Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961)
From Ernest Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises & Other Writings 1918–1926
Ernest Hemingway was born 122 years ago today, on July 21, 1899.
“The only writing that was any good was what you made up, what you imagined,” his fictional alter ego, Nick Adams, thinks to himself in a section of a story that ended up getting deleted before publication. “He wanted to be a great writer. He was pretty sure he would be.” Nevertheless, biographers have spent decades scouring Hemingway’s fiction—especially the Nick Adams stories—for autobiographical tidbits from the author’s life.
One of Hemingway’s earliest stories has especially fueled speculation about his feelings about his parents, and particularly about his father (who committed suicide four years later). “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife” is set in a locale much like Walloon Lake in Michigan, where the Hemingways spent their summers, and feature people with the same names as those living in the area. Nick is a child in the story, and his parents are portrayed as barely compatible: Dr. Adams is a physician (like Ernest’s father), while Mrs. Adams is a Christian Scientist (unlike Mrs. Hemingway). Yet, somewhat to Hemingway’s surprise, when his “actual” father happened across the story, he wrote his son to praise it.
Beyond whatever autobiographical experiences may have motivated Hemingway to write the story, “The Doctor and the Doctor’s Wife” is a powerful and remarkably concise tale about a man whose authority and masculinity are challenged, first in his community and then in his home. We present it in full as our Story of the Week selection.