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ISSN: 0974-892X


Jan-July, 2014



Aspect of Hemingway’s Code Heroes: A Study

Dr Smita Jha
Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities & Social Sciences, IIT, Roorkee


There is perhaps great substance and meaningfulness in the statement that “no other author of our time has had such a general and lasting influence on the generation which grew up between the world wars as Ernest Hemingway” (Lania,1961).Hemingway’s case as a writer is highly interesting for several reasons. The first of these reasons is that it is difficult to separate Hemingway the man from Hemingway the writer because most of his writings, in one way or another, relate directly to his personal life. Secondly, Hemingway the writer has, in a striking way, his own bearing upon Hemingway the man, for right from his early age he was determined to be a writer .Thirdly, Hemingway was so much a man of enterprise and action, of daring and adventure that in his very lifetime he grew into a legend. And, lastly, we have to keep wondering as to how Hemingway, who spent so much of his time over other pursuits and activities, could be able to write poems, plays, short stories and novels. As such, it would be proper and profitable to keep in view all these aspects of his colorful personality in order to be able to undertake an assessment not only of his writings in general but also of his code characters in particular. 
Ernest Hemingway, we all know, was rather a prolific writer; in fact, he had so shaped himself as to lose no opportunity to render his impressions and experiences into an articulate form .His first book entitled Three Stories and Ten Poems   was published in 1923, and it was immediately followed by a collection of his stories called In Our Time in 1924. Two years later, that is, in 1926 Hemingway brought out two of his novels, the satirical short novel, Torrents of Spring and The Sun Also Rises .At this point we cannot do without recalling that The Sun Also Rises achieved immediate success and was indeed acclaimed as great work of fiction .His second volume of short stories, Men Without Women, was published in 1927, and it was followed two years later by his second novel entitled A Farewell to Arms. In 1932 Hemingway brought out a book about bull-fighting named Death in the Afternoon , while the third volume of  his short stories entitled Winner Take Nothing came out in 1933 .He wrote a travelogue called Green Hills of Africa in 1935 , while shortly thereafter he wrote two of his powerful short stories, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”  and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” , that emerged out of his experiences of prolonged hunting in Africa .The year 1936 saw the publication of his next novel, To Have and Have Not . Hemingway’s play, relating to the Spanish Civil War, captioned The Fifth Column came out in 1937.From 1940 to 1952 Hemingway wrote three novels named For Whom The Bells Tolls (1940), Across the River and into The Trees (1950) and The Old Man and the Sea (1952). It did not come to the world as a surprise that he received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. And equally so, there was nothing unusual about his shooting himself to death in 1961. A Moveable Feast, brought out posthumously in 1964, contains essays concerning Hemingway’s years in Paris from 1921 to 1926.
It is generally said that Ernest Hemingway was not merely a rebellious, an aggressive individual but also a manly writer, tough and virile, and that he may be looked upon as perhaps the manliest among twentieth-century writers. Somehow or other, Ernest Hemingway the man forced his way into growing as Ernest Hemingway the legend, a legend in his very lifetime .However, in order to be able to understand and appreciate the real nature of his character, we have to examine the very course of his life in all its fullness and diversity .Although he had been born in a well-to-do middle-class family at oak Park in Illinois, right from his childhood he was a victim of emotional tension arising out of the conflict between “the Spartan demands of his physician father” (Fenton, 1954) and “the rich artistic aura which his mother attempted to cast over her family” (Fenton,1954) .All the same, there were the grains of precarious wisdom in Hemingway .During his stay at the Oak Park school, it is true, he was interested as much in sports and outdoor activities as in acquiring learning; nevertheless, even as a boy his zeal for writing was stimulated both by the nature of the school curriculum, with its emphasis on classical myths, narrative poems and novels, and by the particular gifts of two of his teachers, miss Biggs and Miss Dixon .
