Ernest Miller Hemingway was born on 21 July, 1899, the first son of Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway and the second of their six children. Clarence Hemingway was a medical doctor with a small practice in Oak Park, Illinois; his wife was a music teacher with an active interest in church affairs and Christian Science. As a boy, Hemingway seemed to enjoy the best of both worlds. He grew up close to metropolitan center in a suburban or semi-rural community that was also sheltered by distance from the violence and vice of Chicago itself. Moreover, Dr. Hemingway owned a cabin in northern Michigan where his oldest son spent summers developing a life-long passion for hunting and fishing apart from middle-class society.
Acting as a counterweight, Hemingway's mother tried to instill conventional values in her children in the designated role of family disciplinarian. She insisted that Hemingway attend church, that he take music lessons, and that he generally embrace the prevalent Protestant work ethic values of mainstream, Anglo-Saxon America during the Progressive era. Hemingway appears to have rankled at the strictures that his mother's sense of moral order imposed upon him. She was forceful if not domineering with Ernest. A major rift arose between them when Hemingway returned to the United States from service with the American Red Cross in World War I. Despite the wounds (physical, psychological, and spiritual) that he had received, Grace Hemingway complained bitterly about the slow pace of his re-adjustment to normal, civilian life. She demanded that he leave the seclusion of recuperating at the family's Michigan retreat for gainful employment. Ultimately, the budding author left his childhood's nest in the wilderness and entered into the domain of Paris in the 1920s, thereby upping the ante while breaking the rules of game.
More tragically, Hemingway's father suffered from diabetes, financial misfortunes, and chronic depression. All of this would eventually lead to his death by a self-inflicted pistol shot in 1928 just as Hemingway was beginning the reap the material rewards of his advancing literary career. Looking back on his own youth, In retrospect, Hemingway considered his childhood to have been an unhappy one, but he viewed such early alienation as an essential artistic and personal resource, as a necessary ingredient for the realization an individual "heroic code" to guide action. Backtracking to Hemingway's adolescence, he attended and graduated from Oak Park High School where he was a decent, but not an outstanding, athlete and student. His first "published" works were articles and poems that appeared in the school's newspaper. These samples of his skills may have helped him to get his first job after graduation as a copywriter for the Kansas City Star. But by this time, the United States had entered World War I. Hemingway tried to enlist in the United States Army but was rejected due to a vision problem. He then found a close alternative by volunteering to serve as an ambulance driver with the American Red Cross. He was assigned to the Italian Front (Italy switching to the Allied side against Germany and Austria in 1915). Shortly after reaching the front lines (and a few days shy of his nineteenth birthday) Hemingway was wounded in the legs from mortar fire at Fossalta di Pivi on 8 July, 1918. Having seen very little action apart from this assault, Hemingway was eventually transferred to a hospital in Milan. Like Frederic Henry of A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway met a nurse there, Agnes von Kurowsky, and he proposed marriage. Unlike Frederic's lover, Catherine Barkley, Agnes was not Hemingway's "Juliet." Eight years older than the wounded American, Agnes derailed Hemingway's plans to return with a war bride, jilting him to wed an Italian officer instead. Hemingway recovered from his injuries, the War came to an end, and he returned to his native land alone.
As it turns out,...