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 UpPhoto: 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 GayPhoto: 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.
He Was A Big Fan Of Bull Fighting And Big Game HuntingPhoto: 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.”