On This Day: Of the Lost Generation

On July 21, 1899, Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. A world-famous writer who championed a minimalistic writing style, he created a body of work that continues to inspire generations of readers.  

Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

After Hemingway graduated from high school, he longed for adventure. He took a position as a reporter in Kansas City as he repeatedly tried to enlist in the US Army. Eventually, he became an ambulance driver in World War I. This experience greatly affected his world view and his writing. It was also the inspiration for his famous novel, The Sun Also Rises.  

After being discharged from the Army, Hemingway took a job as a foreign correspondent in France. There, he met a group of American expatriates often referred to as the Lost Generation. This group included Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Lost Generation, or those who were young adults at the end of WWI, were considered lost because they found themselves in a post-war society in which the values and teaching of their parents no longer made sense for their own situations. They struggled to advance in life, felt the weight of materialism, and were emotionally beaten down by their experiences. This life and attitude greatly influenced Hemingway’s works. He explored themes of war, masculinity, love, and the meaning of life. He wrote novels such as A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea. He also penned short stories like “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “Hills Like White Elephants.” He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.  

While his personal life was not without its struggles, including bouts of depression, his art with its pursuit of meaning and frank exploration of the human experience has resonated strongly with readers for the last 100 years. It’s possible that his work is even more relevant now among Millennials, a group who identify strongly with the Lost Generation. Are Millennials the new Lost Generation? What would Hemingway have to say about their sense of disenfranchisement? Pick up a Farewell to Arms and find out.

Learn more here:

  1. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ernest-Hemingway
  2. http://websites.umich.edu/~eng217/student_projects/nobel%20prize%20winners/hemingway.htm
  3. https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/1954/hemingway/biographical/
  4. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1950/05/13/how-do-you-like-it-now-gentlemen
  5. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Lost-Generation
  6. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/04/millennials-are-new-lost-generation/609832/
  7. https://glass.hfcc.edu/2017/05-01/lost-generation-and-millennials

    Order Hemingway’s works from an independent bookstore, like this one: https://www.strandbooks.com/search-results?page=1&ernest%20hemingway&searchVal=ernest%20hemingway&type=product