CHAPTER 5   THE Last sunrise

daybreak -Ketchum, Idaho

'... he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer,

he must face eternity,. or the lack of it, each day.'

from Ernest Hemingway's Nobel Prize acceptance speech's awareness of death is one of the guiding forces in life. Beneath every surface activity, then, is the awareness of death. There is also the notion that conventional and traditional ways of coping with the fact of man's mortality are based on romantic illusions which cause one to avoid thinking about the central fact of existence: that one must eventually die. It is with man's attitudes toward life in the presence of death that Hemingway is most concerned. The surfaces of his stories, the tips of the icebergs, most often show individuals whether in war, in the bullring, in a big-game hunt, or in some other life-threatening situation--dealing either gracefully or in a cowardly way with death or nada.
What evolves, then, over the course of Hemingway's forty-year career as a writer is a comprehensive code for living which acknowledges death as the end point in life.

Bryant Mangum, "Ernest Hemingway," in Critical Survey of Short Fiction


One avenue of biographical exploration may be the consideration of how Hemingway's postwar psychological state affected his claims of having killed Germans. Many doubt contributed to the depression, paranoia, and delusions that ultimately led him to take one more life, his own.'

- Professor William Cote Hemingway Review


But he dwindled so abruptly, so touchingly from the great red and white head to the spindly legs...that seemed scarcely able to hold him up.  Fragile, I found myself thinking, breakable and broken---one time too often broken, broken beyond repair.

- Professor Leslie Fiedler (upon meeting Hemingway shortly before his death)



Early on the morning of July 2, 1961, about the time the sun was rising above the Sawtooth Mountains, Ernest Hemingway took his favourite shotgun and killed himself in the foyer of his Ketchum home.


"..the sound of a couple of drawers banging shut awakened me and, dazed, I went downstairs , saw a crumpled heap of bathrobe and blood, the shotgun lying in the disintegrated flesh, in the front vestibule of the sitting room."                                                                              How It Was - Mary Hemingway




Ernest was wearing pajamas and his dressing gown, his red 'emperor's robe'. The robe is mentioned in the Carlos Baker biography and details are from interviews Baker conducted with Don Anderson and Chuck Atkinson, friends who were among the first to arrive at the death scene.

It was Hemingway's habit to cinch his robe at the waist with his Gott Mit Uns belt and buckle. His friend and personal secretary Valerie Hemingway makes specific reference to this when she was traveling with him in Spain a few months before he committed suicide.

" The three of us were sitting in his suite when Hotch walked in. Nursing his infected kidney, Ernest was lying on the bed; his dressing gown was tied at the waist by his German 'Gott Mit Uns' belt. Annie and I were sipping glasses of wine. Hotch wrote later, "Worry hung in the room like black crepe." - Running With The Bulls - Valerie Hemingway...Suecia Hotel Madrid -October 2, 1960.

I had the pleasure of meeting Valerie Hemingway at a Hemingway Society Conference in Spain 2006.  We talked at length on a drive from Ronda to Malaga and she confirmed that the belt was Hemingway's favourite, that he wore it often, even around his robe as she had described in her book.

The investigation of Hemingway's death was cursory. Today, there are no records to be found in Ketchum police or Blaine County Coroner archives. There was no inquest. . The death certificate reads 'death by self-inflicted gunshot wound'.

Ernest's death left Mary in shock. With the help of family and friends she managed to make funeral arrangements and do all the other things necessary on such a somber occasion. She was worried about the shotgun falling into the hands of souvenir hunters. A few days after Hemingway's suicide, Chuck Atkinson took a torch, cut the shotgun into pieces and buried it in the woods. Mary kept the Gott Mit Uns buckle, and later gave it and other personal effects to the JFK Library.


"Atoms can't dream, Gig, " I could hear him say. "No use deluding yourself old pal."

Papa, A Personal Memoir by Gregory Hemingway