The Hemingway Hero Essay
The Hemingway Hero
Many brave men and women in the military have been inspired by someone or something to put their life on the line for the sake of their country. John McCain and his heroic efforts during the Vietnamese war are a great example of how the Hemingway Hero inspires people in the world today. John McCain gets his inspiration from Ernest Hemingway’s 1940 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which he says he wants to be just like the main character: Robert Jordan (Stamburg). John McCain spent five and a half years in captivity in North Vietnam as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy. The Vietnamese offered to set McCain free but he would not go without the release of his fellow Navy comrades saying, “I just didn’t think it was the honorable thing to do.” As result, McCain endured many brutal tortures and harsh mistreatment. Finally in March 1973, after five and a half years of oppression; John and other Americans held captive were released. (Nowicki and Muller) While John McCain is a real life hero, Frederick Henry in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, is a different kind of hero: the Hemingway Hero.
A Hemingway Hero is one who exhibits the principle(s) of honor, courage, bravery, and endurance, one who has qualities that make a man “a man” and is able to more than just improvise in trivial situations but also demonstrates a big heart. A Hemingway Hero is one who always gets back up when the world knocks him down and never loses his integrity, one who is humble, has high moral codes, and puts others before himself. (Acker) Frederick Henry displays all these traits and more in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms because he is unafraid of death, shows little emotion when under pressure, and finds sensual pleasure from food and drink, hence making Frederick Henry a Hemingway Hero because of how he shows bravery, courage, and endurance during tough times.
The Hemingway Hero is not afraid of death but tries to avoid it (Acker). Frederick Henry displays this characteristic when he is in the trench and the mortar hits. Frederick knew the danger that he was going to be in when he told Catherine he was going to a “show” and went regardless not worrying about the consequences, “I’m leaving now for a show up above Plava … I don’t think it’s anything” (Hemingway 43). When the mortar hits and Frederick nearly dies, he still tries to help save fellow ambulance driver, Passini, disregarding his own injury and demonstrates honor and courage in trying to accomplish this impossible feat, “I tried to get closer to Passini to try to put a tourniquet on the legs but I couldn’t move … I sat beside him, undid my tunic and tried to rip the tail of my shirt” (Hemingway 55). Frederick also shows that he is not afraid of death when he is in the ambulance after the mortar hits. A man above him is having a hemorrhage and the blood is falling down upon Frederick; and he stays unusually calm as if it barely bothered him only “… try[ing] to move sideways so that it [does] not fall on [him]”(Hemingway 61) displaying great courageousness and humbleness.
After Frederick recovers from his knee injury at the hospital, he wants to return to the front not caring about the fact that he nearly gets killed there showing that he is not afraid of the risk of getting injured again let alone getting killed. The death of Catherine was another example of how Frederick Henry is unafraid of death. When Catherine dies, Frederick states that there was no use to say goodbye because it was like talking to a statue, “But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn’t any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue” (Hemingway 332). So he leaves and walks to his hotel as if “life goes on” and he should not dwell on Catherine’s passing implying that “what happens happens” and he should just move on (Hemingway). These examples show that death does not faze Frederick and he still tries to accomplish his goals courageously and with honor like a true Hemingway Hero.
The Hemingway Hero shows very little emotion when he is under pressure (Acker). Frederick exhibits this characteristic when he shoots a sergeant who would not follow his orders to help cut the brush but tried to escape fearing being overtaken by the Austrians, “I opened up my holster, took the pistol, aimed it at the one who had talked the most, and fired” (Hemingway 206). Frederick – who has never shot a gun before – did not hesitate to shoot the sergeant displaying great bravery. Frederick also shows very little emotion under pressure when he jumps into the river eluding the battle police accusing him of treachery, “I ducked down, pushed between two men, and ran for the river … and went in with a splash” (Hemingway 225). Frederick saw an opportunity and simply took advantage.
He did not think twice showing great courage and tenacity. Despite being shot at, “There were shots when I ran and shots when I came up…” (Hemingway 225), Frederick took his chances without worrying about the possible repercussions. Frederick further demonstrates little emotion when under pressure when he rows Catherine and himself on a boat from Italy to Switzerland. He “… rowed all night [and] [his] hands were so sore that [he] could hardly close them over the oars” (Hemingway 271). Catherine insisted on rowing and giving him a break but Frederick declined despite the seemingly intolerable pain, “Let me row awhile,” Catherine said. “I don’t think you ought to,” Frederick opposed (Hemingway 274). Frederick elucidates immense endurance in trying to complete this ambitious conquest like only a true Hemingway Hero would.
The Hemingway Hero finds sensual pleasure from food and drink (Hemingway Hero). Frederick illustrates this characteristic when he eats spaghetti with the captain. Frederick goes into great detail on the way he eats the spaghetti “very quickly and seriously, lifting the spaghetti on the fork until the loose strands hung clear then lowering it into the mouth …” (Hemingway 7). Frederick also displays this characteristic by how everyone who comes to visit him in the hospital gives Frederick a bottle of wine, “This is a bottle of vermouth” (Hemingway 69). Frederick finds great pleasure in alcohol especially with all the pain that comes with the mortar hit and he drinks so much to the point where he eventually gets jaundice. Frederick also proves this characteristic with how he goes into great detail when eating the macaroni and cheese before the mortar hits, “I put [my] thumb and [my] fingers into the macaroni and lifted.
A mass loosened… I lifted it to arm’s length and the strands cleared. I lowered it into [my] mouth, sucked and snapped in the ends, and chewed, then took a bite of cheese, chewed, and then a drink of the wine”(Hemingway 53-4). Frederick also makes manifest of this characteristic when he tries to cope with the death of his newborn child. Frederick goes and eats and drinks to try to get away from death and his problems. He “[drank] several glasses of beer… [and was not] thinking at all” (Hemingway 329).
Frederick tries to get pleasure from the food and drink to release stress, clear his mind, and calm his nerves. Like any Hemingway Hero would do, Frederick attempts to avoid death. And he uses his sensual pleasure for food and drink to help him do so. In Conclusion, a Hemingway Hero has to be able to more than just improvise in trivial situations, but also demonstrates a big heart with bravery and courage (Acker); and Frederick does so many times throughout A Farewell to Arms with how he is unafraid of death, how he shows little emotion when under pressure, and how he finds sensual pleasure from food and drink.
Subject: Ernest Hemingway,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 8 January 2017
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