Ernest Hemingway's Memorable Prose

3 min read

Born in 1899, Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American novelist, short-story writer and journalist. He was widely admired for his succinct prose and quickly became one of the most celebrated writers of all time.

Hemingway’s works are guided by deeply masculine themes, such as warfare, heroic fatalism, and death. While many of his stories also explore love and passion, these are often presented as complicated or destructive forces.

The powerful and pithy prose with which Hemingway constructed his stories quickly secured his place as an influential writer. While he had his critics, he undeniably revolutionised the English language with his nonconformist style.

The Iceberg Technique

Hemingway used a controlled and minimalist writing style across all of his works. He termed this style the Iceberg Theory, a method that involved omitting detail and leaving all meaning beneath the surface.

As a journalist, he knew how to pare down his writing. He was a master of telling the truth in a way that forced readers to look between the lines. The absence of description made readers think for themselves and rely on their intuition.

 In 1954, Hemingway won the Nobel Prize in Literature. This celebrated his narrative skill, particularly in The Old Man and the Sea, and commended his contemporary style and influence.

 From his most famous novels, such as A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls to his lesser works, Hemingway’s literary genius lives on. His ability to create implicit meaning within the framework of his stories has led to his continued success, forty years after his death.


Across the River and into the Trees (1950)

Set in Venice at the end of the Second World War, the story explores the brief connection between an injured American colonel and an Italian countess. Hemingway writes with bittersweet poignancy about a love found too late. With the theme of death at its heart, the tale is achingly honest but still manages to offer a glimmer of hope. It pays homage to the resilience of the human spirit while also acting as Hemingway’s declaration of defiance against the violence of the war.


Islands in the Stream (1970)

Islands in the Stream was Hemingway’s first posthumously published work. Set in the 1930’s, it follows the adventures of artist and adventurer Thomas Hudson. The novel is divided into three parts, titled "Bimini", "Cuba", and "At Sea". These sections explore Hudson’s experiences, first on the island of Bimini, then in Cuba just after the Second World War, and finally at sea during a search for German U-boat survivors. It is a melancholy yet compelling tale and a true Hemingway masterpiece.



The Old Man and the Sea (1952)

This short novel tells the tragic story of an old fisherman, a boy, and a fish. Set in Cuba, in the Gulf Stream, it describes the long struggle between the fisherman and a giant marlin. Hemingway conveys the conflict between man and nature with powerful simplicity, immersing his readers in a beautiful but somewhat tragic setting. Not only did the novel win him a Nobel Prize, but also the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It was his last major fiction work published within his lifetime.



 The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1961)

The Snows of Kilimanjarois one of Hemingway’s most successful short stories. It first appeared in Esquire magazine and has since been published in collections alongside his other stories. The plot focuses on Harry, a dying writer who lives off the wealth of his wife. Moving from the heights of Kilimanjaro to rural America and war-torn Europe, it vibrates with Hemingway’s masterful descriptions. He binds together peace and love, conflict and death in another simple yet spellbinding tale.

One True Sentence

 “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” (Ernest Hemingway)

 This quotation sums up Hemingway’s whole writing approach. He wrote within the limits of what he knew to be true, leaving meaning and interpretation hovering beneath the surface.

While some might view his writing as overly simplistic, it is this implicit style that makes it beautiful. The reader becomes part of the story, discovering and experiencing their own truths along the way.

 Hemingway’s style required great control. It involved the art of creating a pared down story while

having to anticipate what the reader might discover to be true. Few writers have managed to manipulate language in this manner and it is this that makes Hemingway’s prose so memorable.

Shop the full Ernest Hemingway Collection.

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