Ernest Hemingway’s Portrayal of Masculinity Essay

Ernest Hemingway’s Portrayal of MasculinityWhen thinking of masculinity in literature, one author has who has become synonymous with manliness comes to mind, Ernest Hemingway. Critics have spent countless hours studying his writing in order to gain insight into his world of manly delights, including his views on sex, war, and sport. His views can be seen through his characters, his themes and even his style of writing.

The characters in Hemingway’s stories reveal much about how he feels about men and the role they should play in society. Most of Hemingway’s male characters can be split into one of two groups. The first of which is the “Code” Hero. This is the tough, macho guy who chooses to live his life by following a “code of honor, courage, chivalry, honestly, and the ability to bear pain with resistance and dignity, and does not whine when defeated” (Scott, 217). This hero is Hemingway’s ideal man, whom every man should want to become. Robert Penn Warren writes of the “code” hero:

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[Hemingway’s] heroes are not squealers, welchers, compromisers, or cowards, and when they confront defeat they realize that the stance they take, the stoic endurance, the stiff upper lip means a kind of victory. If they are to be defeated they are defeated upon their own terms; some of them have even courted their defeat; and certainly they have maintained, even in the practical defeat, an ideal of themselves – some definition of how a man should behave, formulated or unformulated – by which they have lived. They represent some notion of a code, some notion of honor, that makes a man a man, and that distinguishes him from people who merely follow their random impulses and who are, by consequence, “messy.” (Warren, 79)

Hemingway also seems to associate acts of violence with masculinity. Nathan Scott Jr. writes of Hemingway’s manliest characters:

Whatever they do, whether it be bullfighting or fishing or prizefighting or hunting lions in the African bush or blowing up bridges as a military saboteur – is done with consummate skill and with pride of craft; they are tough and competent: they can be counted on in a tight squeeze, and they do not cheat or squeal or flinch at the prospect of danger. (Scott, 217)

Examples of the “code” hero in Hemingway’s work include Manuel the bullfighter, in “The Undefeated” he fights with a noble dignity even when he is je…

…lso the idea that because the hero lives by his code, he is able to “live properly in the world of violence, disorder, and misery in which he inhabits” (Baker, 15). The young waiter who hopes to one-day become a noble bullfighter in “The Capital of the World” illustrates this point. After performing gallantly, he takes his defeat with a sense of pride and chivalry allowing him to die the only real death in Hemingway’s mind, the death of a real man.

Sources

Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Scribner’s, 1969.

Fiedler, Leslie A. Love and Death in the American Novel. New York: Criterion Books,1960. 304-09.

Strychancz, Thomas. “The Sort of Thing You Never Should Admit.” Boys Don’t Cry:Rethinking Narratives of Masculinity and Emotion in the US. Eds. Millette

Shamir, Jennifer Travis. New York: Columbia University Press. 2002. 140-72.

Wagner, Linda Welshimer, Ed. Ernest Hemingway: Five Decades of Criticism. Michigan State University Press, 1974.

Holder, Alan. “The Other Hemingway.” Wagner. 103-08.

Scott, Nathan, Jr. “Ernest Hemingway, A Critical Essay.” Wagner. 210-18.

Warren, Robert Penn. “Ernest Hemingway.” Wagner. 77-101.

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