Essay on Hemingway Code Hero

Not all heroes wear capes. This age old line is prevalent throughout all of society and seen in everyday actions. A hero is a person who is idolized for their courage, their outstanding accomplishments, their admirable qualities, or their resilience. These characteristics vary from person to person; their view altering ever so slightly. Similarly, author Ernest Hemingway had his vision of what characteristics a hero should have. His ideal hero is known as a Hemingway Code Hero. He developed a set of requirements which would determine whether a certain character in his novels was a hero in his eyes. In Hemingway’s 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises, the protagonist and main character, Jake Barnes, can be viewed as a code hero with a few exceptions.

Jake was a veteran of World War I and has sustained an injury which has caused Jake to be impotent. This injury weighs down on Jake because his relationship with Brett could only last if he has the ability to have sex. Throughout the novel, Jake has hid from his problems by excessively drinking, but in the end, he faces his problems head on and understands that he can not have a relationship with Lady Brett Ashley. Although Jake sympathizes with himself because of the injury he has sustained, by the end of the novel, Jake can be classified as a typical Hemingway Code Hero because he is loyal to his friends, cherishes the deep beauty of bullfighting, and sheds the many illusions in his life.

Jake has an extremely small circle of close friends which leads to several arguments and fights, but his loyalty towards his friends, especially Robert Cohn, is what allows him to be classified as a code hero. On most occasions, Jake has shown great loyalty to Robert Cohn. When Cohn’s fiancé, Frances, is verbally attacking Cohn regarding her trip to England, Jake thinks, “I do not know how people could say such terrible things to Robert Cohn” which emphasizes Jake’s support of his friend (56).

Although Jake failed to take action against Frances, his thoughts highlight his moral support for Cohn. Jake seems to have Cohn’s back no matter how much he annoyed Jake. Jake realizes that Cohn was a “[person] to whom you could not say insulting things” (56). He knows how innocent Cohn is compared to everyone else who served in the war. Jake is also extremely loyal to Brett and this can be seen in the final moments of The Sun Also Rises. Brett sends a telegram to Jake that she is in trouble. Jake immediately takes a train to Madrid that night. Jake knows that Brett does not think much of him and views him as just another guy, but his loyalty to Brett is what makes him take the Sud Express to Madrid. Jake’s loyalty to his friends is one of the important code hero traits that he possesses. 

Jake begins to appreciate the deep beauty of nature and sport when he travels to Spain to see the bull fights. Throughout his life, Jake has been characterized as an “expatriate” who has “lost touch with the soil” (120). He is a member of the “Lost Generation” and lives his life aimlessly having no morals or values. While Jake has undoubtedly lost his connection to his surroundings, he hasn’t lost his passion, or aficion, for the sport of bullfighting. When Jake starts conversing with Montoya, the owner of Pamplona Inn, Montoya tells Jake, "But he's not aficionado like you are" (136). Later, Jake reveals that “Aficion means passion. An aficionado is one who is passionate about the bull-fights” (136).

These simple statements emphasize Jake’s deep appreciation for bullfighting. The sport provides something to remove Jake from his dissolute life. Jake’s aficion for bullfighting illustrates that Jake has the ability to appreciate something very deeply, even though he is scarred from the war. Bullfighting is one of the few things that allows Jake to separate himself from the “Lost Generation.” Jake sees bullfighting as something sacred in his life which allows him to be differentiated from the rest of the group. Fishing is also something that allows Jake to connect with the earth. Jake and his friend, Bill Gorton, enjoy distancing themselves from the “irony and pity” of society and go fishing for trout in Burguete (118). Jake, “[digging] some worms,” can act as a metaphor for Jake returning to the soil of the earth (117). Bill and Jake also drink wine that was cooled by the natural spring which highlights their appreciation of nature. Jake begins to appreciate the beauty of nature and sport when he travels to Spain and starts to lose the many illusions in his life.

For most of his life, Jake has been living in his illusion where him and Brett can live happily ever after. Jake’s injury prevents him from consummating his love for Brett. Therefore, his injury goes from a physical wound to an emotional one that weighs down on Jake. His injury makes Jake pity himself, which is not a trait of a code-hero. However, in the end, Jake realizes and understands that he can not be with Brett by saying, “Isn’t it pretty to think so” (251). This statement reveals that Jake sheds his illusion of being with Brett and finally accepts the reality of the situation. The only way he could be with Brett was if he had not sustained his injury. Jake’s almost sharp reply shows that Jake no longer has any illusions of his relationship with Brett. Jake understands that Brett views him as just another guy in her life.

Earlier in the novel, Jake also opens up to Cohn by saying, “You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another” (19).  Jake knows that he can not run away from his problems by traveling from place to place because that is what he has been doing since the war ended. Jake sheds the illusion by understanding that he will never be able to have a life as he did before he went to war. Jake knows that wherever he goes in the world, his problems will follow him. He tries to explain this to Cohn, but he doesn’t want to listen to Jake. By shedding the illusions in his life, Jake begins to solidify himself as a code hero. 

While Jake walks a fine line between being a code hero and not being one, in the end, Jake ends up being a Hemingway Code Hero. In the beginning, Jake ran away from his problems and was living in a illusion, dreaming that he could have a relationship with Brett. He drank excessively and sympathized with himself because of his injury. He got into fights with his friends, but was loyal to them until the end. He lost his connection with society and the world around him and was seen as a member of the “Lost Generation.” In the end, Jake understands his reality and learns to accept the fact that he can not be with Brett and loses his self-pity when he refers to his injury as an “accident.” Jake’s self-pity because of his injury used to hold Jake down and stray him away from being a code hero. But, by showing loyalty to his friends, having a deep appreciation for bullfights, and shedding the many illusion of his life, Jake can be classified as a Hemingway Code Hero.



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