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Some of Hemingway's Code Heroes

Nathan A. Scott:

"Hemingway's moralism is expressed not only in his own style as an artist but also in the strict discipline of conduct to which he holds the people of his fiction accountable. And, at the level of manners, this is a discipline which is an exact analogue of that which is regarded as guaranteeing the writer' own integrity. Mark Schorer (in his widely known essay, "Technique as Discovery") has called it a "morality of the stiff lip," and Hemingway himself described it as "grace under pressure" -- and either formula can serve as an admirable summary of that ideal of honor and code of conduct in which the controlling ethical norms of Hemingway's fiction are lodged. Edmund Wilson (in The Wound and the Bow) named the decisive principle here as one of "sportsmanship" -- which suggests, perhaps in a more immediate way, the actual quality of the virtues and vices that the fiction brings into play. For it is indeed something like the discipline of the sportsman which is held up as emblematic of how a man ought to behave. Rinaldi and Frederick Henry in A Farewell to Arms; Harry Morgan in To Have and Have Not; Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls; Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea; Wilson the hunter in "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"; Jack, the old prizefighter, in "Fifty Grand"; the old matador, Manuel, in "The Undefeated"; Colonel Richard Cantwell in Across the River and into the Trees -- all these (and many others who might also be cited) are men of a certain high kind of chivalry and of a most rigorous honesty, men who do not funk out in the moment of peril, who bear pain with reticence and dignity, who do not whine when defeated: and whatever it is that 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. These are men indeed who "carry" themselves in a way that bespeaks the high regard that they have for simplicity of life and precision of speech and consistency of conduct: 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, for in them conscience -- at least through certain limited ranges of moral experience -- is developed to a very fine point. In short, they have what Hemingway liked to speak of as cojones -- which, without resort to euphemism, may be very simply translated as "guts."

Hemingway's Code Hero -

The Hero of the Code -

Nathan A. Scott Jr.(1966). Ernest Hemingway: A Critical Essay. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman.

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