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Ernest Hemingway’s Personality and His Reflections on WWI Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 23rd, 2020


Born on July 21, 1889, Ernest Hemingway grew up in Illinois and later joined the military before winning the Nobel Peace Prize. His great pieces of literature include The Old Man and the Sea, To have and have Not, The Sun Also Rises, and A Movable Feast, among other aesthetic works of art. Hemingway’s diversity in different fields within the scope of volunteering during World War I, failed relationships, boxing stints, and journalism is believed to have equipped him with the necessary skills to become a great writer. This paper unmasks Ernest Hemingway’s personality in relation to his experience in World War I, coupled with how it affected his writings.

Ernest Hemingway’s personality and how the WWI influenced it

Ernest Hemingway is perceived as an individual of contrasting personalities characterized by mood swings that tend to influence his decisions, especially in his line of writing. His self-esteem comes out as shaky, as portrayed by instances of confidence replaced by a lack of trust within a relatively short period. This aspect saw him marry and divorce a couple of times during the First World War. Hemmingway connects with Wilson-Harris in The Sun Also Rises. Knight posits, Wilson-Harris “is one among the gallery portraits of those who became members of the Lost Generation due to World War I” (108). Hemmingway, just like Wilson-Harris, was a member of the Lost Generation.

He comes out as an individual that seeks self-glorification. In 1921, Hemmingway decided to leave for France together with his wife, Hadley Richardson. Mitchell posits, “Boxing was a useful way of drawing attention to himself” (8). After failing to join the military, he decided to go to France and pursue his passion for boxing before joining the Lost Generation. Joining the army for him implied that he would portray his strength in the battlefields, but his failure did not stop him from engaging in such activities. His personality could not allow failure, which explains why he joined boxing to recompense his failure in the military.

Ernest Hemingway is promiscuous. His promiscuity manifests in his failure in conjugal matters and romance. Women seem to catch his eyes even in his writings, thus implying that he admires women to the extent that they can disrupt his writing. In a café at St Michel, he describes the complexity of a beautiful woman, and he is tempted to approach her before he realizes she is waiting for someone else. He confesses, “I looked at her, and she disturbed me and made me very excited” (Hemingway 17). This aspect depicts his desire and attitude towards women resulting in his four marriages, some of which ended in divorce. Therefore, it is evident that his failure to join the military due to an eye defect during the WW I subjected him to pressure to conquer the romantic world, only to fail a number of times.

As an enthusiastic individual, Hemingway was able to enhance his language skills in French. Mitchel posits, “One useful by-product of Hemingway’s enthusiasm for boxing and other sporting events was rapid improvement in his French language skills” (10). The persistence and enthusiasm showed by Hemmingway in his effort to learn French through reading sports articles can be termed as remarkable. His efforts can also be associated with his desire not to fail in his new line of profession, viz. writing, after he stumbled in joining the military.

Hemingway’s Sentiments in the Lost Generation

Ernest Hemingway’s contribution to the works of the Lost Generation is evident. While working in France for the Toronto Star as a correspondent, the survivors of World War I was termed as the Lost Generation due to the adversities they went through. In this light, Hemmingway took part in writing literary texts alongside other writers such as Gertrude Stein in the Lost Generation group.

However, his emotions and perceptions, as depicted in the literary works, have elicited mixed reactions, thus prompting an analysis of his sensitivity or cold-heartedness in this case. The events of World War I and Hemmingway’s personal experiences seemed to have an impact on his writings as he sought to establish himself alongside great writers in the Lost Generation, thus portraying his sensitivity. Apparently, “The experience of war also had a great influence on the Lost Generation’s attitudes towards other generations” (Toker 25). Therefore, they became alienated.

Hemmingway’s drinking behavior and his fellows evoked sensitive reactions, as seen in the stories that they wrote in the Lost Generation. The insight that Hemingway brought to the Lost Generation indicated that the tribulations that he had gone through early in the World War I period were extreme. This aspect was evident as Hemingway wrote pessimistic literature that was attributed to the failure in his relationships and enlisting in the US military. He asked Ford why he was drinking with him. He replied, “I’m drinking with you as a promising young writer” (Hemmingway 79). This aspect portrays his love for brandy and the social gathering he had with fellow writers.

Moral decadence during and after World War I was part of Hemingway’s life. His indulgence in alcohol, together with his colleagues from the Lost Generation team, depicted an image that the society was rotten. Wilson-Harris values are lacking in vitality, and he seeks to replace them with new values and bring more significance to his personality (Knight 108). The detriments of World War I cultivated a sense of lack of responsibility, thus resulting in decadence. The elements of the immoral society are clearly presented in the Lost Generation’s works. Thus, the literature by Hemingway after World War I had a great impact on his subsequent works, especially in The Lost Generation, as his personality changed from time to time due to personal life events that changed his view of life.

How Hemingway’s Personality Influences His Literature

Hemingway’s consistent use of dialog in his literary works was the distinctive attribute of his style. Known as an individual who loves engaging others in meaningful conversations, he used the “inaccrochable” style in his writing, whereby sentimental ideas were published in the Lost Generation. He says, “I would sometimes try to get Miss Stein to talk about books” (Hemmingway 57). As can be seen, Hemingway sought advice from his good friend, Stein, who engaged him in a dialog on how to enhance his skills as a writer, thus leading to the formation of the Lost Generation. The writers of that period used a new style of writing as pioneered by Hemingway.

Short and concrete bits characterized literature by Hemingway. This element of writing could be associated with his brief professional stints in journalism, short conjugal relationships, and military experience. The need to drive his points in a precise manner that could be easily comprehended demonstrated his sensitivity towards an aspect of life, such as homosexuality. He briefly describes a friend’s place as a “gay flat” (Hemmingway 33). He carries on with this style in his succeeding novels.

The personality traits possessed by Hemingway throughout his life were part of his literary episodes, as characters seem to take after him. Wilson-Harris’ indulgence in alcohol, love for fishing, and a liking for banter enabled him to cope well with Jake and Bill (Knight 108). In addition, Knight notes that Hemingway “suggests that the war was a crisis for Wilson-Harris” (108). Similarly, the war was devastating to Hemmingway, just as it was to Wilson-Harris. As an individual who appreciated diversity, he used some of his experiences and attitudes on various aspects of his life in stories such as The Sun Also Rises. His artistic mastery enabled him to bring his diverse and ever-changing personalities into his fictitious works that earned him respect as one of the best writers in the US after World War I.


Ernest Hemingway was a great writer, as seen in his artistic works of literature. His personal experiences seemed to shape his style in writing, coupled with how he viewed aspects of life. His personality, in particular, played a significant role in facilitating his writing career since alternating characters characterized it. His movement from one location to another, the First World War, and his sexual relationships gave him different perspectives of viewing the various aspects of life. Consequently, this aspect resulted in remarkable literary texts that have influenced writers up to date.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. A Movable Feast, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2009. Print.

Knight, Kark. “Hemingway’s The Sun also Rises.” The Explicator 50.2 (1992): 107-109. Print.

Mitchell, Lawrence. “Ernest Hemingway: In the Ring and Out.” The Hemingway Review 31.1 (2011): 7-23. Print.

Toker, Alpaslan. “Ernest Hemingway’s Characters In The Sun Also Rises Trapped Within The Vicious Circle of Alienation.” Journal of Academic Studies 14.56 (2013): 17-34. Print.

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