Stories Of Ernest Hemingway Acting Like A Literary Bully

Love him or hate him, Ernest Hemingway was a genius in his craft. But that doesn’t change that he loved fighting, drinking, hunting, and womanizing. Given his predilections, it's not surprising he’s hailed as a “man’s man,” the ultimate macho. In this day and age, that title doesn’t bode well for many. Then again, if Hemingway was alive, he’d probably have a mouthful to say about cultural sensitivity.

Still, Hemingway did nany things that might not have been controversial at the time, but are jarring to modern sensibilities. One thing's for sure, he had a hell of a lot of character, and accomplished more much in his life. So, whether you’re a devoted fan or think he’s an overrated author, check out some Ernest Hemingway stories that make sense of why many contemporary critics have condemned both the writer and his work.

  • He Recommended Shooting Women Instead Of Breaking Up

    He Recommended Shooting Women Instead Of Breaking Up
    Photo: Photographer Unknown / Public Domain

    In many of Hemingway's stories, women aren't taken entirely seriously. His female characters are often written off as silly, or nothing more than gossiping idiots. In his story Soldier’s Home, he wrote about preferring romancing women from France and Germany because “There was not all this talking.”

    He also wrote a letter to his editor Maxwell Perkins, about how Zelda ruined F. Scott Fitzgerald.

    “A woman ruined Scott… But why couldn’t he have told her to go to hell? Because she was sick... You can always trade one healthy woman in on another. But start with a sick woman and see where you get… Anyway let’s leave the subject. If you leave a woman, though, you probably ought to shoot her. It would save enough trouble in the end, even if they hanged you.”

  • He Advised A Friend With A Sexual Identity Crisis Against Being Gay

    He Advised A Friend With A Sexual Identity Crisis Against Being Gay
    Photo: Public Domain / Wikiemedia Commons

    Hemingway was hyper-masculine, and deemed homosexuality an affront to that. When he was in his 20s, he found a best friend in a William B. Smith, who was the best man at his wedding to Hadley Richardson. Smith struggled with his sexual identity, and confided this in Hemingway. Hemingway responded by bullying Smith, and advised against homosexuality in a letter rampant with homosexual slurs and homophobic rhetoric.

    “Lay off the boards, lay off the barber’s chair. In them occupations a male competes agin [sic] the homosexual in his worst and most malignant form. And when a male competes agin the fairy on his own grounds he loses out on acct. the fairy will do stuff to get on that a male is barred from..."

    He then went on to name some homosexual writer he despises.

    “But the Royal Road to quick Literary success if through the entrance to the colon. Gaw it disgusts a male. There’s a homosexual claque that make a guy overnight. Once in with the beggaring pooblic [sic] he’s made. They’re organized like the Masons – only not really organized but everybody knows everybody else. It’s funny too. I’ve fought ‘em like hell. And so I’ve got a bunch of guys that hate my guts. Still, enemies are good advertisement so long as you’ve got some solid friends.”

  • Some Believe He Was An Anti-Semite

    Hemingway haters (could be a real group of critics, who knows?) point to Robert Cohn of The Sun Also Rises as proof of the author's anti-Semitism. Cohn is essentially a mash-up of every negative Jewish stereotype. The narrator of the book, Jake Barnes, who shares a lot of qualities with Hemingway, loathes Cohn. At one point, Cohn gets his nose flattened in a boxing match, which Barnes says, “Certainly improved his nose.” Cohn is weak, whiny, pitiful, and cheap, perhaps how Hemingway saw Jews.

    It doesn't help Hemingway that he was friends with some notorious anti-Semites like Ezra Pound, and would throw out Jewish slurs in correspondence with him.

  • He Was A Big Fan Of Bull Fighting And Big Game Hunting

    He Was A Big Fan Of Bull Fighting And Big Game Hunting
    Photo: Photographer Unknown / Public Domain

    If Hemingway was alive today, could you imagine the uproar he’d provoke if he posted the above photo on Facebook? He’d have every animal rights activist from here to Timbuktu (well, maybe not Timbuktu) up his ass. To be fair, he might deserve it. He was a total d*ck to animals.

    Hemingway was an outdoorsman and a big game hunter. In 1933, he went on his first African Safari in Kenya and Tanzania with his second wife, Pauline, and a friend of theirs from Key West. His trip inspired his book The Green Hills of Africa and short story The Snows of Kilimanjaro. He returned to Africa in 1954 with his fourth wife, and took home several hunting trophies.

    Hemingway was also particularly into bull fighting, which was central to The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon. He’d probably be disappointed Catalonia banned bullfighting for six years, a decision that was only overturned in October 2016. He once called the bullring the “only remaining place where valor and art can combine for success.”

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald Worried He Had A Small Penis And Hemingway Told The World

    F. Scott Fitzgerald Worried He Had A Small Penis And Hemingway Told The World
    Photo: The World's Work / Public Domain

    With A Moveable Feast, Hemingway shared embarrassing personal information F. Scott Fitzgerald told him in confidence. Apparently, Zelda told Scott “he could never make any woman happy” with the way he was built. Scott was so bothered by this he asked Hemingway to look at his penis and tell him if it was adequate, to which Hemingway responded, “There’s nothing wrong with you.  You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened. Go over to the Louvre and look at the people in the statues and then go home and look at yourself in the mirror in profile.”

    Yes, Hemingway reassured his friend, but then he put it in a book for the world to read. 

  • He Slapped Max Eastman In The Face And Wanted To Fight Him In A Locked Room

    He Slapped Max Eastman In The Face And Wanted To Fight Him In A Locked Room
    Photo: Photographer Unknown / Public Domain

    Hemingway took great umbrage with anyone who deigned criticize his work or disagree with his opinions. Such umbrage got physical with poet and critic Max Eastman. According to Hemingway, during a disagreement with Eastman in the office of publishers Charles Scribner’s Sons, he slapped Eastman across the face with a book. He then apparently offered $1,000 to the charity of Eastman’s choice, or directly to Eastman’s pocket, if Eastman agreed to fight him in a locked room with all legal rights waved.

    According to Eastman, who was goading Hemingway after he charged into a meeting and turned himself into the focus of discourse, the poet threw Hemingway over a desk, into the corner of the room, where Ernest landed on his head. Hemingway denied this ever happened, though of course he would. According to Hemingway:

    "He didn't throw anybody anywhere. He jumped at me like a woman--clawing, you know, with his open hands. I just held him off. I didn't want to hurt him. He's ten years older than I am. The man didn't have a bit of fight... he didn't do any throwing around. He just sat and took it."