Personal Influences that are
reflected in his works
Hemingway was more than just a writer and journalist.
He was a sportsman and this was reflected in the
characters he wrote about in his short stories and novels.
He used experiences with bullfighting, hunting, fishing,
and soldiering as the backgrounds for his works. He also
wrote about the human struggle with love and politics.
Even some of Hemingway’s characters like Nick Adams
of In Our Time are a reflection of Hemingway the man.
Most of Hemingway’s fiction is created from his own
personnel experiences. The novel A Farewell to Arms is
a story taken from World War I when Hemingway
volunteered for the Red Cross Ambulance Corps.
Hemingway used the metaphors of games, sports,
bullfights, and wars to describe his views of life. Let’s
look at some of Hemingway’s stories and see what
personnel experiences of his life played a part in
developing the characters and background for the story.
• The story Death in the Afternoon is written in the first person
by Hemingway. The story’s background and characters
comes from the time Hemingway spent in Spain. He enjoyed
attending bullfights and often glorified the bravery of the
• The chances are that the first bullfight any spectator attends
may not be a good one artistically; for that to happen there
must be good bullfighters and good bulls; artistic bullfighters
and poor bulls do not make interesting fights, for the
bullfighter who has ability to do extraordinary things with
the bull which are capable of producing the intense degree of
emotion in the spectator but will not attempt them with a bull
which he cannot depend on to charge.
• Much of this story comes from what he saw
when he attended the bullfights. He put
down into words the emotion he felt and
experienced at the bullfights. Watching his
first bullfight before he had trained himself
to discriminate between good and bad
bulls, or good and bad bullfighters,
Hemingway remembered being profoundly
moved by the kill. (Rovit 31) He wanted the
reader to experience the bullfight the way
he had in back in Spain. While writing this
story Hemingway even thought about
becoming a bullfight, but decided writing
was his true passion. Another Hemingway
novel that dealt with bullfighting was The
Sun Also Rises. This novel is considered one
of Hemingway’s best. Hemingway uses
another character Jake that returns from
World War I suffering from physical injuries
and psychological damage. He journeys to
Spain for the annual pilgrimage to
Pamplona for the Running of the Bulls.
Hemingway once again uses his own
personal travel and experiences as the
background for this story.
• The story Big Two-Hearted River finds Hemingway’s
character Nick Adams on a fishing trip back home
after returning from World War I. He is suffering
from shell shock or post- traumatic stress syndrome.
He hopes this trip home will help relieve some of the
pain he suffered in the war by going home and doing
the thing he loves most fishing. Many aspect of the
Nick Adams character comes from Hemingway
himself. This was Hemingway’s alter-ego.
Hemingway himself was wounded in World War I
from an artillery shell and suffered from shell shock.
The river that the Nick Adams character goes fishing
in comes from the time Hemingway spent fishing the
rivers in Michigan as a young writer. Many of the
trauma's faced by the Nick Adams character are ones
Hemingway dealt with as an ambulance driver in
World War I. But the real point is that this extended
and disciplined self-portrait became a significant
story in its own right: the story of an American born
with the century, complicated in boyhood and badly
hurt in a war, who came to term with what happened
and turned it to lasting fiction.
• The novel A Farewell to Arms is the point of
view from Lieutenant Frederic Henry who
volunteers to be an ambulance driver in the
Italian army. This story is considered semi-
autobiographical, since it is taken from the
time when Hemingway volunteered to be an
ambulance driver in World War I. Frederic
gets wounded and while back at the hospital
falls in love with a nurse. Hemingway also fell
in love with a nurse while recovering from the
wounds he suffered during an artillery attack.
His relationship however did not survive his
return to America after the war. The story
captures the strangeness of how life in a
foreign army was for an American in Europe
during World War I. In the characterization of
young Frederic Henry, Hemingway again
stands back from his own experience and turns
it around, so that what has haunted him
personally is now, in part, an object of regret
and even ridicule. (Benson 81) The character
Frederic struggles to gain awareness of the full
implications of love and war. Hemingway
once described this story as a Romeo and
• The next three stories Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Short Happy Life
of Francis Macomber, and Green Hills of Africa come from his
experiences while visiting Africa. Green Hills of Africa is an
account of his safari in Africa, while the other two stories are
fictionalized stories from his travels to Africa. In “The Short
Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro
he was still determined to tell “the truth”; but now he was ready to
invent the characters, and to imagine the circumstances in which
they were to be entangled. (Baker 186) Green Hills of Africa is a
four part journal of Hemingway’s month long safari into Eastern
Africa with his wife. Part one is Pursuit and Conversation, part two
is Pursuit Remembered, part three Pursuit and Failure, and part four
Pursuit and Happiness. He even takes time to give his opinions of
other authors and what he is reading. In the Snow of Kilimanjaro
the story is centered around a writer named Harry who is on safari
in Africa with his wife. Harry has been injured and believes he is
dying. His wife is not too happy about being on a safari in Africa
and wishes they would have went to Paris instead. She tells him that
he would not have gotten injured like this in Paris. He dreams that a
plane is coming to get him and take him away. Hemingway also
fell ill while on safari in Africa and had to be evacuated by plane
which he reflected in this story.
• For Whom the Bells Toll is a story that takes place during the Spanish Civil
War. The main character is an American named Robert Jordan who is a
college professor that goes to Spain in order to help fight the fascist. Once
again Hemingway draws on his experiences while covering and reporting
on the Spanish Civil War. He took four trips to Spain between 1937 and
1939. Hemingway would go out to the areas after the battles had taken
place and report on the atrocities that he saw. Also written from his time in
Spain were the Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War.
These stories might seem autobiographical since many suggest Hemingway
was an informant and weapons instructor during the civil unrest.
• What carried Hemingway along his path was a total dedication to art
and an unrelenting will to make his writing true. Hemingway, unlike
many of his contemporaries, was there during the wars, the
evacuations, the social convulsions. (Benson 191) The importance of
direct experience during some of the major events in history helped
shape many of his stories. He tried to recreate for the reader the
experience he had to such emotional events. Hemingway wanted the
reader to be able to feel what it is like to watch a bullfight and
experience those emotions. What it was like on the front battle lines in
World War I. Dealing with death and despair while at the same time
falling in love with a nurse that is taking care of you. Hemingway had
a way of throwing the hook out and reeling you in. It is much easier to
write about subjects you have seen firsthand, than to make a story
from scratch. This is why you have to respect Hemingway and his
stories. The truth and emotions of a story will get you every time.
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