Young Hemingway

Shortly after Ernest Hemingway's birth, his mother began acting out a bizarre fantasy that her new baby boy was in fact his 18-month-old sister's "twin". She alternately let their hair grow long and dressed them as girls -- with flowery hats and dresses -- or closely cropped their hair and dressed them as boys, putting them in overalls. In one family scrapbook, she put the caption "summer girl" beside a photo of the two-year-old Ernest, dressed in a little girl's gown and flower-covered hat. It was not until he was six that Hemingway's mother at last let him be shorn for good of his girlishly long hair. Surely this experience affected the future writer's psyche.

One Christmas, his mother later recalled, Ernest "was quite fearful as to whether Santa Claus would know he was a boy, because he wore just the same kind of clothes as [his] sister."

[Hemingway had a lifelong fascination with androgyny. According to biographer Kenneth Lynn, he would spend much of his life desperately "showing the world how manly he was." And he was: When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Hemingway volunteered. On July 8, 1918, while handing out chocolate to Italian soldiers in a dugout, Hemingway was severely wounded when a mortar shell exploded a few feet from him. Hot shrapnel fragments tore into both of his legs (producing 227 separate wounds) and he was knocked down by the blast, badly injuring his head. He nevertheless gallantly pulled himself across the ground to try to help a mortally wounded soldier before being placed on a stretcher and carried off the battlefield. Ironically, he was working for the American Red Cross -- with an ambulance unit. (The Italian government awarded him the Silver Medal of Military Valor.)]

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