Ernest Hemingway: How Mental Illness Plagued the Writer and His Family


One of the most influential writers of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway’s stripped-down prose new literary voice captivated critics and readers alike. His outsized personality and macho swagger made him a star beyond the printed pages of his newspaper articles, short stories and novels. Behind the façade, however, Hemingway faced a lifelong battle against depression, alcoholism and mental health issues, all of which contributed to his death by suicide on July 2, 1961. But it wasn’t just Hemingway who suffered, as several generations of his family confronted similar issues, in what one of his granddaughters called the “Hemingway curse.”

Hemingway had a troubled relationship with his parents

He was the second child of Clarence “Ed” Hemingway and his wife, Grace. Ed was a successful doctor and Grace was a former singer and music teacher. Much of his childhood was split between the family’s home in Oak Park, Illinois, and a house in the woods of Michigan, where Ed passed down his love of hunting and the outdoors. But Hemingway struggled to connect with his father, who despite his placid exterior could be a violent, domineering bully.





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