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Ernest Hemingway

Writer Ernest Hemingway, whose novels The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and A Farewell to Arms are an integral part of our American literature, was the son of devout Christian parents. His writing was forceful, action-packed, and often brutal but exhibited none of the belief his parents tried to instill in him. Hemingway professed a concern with “truth,” but his truth bore little resemblance to Christian principles modeled by his parents while he was growing up. Early in his life, he rejected these principles as irrelevant.

A letter from his mother written in 1920 illustrates how completely he had divorced himself from their beliefs: “Unless you, my son, Ernest, come to yourself, cease your lazy loafing and pleasure seeking...stop trading on your handsome face...and neglecting your duties to God and your Savior Jesus Christ...there is nothing for you but bankruptcy; you have overdrawn.”

Hemingway told a writer for Playboy magazine in 1956 that “What is immoral is what you feel bad after.” By his own standard, then, he was a man of unimpeachable morals—nothing made him feel bad. “People with different ideas about morality would call him a sinner,” the article continued, “and the wages of sin, they say, is death. Hemingway has cheated death time and time again to become a scarred and bearded American legend, a great white hunter, a husband of four wives, and a winner of Nobel and Pulitzer prizes...Sin has paid off for Hemingway.”

Ten years later, in a review of the book Papa Hemingway by A. E. Hotchner in the same magazine, the account of Hemingway’s life is a chronicle of repeated suicide attempts, paranoia, multiple affairs and marriages, and finally, on his return to his Ketchum, Idaho hideaway, his final—and successful—suicide attempt. How haunting and ironic the words written earlier about this man became. Ultimately sin did indeed pay off for Ernest Hemingway.

From Bad Beginnings to Happy Endings, by Ed Young, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publ., 1994), pp. 9-10.