Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea

Ernest Hemingway completes his short novel The Old Man and the Sea. He wrote his publisher the same day, saying he had finished the book and that it was the best writing he had ever done. The critics agreed: The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and became one of his bestselling works.

HemingwayThe novella, which was first published in Life magazine, was an allegory referring to the writer’s own struggles to preserve his art in the face of fame and attention. Hemingway had become a cult figure whose four marriages and adventurous exploits in big-game hunting and fishing were widely covered in the press. But despite his fame, he had not produced a major literary work in a decade before he wrote The Old Man and the Sea. The book would be his last significant work of fiction before his suicide in 1961.

Hemingway, born in 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, After graduating from high school, he started working as a reporter for the Kansas City Star in 1917. When World War I broke out, he volunteered as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross and was severely wounded in 1918 on the Austro-Italian front while carrying a companion to safety. These wartime experiences became the basis of his 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms.

Hemingway married  his first wife, the wealthy Hadley Richardson in 1920, and the couple moved to Paris where he worked as a foreign correspondent. While in Paris, he met other American expatriate writers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound. With their help and encouragement, Hemingway published his first book of short stories, in the U.S. in 1925, followed by his well-received first novel, The Sun Also Rises in 1926.

During the 1930s the hard-drinking Hemingway lived in Key West with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer and together they had three boys.

In 1939,  he crossed to Cuba in his boat, the Pilar, and lived with his future third wife, Martha Gellhorn, in the Havana hotel Ambos Mundos. It was Martha who inspired him to write his most famous novel For Whom the Bell Tolls which was published in 1940.

Between 1944 and 1945 Hemingway was in London and Europe. He separated from Martha and  met the fourth Mrs Hemingway, Mary Welsh who was a correspondent with Time Magazine. While in Europe, he was present at the D-Day landing and later became the defacto leader to a small band of village militia in Rambouillet outside of Paris. He would later get into considerable trouble including being brought up on formal charges. World War II Historian Paul Fussel wrote “Hemingway got into considerable trouble playing infantry captain to a group of Resistance people that he gathered because a correspondent is not supposed to lead troops, even if he does it well” Hemingway was able to avoid the charges by claiming that he only offered advice. He was awarded the Bronze Star that stated “through his talent of expression, Mr. Hemingway enabled readers to obtain a vivid picture of the difficulties and triumphs of the front-line soldier and his organization in combat”.

oldman2In 1951, furious at the critical reception of Across the River and Into the Trees, he wrote the draft of The Old Man and the Sea in eight weeks, saying that it was “the best I can write ever for all of my life”.  The Old Man and the Sea made Hemingway an international celebrity, and won the Pulitzer Prize in May 1952.

In 1954, while in Africa, Hemingway was almost fatally injured in two successive plane crashes. Despite his injuries, Hemingway went on a fishing expedition where a bushfire broke out. He was again injured, sustaining second degree burns over his legs, face, torso and left arm. The accidents may have precipitated the physical deterioration that was to follow. After the plane crashes, Hemingway, who had been a functioning alcoholic throughout much of  his life, began to drink more heavily.

Hemingway was awarded the Novel Prize in Literature in October of 1954.  In lieu of accepting the prize in person, he sent a speech to be read where he defined a writer’s life: “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.”

In 1961, after increasing physical dehabilitation and increasing depression and paranoia, Hemingway took his own life though the initial reports to the press were that he had died from an accidental gun shot.

Though it was a tragic ending, we celebrate the works of a great writer with Deputy Dave’s Drink of the Day: Hemingway Special


2 oz white rum
¼ oz maraschino liquer
Juice from half a lime
1 oz grapefruit

Squeeze lime juice into a shaker, add remaining ingredients, shake briefly with a glassful of crushed ice, serve in a frosted cocktail glass.


Hey, like this post? Why not share it with a buddy?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You must be 21 years old to visit this site.

Please verify your age