Before we undertake a study of the code characters in Ernest Hemingway’s major novels, it is but proper that we try to understand and explain the implications of the term ‘code character’. It is generally thought that Ernest Hemingway’s characters are delinquents, drunkards, sexual maniac or perverts, extroverts and outdoor people, that they are, more or less, in the nature of social outcastes, frivolous, cynical and rootless, and that they are the people who look upon life as cheap, exciting, sensational, briefly enjoyable sport, and not as serious, sustained or meaningful business. Not unnaturally, it is said that “the brutality of the Hemingway fiction world has led many readers to think of the authors as a kind of caveman of literature’ (Wegenknecht, 1969). However, as we go through Hemingway’s writings, we find that his case is not as simple as it has been made out to be. It is indeed true that, in certain ways and to a large extent, Hemingway’s female characters, in spite of their quaint nesses and oddities, are far simpler than their male counterparts,  for without much hesitation or deliberation, we may place them in three distinct categories: (a) those whose lives are the least complicated and who, with certain qualifications, represent a sort of ideal womanhood, such as Catherine Barkley in A Farewell to Arms, Maria in For Whom The Bell Tolls , and Renata in Across the River and into the Trees; (b) those who are predatory sex-maniacs and have nearly dehumanized themselves, for example, Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises and Margot Macomber in The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber ;(c) and those who appear as benevolent mother-figures, such as Pilar in For Whom the Bell Tolls and Marie in To Have and Have Not. And though it is also true that Hemingway’s women are the victims of terrible situations, yet his major male characters, his protagonists are far more complex than his female figures.
Hemingway’s major male figures may be, and are generally, divided into two groups: (a) the Hemingway hero; (b) and the code hero. Earl Rovit calls the former the ‘tyro’ (Rovit, 1963) and the latter the ‘tutor’ (Rovit, 1963).
The Hemingway hero is usually a young man who, despite physical and emotional injuries, tries almost incessantly to learn to live in a world that is pervaded by uncertainties, anxieteties, violence and chaos. This is the post-First world war world which has seen the utter collapse of all traditional values and in which sensitive individuals feel confused and bewildered and lost .In view of the obtaining situation there is naturally very little scope for personal initiative and heroism in such a world , and there is naturally very little opportunity for an exercise of options against high stakes in the prevailing condition .It certainly goes to Hemingway’s credit that in spite of his intense awareness of all adverse factors, or perhaps because of it, he succeeds in creating characters who face the problems as best as they could and who assert themselves as well as they could in the face of big obstacles in a world of stark barbarism. No doubt, Hemingway’s heroes, such as Nick Adams in In Our Time, Jack Barnes in The Sun Also Rises, Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms,Robert Jordan For Whom the Bell Tolls and Richard Cantwell in Across the River and Into the Trees, are the victims of one sort or another ,and yet their uniqueness lies contained in the fact that, in their own peculiar and extraordinary  ways , they make sincere efforts to evolve a code of values that would guide and sustain them in the course of their lives. Nick Adam is the son of a doctor; Jake Barnes is a journalist; Frederic Henry, a student of architecture, is an army Lieutenant, while Robert Jordan, a teacher of Spanish at an American college, fights in Spain. They exploit their own limited and meager resources to give a direction and a meaning to their lives .However, the milieu, the surrounding they find themselves in, does not permit them to function as they would like to. Endurance, perhaps, occupies the topmost place in the hierarchy of their values. They do also attach great importance to a code of personal ethics, according to which they respect fellow sufferers, refuse to betray them, and demonstrate courage in the face of danger or death.
These heroes are honest and virile young people, but also sensitive; they are outdoor men with a flair for adventure, but also nervous. They are in a state of trepidation because they have seen people being wounded or killed, bloody bodies being disfigured beyond recognition, Caesarian operations being performed without anesthesia, helmets  full of oozing –out brains, and evil in its most brutal and undisguised form. Many of them have had a similar kind of childhood .They do experience a kind of void within them, but they do not betray either their feeling of fear or their feeling of vacancy. They have realized that personal relationships are extremely fragile in nature and that trying to look for permanence in human relation is to court nothing but disappointment. They have a mortal fear of loneliness , for it tends to crush them under its burden .As such , they cultivate and develop an interest in outdoor life, and take to rituals, the rituals of bull-fighting, of deep-sea fishing, of big –game hunting. It is true that they have seen nothingness at the center of the world and that they are in despair ; nevertheless ,they are not desperate , for with the help of their code they have learnt to come to some sort of peace  with this nothingness .
