Today I will dive into my favorite writer- Ernest Hemingway. By analyzing Hemingway and his basic themes, ideas and writing style we can see how his work has influenced the idea of a “modern American man.”
The Hemingway Hero
The Hemingway hero is always a man. A man who learns through his experience to confront the reality of his death. By coming to terms with the fact that we are all going to die the hero is able to confront himself.
Hemingway’s heroes always find themselves in a contest that has them facing death. It’s usually by using the “hero journey” of Homer, as seen in the Odyssey, that the hero comes to this conclusion.
The ultimate human adventure of the Hemingway hero is war. Papa was obsessed with war and death. It is a subject he uses as his narrative vehicle over and over again in all of his major works.
Hemingway’s heroes learn to live by something literary scholars call the “Hemingway Code.” The hero must establish his own values by facing life courageously and by acting honestly. The primary motivation of the hero is courage.
The hero never turns away from reality or towards abstract ideals such as religion or politics. He finds it within himself to act without the distractions of outside influences such as love. He is able to do this by accepting the reality of his death.
The way the hero defines this is through action. By acting and not wallowing in his feelings the hero is choosing to take part in reality. He leaves all the intellectual pondering to weaker and lesser men. By doing this he can choose “to make of himself what he will.”
The Modern Hero
The modern action hero has been defined by this rule. Think of John Wayne and Rambo. They are heroes who speak little, make no plans and let their actions speak for themselves.
This is an example of the modern American male to grow up thinking he needs to never talk about his feelings. To act out when he feels frustrated and to worry about the consequences of actions later.
It’s fun to watch Tony Soprano punch out an annoying co-worker because he is a mob boss. How awesome is to watch John Rambo kill godless Commies with only a bow and arrow (more on this later)?
For all this we have Hemingway to thank. Whether the device is a gunfight A Farewell To Arms), bull fight (Death in the Afternoon), using a load of dynamite (For Whom the Bell Tolls) or a fishing pole (The Old Man and the Sea) we see the hero define himself.
The ritual of facing death allows the hero to rely on himself and overcome fear. Fear of the greatest uncontrollable of all time- death.
I better close this one out. I wanted to make this one a short introduction before we get into his writing style and how we all have Hemingway to thank for defining how we see manhood, lol.