Use of Heroes in A Farewell of Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway has the tendency to use his heroes in some unheroic ways. At first the hero may seem obvious, but later on it is discovered that the true hero is not who it seems to be. In A Farewell to Arms Hemingway uses the true hero to guide the main character into becoming a hero, but fails miserably.
Hemingway characterizes his heroes as people with strength, courage, and bravery, but even heroes have their flaws. For example, Frederic Henry, the protagonist of A Farewell to Arms, survives an artillery bombardment that kills one of his own men and badly injures him. Hemingway shows the strength of this character through his survival of the bombardment and full recovery of his wounds. Hemingway portrays Frederic as a hero through this strength. In addition, Fredric, being fully aware of the dangers from both the enemy and the Italian’s, who mistake him and his drivers for German’s, kill one of them, and then threaten to execute Frederic, who escapes. In this daring escape, Frederic presents his courage and bravery in a dangerous situation. Hemingway demonstrates that although one of Frederic’s men dies, he is still courageous in that his escape was successful. Frederic Henry’s potential as a hero is shown by Hemingway’s illustration of events that depict Frederic’s use of his strength, his courage, and his bravery (Lewis 46).
Occasionally even heroes make mistakes, which Hemingway describes very carefully. Frederic Henry and his men were retreating in their ambulances when along the way they picked up two sergeants and continued retreating. Later the ambulances get stuck in the mud and the sergeants were walking away leaving the stuck ambulance and refusing to help dislodge it so Frederic shoots one of them as the other flees (Lewis 49). When he shoots the sergeant he fails himself and becomes, in a way, inhuman. He accepts and acts by a military code that he later becomes unable to accept or act by when it is applied to him (Wylder 78).
Frequently throughout Hemingway’s use of heroes there are two behaviors or types of heroes that he uses, these are the “Hemingway Hero” and the “Code Hero”. The Hemingway hero is usually a masculine man who drinks, loves hunts and bullfights, and has war injuries.