Ernest Hemingway has a reputation of being a complete misogynist. People have analyzed his books, specifically A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises, and attacked him for being sexist towards the main female roles, Catherine Barkley and Lady Brett Ashley. Other analysts argue that Catherine and Brett are strong female lead roles. Through these two characters, Hemingway disproves the misogynist and sexist analysts and presents readers with independent female roles. A characteristic of sexism towards women include showing their dependence, including the inability to think by themselves.
In A Farewell to Arms, Frederic asks Catherine to kiss her and she replies no. If Catherine was so dependent and couldn’t think on her own, she wouldn’t have refused Frederic’s affection. Catherine also asks Frederic if he loves her and she calls him out for lying and goes on to say “You don’t have to pretend to love me” (Hemingway, 31). This shows that she thinks and is not blinded by her emotions and is able to realize that he is lying to her.
In The Sun Also Rises, Lady Brett Ashley does whatever she wants. She is incredibly promiscuous and parties all the time with the guys.
Most women during the World War I time sat home in the kitchen and took care of the kiddos rather than having a drink with the guys. Instead, after she hooked up with Romero and Cohn got jealous and beat him up, she scolded Cohn. Not many women would yell at a guy during the World War I period.
This just further shows her independence and her ability to think by herself. Critics argue that Catherine is “merely a male fantasy” (Shmoop Editorial Team). They have good evidence in saying that and they argue that Catherine “gives up her own identity to get Frederic to love her. ” They use her quote about religion, “You’re my religion.
You’re all I’ve got” (Hemingway), and her quote about herself, “There isn’t any me. I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me” (Hemingway). But what those critics aren’t seeing is that Catherine is just a romantic woman. She is very lonely and desperately wants a deep, beautiful love after seeing all the deaths and wounded soldiers around her. Her wanting to be one with Frederic is completely justified. According to the Shmoop Editorial Team, critic Sandra Whipple Spanier says “that her willingness to love Frederic entirely is heroic because it saves her from going crazy with grief.
When everything is exploding all around you, everything takes on more urgency. It’s normal that she feels so intensely for Frederic and that she thinks of unusual and even poetic ways to express this love. ” It’s not Hemingway’s misogyny that is making him portray Catherine this way; it’s just the toll that the war has on her. More proof of independence in Catherine is that when she and Frederic are apart, she just keeps working and getting through the days without him. She does not need him to get through the day and that just proves her to be a strong, independent woman.
Another thing that sets her apart from sexist characteristics is her complex thoughts on marriage. This complexity is shown through “her conflict between not following the social norms she doesn’t care about and conforming to such norms because doing so makes life easier” (Shmoop Editorial Team). She tells Frederic that her and her Fiance, that has died, were engaged for eight years because if they got married she thought he’d be trapped. When Frederic brings up getting married, she just plays it off like they’re already practically married and why fix something that’s not broken?
She only begins to change her mind after her pregnancy. Hemingway also disproves the critics when he aligns the significance of rain during the war to Catherine. Even though rain can be seen as a symbol of spring and rebirth, Catherine sees it differently and associates it with death and gloom (Shmoop Editorial Team). When Frederic asks her why she is afraid of the rain she states that “It’s very hard on loving” (Hemingway), “I’m afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it” (Hemingway), and “And sometimes I see you dead in it” (Hemingway).
According to Shmoop, the rain makes soldiers more prone to injury and they did research to find out why Catherine would say that rain is “hard on loving”. They found that her fiance died during the Battle of Somme, which was rainy so she associated the rain with death. By her thinking this way and being able to associate the rain with death and gloom, it proves that Hemingway made Catherine out to be a complex character. Hemingway also makes Catherine and Lady Brett Ashley strong and totally throws away the “females are weak and emotionally unstable” stereotype.
First and foremost, Catherine is a World War I nurse at an overseas hospital. She takes care of soldiers that are, most of the time, fatally wounded. The reason she does this is because her fiance was killed in battle. Instead of crumbling after his death, she pulls through and does something that will benefit more people after a tragic event in her life. If Hemingway was so sexist, he would have made her kill herself like Shakespeare does to his weak female characters after tragedy strikes their lives.
According to the Shmoop Editorial Team, Hemingway parallels the death of the soldiers during battle to Catherine’s death, stating that “Like the soldiers who stood brave in the face of battle, Catherine stood brave in the face of a battle with her own body. ” Hemingway also showed some strength in Lady Brett Ashley from The Sun Also Rises, when she was not sickened by the bull fighting like “the typical woman”. In A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway provides readers with two strong, independent female characters that are incredibly admirable for women.
By Hemingway showing Catherine’s strength and diverse way of thinking throughout World War I and Lady Brett Ashley’s ability to “be one of the guys” and speak out for herself, he challenges his critics and proves that he is not the misogynist that people claim him to be. Works Cited Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scribner, 1957. Print. 16 Feb. 2014. Shmoop Editorial Team. “Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms. ” Shmoop. com. Shmoop University, Inc. , 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 16 Feb. 2014.