Thursday, August 11, 2011

Jake Barnes is a Typical Hemingway Hero, Code Hero

A particular “code” is consistently used to form the heroes of Ernest Hemingway’s various works of literature. In The Sun Also Rises, this “code” was referred to when Hemingway created the character of Jake Barnes, the main character and narrator of the novel. The heroic personalities and morals of this character (or lack thereof) make him an excellent example of what a “Hemingway hero” truly is. These traits are shown by how he associates with others, how he deals with his own problems, and how he deals with societal issues.

This Hemingway hero always has very particular character traits. Unlike a “code hero” (the epitome of what a hero should be), the Hemingway hero has a number of shortcomings to go along with their admirable qualities. The Hemingway hero often suffers from an unreasonable or unbelievable wound or loss. They often choose to act rather than think or discuss things with others. The character is required to reject the norms and values generally accepted in society. Insomnia, fear, anxiety, and despair often plague the Hemingway hero due to a struggle against the concept of “nada”. (Miles)

“Nada” is a concept which must be understood in order to comprehend the works of Ernest Hemingway and his practice of employing characters that follow a certain “code” of morals and character traits. The concept regards the lack of morals and an absence of God brought about by the social attitudes of the Lost Generation (the young expatriates of post-WWI America). (Miles)

Jake Barnes exhibits the characteristics of a Hemingway hero by the way he treats the people around him. He shows that he does have a lack of morals (this is his acceptance of “nada”) but he usually is dissatisfied with living an immoral life. Jake shows nonchalance towards a prostitute who he employs to accompany him one night. The fact that he introduces this woman to his friends by saying, “I wish to present my fiancĂ©e” (Hemingway 24 Chapter 3) shows his disregarding attitude towards relationships and love. Had he been able to act as a code hero, he would have treated relationships with other people more seriously. Had he been an anti-hero, the opposite would have occurred and he would have done the same thing but with no feelings of regret or even good feelings.

Jake Barnes suffered a groin wound from the war which left him impotent. Thrse are two additional factors that make Jake a Hemingway hero: unreasonable wounds and losses as well as involvement in a war are attributes given to them. (Miles)

The various internal struggles that Jake Barnes battles also match up with the ideal Hemingway hero. Jake often suffered from insomnia. He would “lay awake thinking with his mind jumping around” and he also broke down into tears. (Hemingway 39 Chapter 4) The code hero would never break down into tears. The Hemingway hero, however, made a successful effort to never show weakness in the public but he often lets himself go when alone. Jake also has a sense of despair throughout the novel towards his failed love with Brett. He often takes their casual relationship well but sometimes does experience a feeling of dejection. At one point he questions if things could somehow work out between the two of them as lovers but soon saw it as a foolish consideration. (Hemingway 62 Chapter 7)

Another internal struggle he suffers is that of religious matters. Characteristic of a Hemingway hero, Jake feels an absence of God and a lack of spirituality. Hemingway paints the faithlessness of Jake. Religion for him is no longer a soothing force and the emotional life is paralyzed. He not intact with any religion. Even Jake was "a little ashamed, and regretted that I was such a rotten catholic, but realized there was noting I could do about it, at least for a while I only wished I felt religious and may be I would be the next time.”

He has lost their faith in religion. So when he wants to pray to God, he is not able to do that because of his lack of devotion. In one occasion, Jake starts to pray but he almost felt asleep so he prays for the Bullfighters:

"I knelt and started to pray and prayed for everybody I thought of Brett and Mike and Bill and Robert Cohn and myself and all the bullfighters separately for the one I liked and humping all the rest, then I prayed for myself again and while I was getting sleepy."

These lines indicate Jake's instability with religion. Hemingway describes that if he had firm belief in religion he might be able to pray for himself.

The satisfactions that Jake gets out of life have no moral or spiritual purposes. As a proper Hemingway hero, Jake Barnes seeks value in immediate and practical things such as food, drink, and sex. (Miles) Although partially abstaining from the latter due to his impotency, Jake does, as an expatriate, value food, drink, and mindless conversation with friends. He may not be an alcoholic such as Lady Brett Ashley, but he does drink heavily on occasion. In example, he drank a good amount when he went fishing with Bill in Spain. “They had not lost any money on the wine” while there. (Hemingway 116 Chapter 11)

Jake is neither a code hero nor an anti hero, rather he lives between the two. As a Hemingway hero, he falls below a code hero but above an anti-hero. Like an anti-hero, he often prefers to act impulsively rather than spend time thinking or talking. This can be seen when Jake agrees to help Brett seduce Pedro Romero. He gave in without the slightest fight. It was impulsive and, had he thought about it, he would have seen that it was a destructive move. (Hemingway 188 Chapter 16) Likewise, Jake is very different from men like Robert Cohn and is sometimes more like people such as Pedro Romero. More like Romero, Jake was a fanatic. Not only was he a fanatic when it came to the bull-fights, but he was also a fanatic for life in general.

The Hemingway hero exhibits traits through their various actions, thoughts, and struggles that lie between the code hero and the anti-hero. Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises acts as an excellent example of the Hemingway hero.

Works Cited
Hemingway, Ernest. The Sun Also Rises. New York: Scribner, 2006.
Miles, Melvin C. "An Introductory Overview of Ernest Hemingway." El Camino College. ECC, 2002. Web. 12 Mar 2010. .

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