Most of the Hemingway heroes are homeless, rootless people, exiles and expatriates, who have moved away from their native culture .And they are exiles not merely literally, but also metaphorically. In In Our Time Nick Adams has moved away from the safety and security of a sheltered life at home to the theatre of a war-torn Europe. In The Sun also Rises Jake Barnes is an American who keeps on moving about in Paris and Spain. In A Farewell to Arms Frederic Henry joins the Italian army and fights for a cause he does not really or adequately understand. And in For Whom the Bell Tolls Robert Jordan, though a sincere and dedicated individual is not very sure of his political affiliations because he finds that the Fascists are not all black and that the Loyalists are not all white. They do not believe in rhetoric; in fact, they are usually reticent, and take recourse to understatements, to clipped sentences. The Hemingway heroes have little to do with conventional morality, and Hemingway himself is utterly forthright on this point. These heroes, no doubt, are defeated victims, injured both within and without, but, while experiencing their defeat, they weave an invisible armour or shield of their code around themselves so that for the most part they remain undefeated.
While the Hemingway heroes are young and inexperienced people, lost and confused in this world bereft of values, but still trying to grope their ways with the help of a tenuously workable code, the code heroes, ‘the tutor’, are usually older men who have become what they had to become. In a way, they have realized their potentialities and discovered the areas of their operation, and that is why the moment they step out of their chosen areas, they are on slippery ground .In Hemingway’s short story, “In Another Country”, the Major cries over the death of his wife, even though he has encountered and dealt with death all his life. In The Sun Also Rises Romero,  the bull-fighter , refuses to accept defeat at the hands of Robert Cohn who has been the boxing champion at Princeton .In the bull ring too he faces the bulls squarely without letting his physical injuries impede his performance. In The Old Man and the Sea Santiago does not let the Merlin escape in spite of his old age, hunger, exhaustion and the fear that he might lose. He fights out the battle to its bitter end until he is successful. It is with the same or similar kind of courage and perseverance that he defends his prize against the sharks; he does not give in, and he does attain a superhuman stature because of his epic struggle against utterly heavy and nearly insurmountable odds. 
It cannot be said that these code heroes are more successful than the Hemingway heroes; the truth lies in the fact that even as they suffer physical defeat, they win an extraordinary kind of moral victory. Santioago loses the Merlin, the giant fish, its flesh having been eaten up by the sharks; however, he does have the immense satisfaction of doing all that he could do in the given situation. And it is this satisfaction, this feeling of incredible, yet real involvement that lends him dignity and grandeur.
As we make this distinction between the ‘tyro’ and the ‘tutor’, between the Hemingway hero and the code hero, of necessity we have to reckon with fact that in spite of all their oddities and perversions the Hemingway heroes too, like their code counterparts, have their own code of conduct that guides them through the travails and traumas of life.
Jack Barnes is the narrator-hero of The Sun Also Rises; he is reportedly a journalist and an expatriate; he is an American who has been living in France after the First World War Jack has been wounded in the war; he has been hit in the genitals, and as result of this injury he has been emasculated. Jack’s emotional, psychological injuries are far deeper than his physical wounds; he is, at any rate, a seemingly dissolute person. He cannot enjoy sex, and quite naturally his relation with Brett Ashley loses much of their meaning and significance. Jack’s emotional, psychological injuries are far deeper than his physical wounds. Jack does not seen to have any stable identity of his own, for, as we find him, he exists only in relation with the other characters in the novel. However, there is a positive side to his character that he is very close to Nature. It is, therefore, not at all strange that in spite of all his handicaps and shortcomings Jake has come to terms with life and has evolved a code in order to be able to endure it. ‘I try and play it along and just not make trouble for people’ is the motto of Jack’s life, and despite all disenchantments with life he hopes to sail through the currents of life with the help of this very code.
