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The Story behind “Hemingway Curse”

by Aadarsh Jain

The Story behind “Hemingway Curse”

May 23, 2021

Without a doubt, Ernest Hemingway is one of the most prolific and well-known novelists of the twentieth century. On July 2, 1961, the American literature genius was found dead from a gunshot wound to the head, and the word "Hemingway's curse" was coined.

From The Sun Also Rises to A Moveable Feast, Papa Hemingway wrote some of the best novels and short stories of the twentieth century, many of which have been made into films.
He was a fighter or correspondent in many wars, including World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II. In the 1920s, he spent time in Paris, where he became a member of a culture of fashionable musicians, poets, and socialites. With countless love affairs and four weddings, the great author barely went anywhere without a female partner. 

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Hemingway was a fighter or correspondent in many wars, including World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and World War II.

The Series Of Suicides

Mr. Hemingway committed suicide on July 2, 1961, but it was not the first nor the last time a member of the Hemingway family committed suicide. There have been at least five suicides in Hemingway’s family over four decades, including his father, Dr. Clarence Edmonds Hemingway; siblings Ernest, Ursula, and Leicester; and Hemingway’s granddaughter Margaux.

Dr. Clarence Hemingway shot himself in the head with his father’s.32 Smith and Wesson revolver in his Oak Park, Illinois home in 1928. Leicester, his 13-year-old son, was present at the time. Ernest’s father, a psychiatrist, suffered from erratic and dramatic mood swings marked by periods of anxiety and irritability.  He was already depressed due to his health and financial concerns.

Hemingway, who was then living in Key West, Florida, with his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, was stunned to hear the news and flew to Oak Park right away. Ernest, like his younger brother Leicester, was heartbroken by his father’s death, but he pressed on with his career.

Hemingway took a harsher tone in a letter to his mother-in-law, Mary Pfeiffer, writing, “I’ll definitely go the same way.” Hemingway started to drink more when his father died, and he became preoccupied with aggression. He was involved in a number of plane crashes and other collisions, many of which resulted in severe head injuries.

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On July 2, 1961 Ernest's wife, Mary Hemingway, issued the following statement: “Mr. Hemingway accidentally killed himself while cleaning a gun this morning at 7:30 A.M.

The Ernest "Hemingway" Curse

Hemingway purchased a home in Cuba in 1940, and through his continuing travels around the world, it will remain his main residence for the next 20 years. Hemingway was almost killed in two plane crashes in Africa the same year, causing a fractured skull, ruptured liver and spleen, two broken discs, and other injuries. Hemingway’s physical and mental health deteriorated dramatically as a result of the injuries, with a bedridden Hemingway defying doctors’ advice to cut down on his alcohol.

In 1960, Hemingway started to fall to depression and attempted suicide. He had “paranoid delusions” caused by “a manic disorder related to his mental condition, probably complicated by chronic alcoholism and severe traumatic brain injuries.

And on July 2, 1961 his wife, Mary Hemingway, issued the following statement: “Mr. Hemingway accidentally killed himself while cleaning a gun this morning at 7:30 A.M. No time has been set for the funeral services, which will be private.”

There is evidence that the author suffered from bipolar disease, also known as “bipolar disorder” during his lifetime. Gregory Hemingway, one of Hemingway’s sons, is thought to have been bipolar. In 2001, he died in a Florida prison cell while being held on charges of public indecency and criminal mischief.

Other Family Members

Ursula Hemingway, sister of Ernest Hemingway, who was fighting cancer and depression at the time of Hemingway’s suicide, died from a pill overdose just five years later. Leicester, Hemingway’s only brother and youngest of six siblings committed suicide in 1982 after years of health problems caused by diabetes. Gregory (also known as Gloria) Hemingway’s youngest child, struggled with alcoholism and was diagnosed with bipolar depression, and his relationship with his father was weakened further by Hemingway’s refusal to acknowledge his child’s transgendered sexuality.

Two of Hemingway’s granddaughters struggled with mental illness. Joan, the eldest daughter of Hemingway’s first sibling, Jack, was diagnosed with bipolar depression and given the nickname “Muffet.” Margaux, her younger sibling, overcame learning disabilities such as dyslexia and rose to fame as a supermodel and actress in the late 1970s. She later said that she lived her swift life in honor of her legendary grandfather, who fascinated her with his mysteriousness. Her once-promising future was ruined by epilepsy, eating disorders, addiction, and drug abuse. Her body was found on the 35th anniversary of her grandfather’s death, after she committed suicide in 1996.

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