25 Ernest Hemingway Quotes About Life & Death


Ernest Hemingway was born in 1899 in Oak Park, Illinois, to parents Clarence and Grace Hemingway. Although the family lived in this affluent suburb of Chicago, they also spent a lot of time at a family cabin in northern Michigan. There, Hemingway learned to hunt, fish, and become an outdoor enthusiast.

Hemingway began his writing career after high school graduation when he went to work for the Kansas City Star as a reporter. He then served in World War I as an ambulance driver. He was injured and spent time at a hospital in Milan. There, his heart was broken by a young nurse. He used the experience as inspiration when writing A Farewell to Arms.

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Hemingway returned to the U.S. and continued working as a reporter. He met and married Hadley Richardson, and the couple moved to Paris so that Hemingway could work as a foreign correspondent. While in Paris, he and other writers and artists spent time with Gertrude Stein. Stein labeled Hemingway and other visitors (including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso, and James Joyce) as being part of a Lost Generation.

While in Europe, Hemingway enjoyed the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, which he used as a backdrop for The Sun Also Rises. He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for For Whom the Bell Tolls but continued to work as a correspondent during World War II. 

In 1951, Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, which won the Pulitzer Prize. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. 

Hemingway was married four times and had three children.

As he grew older, Hemingway suffered from deteriorating mental and physical health. He committed suicide in 1961 at the age of 61.

Let’s learn about what Hemingway had to say about life and death by reading the author’s words.

Ernest Hemingway Quotes About Death or Dying

Hemingway’s father was a physician, and his mother was an artist, singer, and music teacher. Ernest was the second of six children.

Here’s what Hemingway wrote about death and dying. 

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1. “Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honour.”

This quote is from Death in the Afternoon, a non-fiction book about Spanish bullfighting.

2. “Well, what is the sense of ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business? It was a brilliant cure but we lost the patient. It’s a bum turn, Hotch, terrible.”

Hemingway was discussing receiving electroshock therapy at the Mayo Clinic. But unfortunately, the author killed himself a few days after being released from the clinic.

3. “They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.”

Hemingway wrote these words in “Notes on the Next War,” published in Esquire

4. “The real reason for not committing suicide is because you always know how swell life gets again after the hell is over.” 

Hemingway wrote these lines in a letter.

5. “What does a man care about? Staying healthy. Working good. Eating and drinking with his friends. Enjoying himself in bed. I haven’t any of them.”

Hemingway said this to his friend a few weeks before committing suicide.

6. “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”

Hemingway shot himself at the age of 61.

Ernest Hemingway Quotes About Life and Love

Hemingway had this to say about writing: “You can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or, rather, you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love.”

Hemingway was in love with several women throughout his life. Perhaps his four marriages helped him find his best writing. Here are some quotes by Hemingway about life and love.

7. “But did thee feel the earth move?”

This quote is found in chapter 13 of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Hemingway was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for this novel.

8. “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

A Moveable Feast was Hemingway’s autobiographical account of his time in Paris as a young man. The work was published posthumously.

9. “Because I am a bastard.”

Of course, this quote needs an explanation. When asked why he had deserted his wife for another woman, this was Hemingway’s response. The author was married four times.

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10. “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

This quote responded to William Faulkner’s observation: “He has never been known to use a word that might send the reader to the dictionary.”

11. “Worry a little bit every day and in a lifetime you will lose a couple of years. If something is wrong, fix it if you can. But train yourself not to worry: Worry never fixes anything.”

If only it were easy to follow this advice.

12. “Dying was nothing and he had no picture of it nor fear of it in his mind. But living was a field of grain blowing in the wind on the side of a hill. Living was a hawk in the sky. Living was an earthen jar of water in the dust of the threshing with the grain flailed out and the chaff blowing. Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond.” 

You’ll find this quote in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

13. “We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”

Hemingway wrote this about his time in Europe.

14. “I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”

Can we get an “Amen!”?

Ernest Hemingway Quotes About Immortality

Of course, like all great writers, Hemingway achieved immortality through his writing. Here’s what he had to say about that subject and others.

15. “Man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”

This quote showcases Hemingway’s straightforward writing style. It can be found in The Old Man and the Sea, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize.

16. “He was just a coward and that was the worst luck any man could have.” 

These words appeared in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

17. “That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best—make it all up—but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.” 

Hemingway wrote these words in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby.

18. “For a long time now I have tried simply to write the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck and write better than I can.”

Hemingway spoke these words during an interview with George Plimpton.

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19. “For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment.”

This was Hemingway’s statement when accepting the Pulitzer Prize.

20. “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.”

Hemingway was known for his succinct style of writing.

21. “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.”

Hemingway wrote and said a lot about his craft.

Ernest Hemingway Quotes to Share at a Funeral or Memorial Service

If your loved one was a fan of Papa Hemingway, you might want to read a favorite passage at their funeral service instead of a traditional funeral poem or poem about grief. Finding a short quote that sums up life and death may be a bit more challenging. However, here are some quotes to consider. 

22. “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that do not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

These words from A Farewell to Arms were reexamined after Hemingway’s death. 

23. “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for, and I hate very much to leave it.”

These words describe the thoughts of Jordan, the hero of For Whom the Bell Tolls.

24. “I can’t stand it to think my life is going so fast and I’m not really living it.”

The quote can be found in The Sun Also Rises.

25. “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

This is perhaps not the most hopeful quote, but it certainly is one to consider.

Hemingway Lives on Through His Work

Hemingway is considered one of the best American authors of his generation and of all time. He wrote books about death, life, nature, love, war, and all human experiences. 

  1. “Ernest Hemingway.” Biography. Biography.com. Accessed 10 March 2022.

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