The Case of Ernest Hemingway – Family Dysfuntion

Suicidal tendencies may be overt or evident from lifestyle choices. You might be addicted to cigarettes and unable to stop despite the awareness that the addiction is  shortening your lifespan or predisposing you to a disease. In the case of Hemingway, he was addicted to alcohol which he had overindulged for most of his 62 years of life.

But his manner of death begs the question as to how much of his fatal decision was influenced by familial predispositions. It cannot be discounted that there were several members of his family who also chose suicide as a means of death. The first central figure was his father.

It must be terrible knowing that your ancestors have been plagued by a need to self-destruct, and to know that you share the same blood and DNA.

His father, Clarence Hemingway, was an extreme disciplinarian who would beat his children with a razor strap. Hemingway fantasised about shooting his father so you can imagine just how conflicted he felt when Clarence shot himself. Grief and relief do not comfortably co-exist.

According to journalist John Walsh, “He was pursued for the rest of his life by a colossal death wish – either to join his late father, or to expatiate his guilt at his father’s death by mirroring it.” [Independent]

The inner workings of his tortured mind was first medically analysed by Christopher D. Martin in the aftermath of his death[‘Ernest Hemingway, ‘A Psychological Autopsy of a Suicide’,  American Psychiatry magazine, 2006]

Martin is of the view that Hemingway suffered with manic-depression which went undiagnosed. His grand-daughter, Mariel Hemingway, in her documentary ‘Running from Crazy’, expressed the conviction  that he self-medicated his depression with alcohol [Ref:  ‘Running from Crazy’, documentary,]. Mariel also lost her younger sister, Margaux Hemingway, to suicide.