden Side” (1956). Published in August 2018 in The Strand Magazine, the short story is set in Paris after the liberation of the city from the Nazis in 1944. Hemingway’s other posthumous publication is the “Black Ass at the Crossroads”
  • Recovering from the physical injuries sustained in WWI, Hemingway’s life was also rocked by the emotional turmoil which came after a nurse named Agnes von Kurowsky rejected his marriage proposal. The physical and emotional scars were enough fodder for the budding writer’s works.
Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway family tree

Ernest Hemingway Quotes

His appreciation for simplicity, immediacy and clarity earned him enormous praise from literary critics. He also had the ability to be direct and minimalist in a way that moved the reader even though he left many things unstated.

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