The Writing Style of Ernest Hemingway

Wed, 10/26/2016 - 12:45pm -- lwhite

Use short sentences. Use short paragraphs. This was the first dictum that a young Ernest Hemingway learned as he began his journalistic career at a Kansas City newspaper. It was a technical style that proved useful to him not only in the world of newspapers and magazines but also in the world of publishing. This style of writing would, like the man himself, grow and evolve during the years of World War I where he would be injured on the Italian front. It would continue as an expat in Paris where he, and his wife Hadley and their newborn son, would experience the Paris of the Lost Generation. It was during this time that Hemingway mingled with the who’s who of the literary world, Gertrude Stein, Max Perkins, James Joyce, and F. Scott Fitzgerald and it is where Hemingway found his path.

His first novel, The Sun Also Rises, written in 1926 received a flattering review in the New York Times where they said “It is a truly gripping story, told in a lean, hard, athletic narrative prose that puts more literary English to shame.” According the Dr. James Nagel, professor of American Literature, Hemingway’s style “changed the very nature of American writing.” Hemingway would go on to publish two works of fiction, six novels and novellas, and a hand full of short story collections by the time he took his own life in 1961 at the age of 61.

The work that would gain him his highest honor was his short story, The Old Man and the Sea. It would earn the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for Fiction and the next year on October 28, Hemingway would be only the fifth American to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature.  The reason given for the award was “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style.” Though not present to receive it as a few months prior Hemingway was involved in two almost fatal plane crashes while on Safari in Africa, his award was accepted on his behalf by John C. Cabot, the U.S. ambassador to Sweden. In a speech he sent to be read he gave an honest but rather bleak look into the life of a writer;

“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing.

He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”

Though many disagree with where The Old Man and the Sea falls among the best of Hemingway’s works it does not detract from the realistic imagery that Hemingway created and the fact that upon it receiving the above accolades it prompted others to reexamine his body of work. Even today his work and his style divide those in the literary world. Some say that his journalistic style had no place in novel form while others praise his simplistic prose and bare bones style of a fight between man and nature which shows that though man can be destroyed he can never be defeated.