heroarms Frederick as a Code Hero in Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms


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Frederick as a Code Hero in Farewell to Arms

 

It is the nature of the beast within that fuels our inclination towards conflict and destruction. During the surreal powers of war, life hangs in the balance setting the stage for an elite group of individuals who triumphantly rise above the rest amidst the chaos. As Ernest Hemingway illustrates in his book, Farewell to Arms, the character of Frederick Henry; an ambulance driver, is put to the ultimate test during the madness and atrocity of WWI. His experiences at the front pose a challenge only a Hemingway hero can affront successfully. As the epitome of a code hero, Frederick is a man of action, self-discipline, and one who maintains grace under pressure.

 

 

Whenever the situation requires, Henry rises to the occasion taking control of potentially dangerous incidents with quick decision leaving no room for second thought. After Frederick is captured by the battle police, he foresees his inevitable death if no action was taken and instinctively escaped detainment. "I looked at the carabineri, they were looking at the newcomers. The others were looking a the colchel. I ducked down, pushed between two men, and ran for the river, my head down. I tripped at the edge and went in with a splash" (Hemingway, 214). Henry witnessed the gruesome executions of the officers before him and knew he was not going to die without a fight to preserve his precious existence. Being a man of action rather than words, was the determining factor which helped him survive this unfortunate confrontation with death. Regardless of the circumstances, Henry used his authoritative position to make sure others did not engage in any threatening positions that could jeopardize their safety and the safety of others. When one of his ambulances got suck in the mud during a retreat, two sergeants simply tried to abandon the situation but Frederick stopped them in their tracks. "Halt, I said. They kept on down the muddy road, the hedge on either side. I order you to halt. I called. They went a little faster. I opened up my holster, took the pistol, aimed at the one who talked the most, and fired" (Hemingway, 195). The men were given an ample opportunity to obey Henry's commands and by ignoring them, it suggested that they were challenging their superior's authority. Such actions are not tolerated by Frederick as he was once again forced to take the initiative as his character is always compelled to do.

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The possession of self-discipline is another vital element that forms the makeup of the code hero and is the only value that will truly serve a man. Although Henry is an avid drinker, he never becomes drunk to the point that he does not know what he is doing or can control his behavior and actions. "He poured two glasses and we touched them, first fingers extended. The grappa was very strong. ......We drank the second grappa, Rinaldi put away the bottle and we went down the stairs" (Hemingway, 17). Presented with the invitation, Henry gladly accepted a few drinks an acted like a dignified gentlemen even though in the immediate presence of alcohol. A man of strength and character will not let substance control and influence his actions for only the weak are dependent and rely upon such means to live out each day. Frederick's self-discipline not only shines in his drinking habits, but shows in all instances especially when the challenge to maintain it is at its greatest. After he plunged into the lake escaping the battle police, Henry boarded a train and entered a wine shop in the town of Milan where the train stopped. The owner of this shop offered to sell him leave papers and also a place to stay to avoid the authorities, but Frederick avoided the temptation. "Remember, he said. Come here do not let other people take you in. Here you are all right."....."I am in no trouble, Frederick said. But I value the address of a friend...."(Hemingway, 228). Even though he was a wanted criminal, Henry did not accept the help that would have provided a way to avoid being arrested even if for only a short time. As a man on the run, Frederick would be unlikely to repose trust in the first stranger who accosts him after his disersion. He uses his self-control to resist his overwhelming urges to accept the help as not to risk jeopardizing his future with Catherine who was the one and only love of his life. He has an uncanny ability to weigh and analyze the choices he makes without getting emotionally involved.

 

 

Frederick is sentimentally detached from the rest of the world that enables him to deal with intensely climatic moments with such aplomb and ease. When being transported to his room in the American hospital, Henry graciously acknowledged the stretcher-bearers even in such grueling pain. "There is money in my pocket. I said to the porter. The porter took out the money. The two stretcher bearers stood beside the bed holding their caps. Give them 5 lire a piece and five lire for yourself" (Hemingway, 81). Rewarding the staff for doing their job in spite of Henry's uncomfortable dilemma is a perfect example of how he is able to put aside his true inner feelings to accommodate those around him. Regardless of the severity of any given situation, Frederick is able to mask his emotions showing only a nonchalant facade as he performs mundane duties in traumatic or pressure filled predicaments. He deals with his wife's death by merely observing her lifeless body and casually strolling back to the hotel like nothing had ever happened. "But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn't any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain" (Hemingway, 314). The statue is a metaphorical creation, which attempts to grasp the nothingness Frederick feels after Catherine's death. Perhaps the path Henry takes towards the hotel symbolizes a new chapter in his life one in which he begins without the love he held so dearly and strived to maintain.

 

Frederick reflects the essential elements of a true code hero with dignity and grace. By following his character in every facet of his journey, we see how Hemingway uses it to unify the central events of the story around his creation of a new breed of hero and all the qualities they possess. Such characteristics will set one apart and become evident in all aspects of life where they are truly challenged and welcomed. As it may be, we all hold the potential to achieve the status of a code hero; but only the strong and willing are able to look within and release the true essence of their being for others to experience.


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