On the fiftieth anniversary of Hemingway's suicide, John Walsh extrapolates that the famous author's entire public life was one protracted suicide attempt:
It's easy to be spiteful about Hemingway. All his posturing, his editing of the truth, his vainglorious fibbing can obscure his undoubted bravery. He loved being in the thick of the war – the tank advance through the Ardennes, the Battle of the Bulge – dodging bullets, watching men being shot to hell all around him. But it's hard to shake off the feeling that what he was doing wasn't bravery, but psychotic self-dramatisation. And when you inspect the image of Hemingway-as-hero, you uncover an extraordinary sub-stratum of self-harming. You discover that, for just over half of his life, Hemingway seemed hell-bent on destroying himself.
It was about the time he was finishing A Farewell to Arms, in 1928, when he learnt that his father Clarence had shot himself in the head with a Civil War revolver, that Hemingway's life first began to crack apart. The most obvious external evidence was a succession of bizarre physical accidents, many of which were bashes on the head. One, in Paris, left him with a split head needing nine stitches, after he yanked the chain in the bathroom, thinking it was the lavatory flush, and pulled the skylight down on top of him. He became weirdly accident-prone. His car accident that occasioned his row with Martha saw him hurled through the windscreen, lacerating his scalp and requiring 57 stitches. Three months later, he came flying off a motorbike evading German fire in Normandy. He suffered headaches, tinnitus, diplopia, showed speech and memory problems for months. Back in Cuba after the war, he tore open his forehead on the rear-view mirror when his car skidded. Five years later, while drinking, he slipped on the deck of the Pilar, and concussed himself. Why, you'd almost think he was trying to emulate his late father, and his self-imposed head wound.
I'd like to offer a counter-theory on the number of Hemingway's self-inflicted wounds that doesn't require reaching into Sigmund Freud's magical bag of tricks: alcoholics frequently injure themselves under the influence, whether their fathers shot themselves to death or not.