The Lost Generation Image And Code Hero In A Farewell To Arms

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Behind the best American novel to emerge from World War One, is the embodiment and depiction of the many soldiers who returned to their states broken down and alienated from the war. Lieutenant Fredric Henry, the protagonist in A Farewell To Arms, is a clear illustration of Ernest Hemingway’s idea of the Lost Generation and the idealistic code hero. Like many other of Hemingways’ code heroes, Fredric Henry existentially feels detached from the world and the war. As Fredric faces the harsh traumas and realities of World War One, he continues to reject the traditional values of religion and represents an abstract view on the war. Essentially, Henry conveys the general loss of faith and religion in a convention of morality of the code hero. Opposed to Henry in the poem “A Farewell To Arms” , the knight is the clear depiction of the true ideals of a classic hero: loyalty, traditional values, and a perfectionist. In A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway uses indirect characterization to contrast the code hero and the classical hero through the ideas of loyalty, rejection of traditional values like patriotism, and impurifications which reflect upon the lost generation.

The most evident contrast is the difference between Frederic’s loyalty towards the war and the knight’s loyalty towards the queen. In the novel, A Farewell To Arms, the Italian Army starts to arrest and kill their own Italian men in search for disguised Germans. After Henry is arrested and taken to the riverbank, Henry makes for a fight or flight moment. Henry's concise stream of consciousness after he takes action to escape into the Tagliamento river describes his loyalty towards the war: “[I] ran for the river, my head down… The water was very cold and I stayed under as long as I could.” (Hemingway 225). When he submerges into the cold water of Tagliamento River, Frederic’s obligation towards the Italian army washes away and shifts towards the love of his life, Catherine. In total, Frederic flees, not out of cowardness, but out of unwillingness to make a sacrifice towards a large institution and larger cause, such as the war, that is meaningless {in his eyes} showing his true loyalty towards the war. His immersion from the river and flight from the war, signifies his inability to be loyal to large institutions and embodies what it means to be a code hero as opposed to the classic chivalrous hero. In contrast, in “A Farewell To Arms” poem, George Peele describes loyalty as a knight as “And, lovers' sonnets turn'd to holy psalms ...A man-at-arms must now serve on his knees,” (Peele) reinforcing what it means to be a classic hero. He shows that a knight must abide to the loyalty of queen no matter what. Even when the knight lays down his shining armor, he must continue to serve the queen in prayer and spread his ideas to the good of the people. Hemingway’s illustration of Frederic’s loyalty towards a small group as opposed to Peele’s portrayal of the knight’s loyalty towards large institutions shows readers what it means to be a code hero versus a classical hero.

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Frederic further differentiates from the knights ideal classic hero through his rejection of traditional values. In the novel, A Farewell to Arms, Frederic presents an entirely different perspective on the war. This is mainly presented when Henry meets the young patriot, Gino. Gino prattles the sacredness of the italian army and his own willingness to die for his own country. However, Henry displays his abstract traditional views of patriotism when he says, “Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates,” (Hemingway 185). To Henry, such abstractions like honor, courage, and hallow mean little to nothing for the chaos and destruction war brings upon the people. He diminishes the romanticized “sacrifices” and puts aside the traditional worth of honor and glory of the war. He rejects the traditional values of patriotism and essentially what it means to be a soldier. Contrarily, Peele creates a falsified image of the classic hero through the use of the knight when he says, “And when he saddest sits in homely cell ...He'll teach his *swains this carol for a song”. To Peele, the natural, chivalrous hero will continue to spread his patriotic ideas about the queen as if it were a song. In this statement, Peele uses figurative language to compare the spread of the patriotic ideas of the knight versus teachings through a carol of a song. Overall, the knight doesn’t lose his traditional values of patriotism and will continue to spread his ideas for his queen. The knights values of war and patriotism greatly differentiates from Frederic’s rejection of the traditional values like patriotism, and shows what it means to be a code hero in the eyes of Hemingway.

Frederic departs from the knights classical code hero in his ideas of perfection of an individual. Ernest Hemingway uses the catastrophic events that broke down and alienated the soldiers or the lost generation in order to develop a concept known as the “nada principle.” The code hero's conceptual idea of the 'nada principle' portrays the idea that Henry's life is filled with pain and suffering regardless of his actions. Henry views alcohol as the only way to escape this reality of war and the “nada principle.” Ernest Hemingway describes Frederic’s conversation with Miss Van Campen shortly after he finds out his world is going to descend into chaos as he is called back to the front: “I suppose you can’t be blamed for not wanting to go back to the front. But I should think you would try something more intelligent than producing jaundice with alcoholism,” (Hemingway 144). Henry believes the only way for him to cope with the emptiness is to continue to drink. The “nada principle” or the code hero idea that life is meaningless has resorted Henry to drink away his problems. In other words, Hemingways ideal code hero, represented by Frederic, uses the imperfection of alcoholism as a way to cope with the problems he comes face to face with. On the other hand, in “A Farewell to Arms” poem, George Peele uses the perfections of the knight in order to effectively portray what it means to be a classic hero. George Peele continues to describe the purities of the knight when he states “But though from court to cottage he depart, His Saint is sure of his unspotted heart.” In reference towards perfection, the poem confirms that even religious figures like the Saint believe that in order to be a classical hero, it is necessary to have an unspotted heart or to be pure. From the time he works with the queen in servitude to his death, the knight must remain perfect and pure. Hemingway uses the “nada principle” in order to portray the impurities that make up Henry while Peele describes the knight as perfect and pure.

Hemingway uses the reflection of his own life and historical issues like the Lost Generation in order to contrast Frederic Henry from the classical hero like the knight. During the late 1500s, the “Farewell To Arms” poem depicts what it means to be a classical hero through indirect characterization. Overall, George Peele portrays the ideals of the classical hero through the use of the knight of Queen Elizabeth. However, Hemingway speaks for the scarred, depressed soldiers like the Lost Generation in order to present new ideas on what it means to be a “hero.” In the novel, A Farewell To Arms, Hemingway presents ideas of flaw, rejection of traditional values like patriotism, and loyalty through the use of the code hero: Frederic Henry. Frederic Henry, suffers the harsh realities of war while trying to find his purpose within life… by the end he finds life is meaningless. Like many other soldiers during World War One, Henry is just one of 6 million soldiers who returned home with a shattered, traditional image on what it means to be a “hero.”

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