Hemingway arrived home in Ketchum on June 30, and he deliberately shot himself with his favorite shotgun in the early morning hours of July 2, 1961.
He had unlocked the basement storeroom where his guns were kept, gone upstairs to the front entrance foyer, and shot himself with the double-barreled shotgun that he had used so often it might have been a friend.
Hemingway‘s behavior during his final years had been similar to that of his father before he killed himself; he had the genetic disease hemochromatosis whereby the inability to metabolize iron culminates in mental and physical deterioration.
Medical records confirm that Hemingway had been diagnosed with hemochromatosis in early 1961. His sister Ursula and his brother Leicester also killed themselves.
Death is a primary theme of the novel. Almost all of the main characters in the book contemplate their own deaths.
Camaraderie and sacrifice in the face of death abound throughout the novel; ready to do ‘as all good men should’ – that is, to make the ultimate sacrifice.
The oft-repeated embracing gesture reinforces this sense of close companionship in the face of death.
Suicide always looms as an alternative to suffering, since likely if captured they would be tortured. Many of the characters prefer death over capture and are prepared to kill themselves, be killed, or kill to avoid it.
Robert Jordan, wounded and unable to travel, awaits a final ambush that will end his life. He prepares himself against the cruel outcomes of suicide to avoid capture, or torture for the extraction of information and death at the hands of the enemy.