Another important figure in this novel is Pedro Romero who is a great bullfighter. He has been trained at a bullfighting school. Basically, he is a man of polite manners, and is respectful to others. It is indeed by a peculiar quirk of fate that, through Jack Barnes, he gets in touch with Brett Ashley. Romero’s purity and innocence and simplicity disarm Brett; she realizes that she has been spoiling him, and she leaves him almost in huff. But by the time she does so, he has brought about in her a vital change in her outlook and behavior. Romero is a man of great virility and physical strength. He dominates the scene in nearly one-third of the novel, and it is in view of his perseverance and firmness of will that Philip Young calls him Hemingway’s ‘early code hero’ ( O’Connor,W.V. 1964).  
Count Mippipopolous, no doubt, is one of the secondary characters in The Sun Also Rises, and yet he is fully individualized and well-delineated character. He has been a participant in several wars and four revolutions, and has sustained injuries in them. He has a special fondness for antiquities, solitude and brandy, and though he believes, generally speaking, in the efficacy of love, Brett Ashley dismisses him as someone “dead” (Hemingway, 1974). He is guided by his own code. His code is never to joke, for joking makes enemies. He may not be a code character in the accepted sense of the term, and still he is a code character, for he does follow a self-evolved code of values for his moral and spiritual sustenance.
A Farewell to Arms is a novel that takes us to a world ravaged by war, by cholera and syphilis, by ‘frostbites, chilblains, jaundice, gonorrhea, self-inflicted wounds, pneumonia and hard and soft chancres’ (Hemingway, 1975); it is a world dominated by sickness and gloom and depression and disillusionment, yet it is a world enlivened and redeemed by happiness and joy and bliss, by love and compassion. Frederick Henry, the protagonist, comes to Europe, to Italy, as a student of architecture at Rome. He is not a tourist; he is only a displaced and uprooted person, and it is for unexplained, unidentified reason, perhaps for the sake of adventure alone, that he joins the Italian war as an ambulance driver. Initially Frederick Henry strikes us as a flippant character, a cynical person. Curiously enough, and perhaps foolhardily enough, Frederick thinks that he is immortal and that nothing would happen to him in the war. However, Frederick gets grievously wounded in the war, and during the long period of treatment he undergoes at the hospital, he moves closer and closer still to Catherine Barkley. His idea of war as a glorious phenomenon and of the battlefield as a place for making noble sacrifices is rudely shattered. Hereafter we encounter a completely changed Frederick, a person of strong will and great determination, one who has gathered a good deal directly from life and whose actions are based on conviction. The mere fact that he jumps into the flooded, swollen Taglimanto for his escape from the army at a grave threat to his life signifies the centrality of his newly-evolved code, his commitment to peace and love in life. And his unbroken, unflinching love for Catherine Barkley for the sake of peace and bliss in life is a positive achievement in itself. However, the truth of the matter is that Frederick Henry is a character who may, with certain reservations or qualifications, be looked upon as a code character, for, in spite of his initial flippancy, vagrancy and cynicism, he conducts himself, later in his life, according to his own code of values which he evolves out of his desperate and ugly struggles with life.
To Have and Have Not is not quite an important novel, and yet it deserves consideration chiefly because its hero, Harry Morgan, is a code character and that the way in which he conducts himself has his own bearing on Hemingway’s concept of the code hero. The present novel consists of three interlinked stories. In Part one of the novel entitled ‘Henry Morgan: Spring’, Morgan becomes extremely poor because one of the rich business magnates cheats him of his legitimate dues. As such, he is compelled to adopt questionable means to earn his livelihood, and in the process loses his arm and his boat. In Part Two Hemingway describes Harry Morgan’s extremely happy domestic life in utter contrast to the unhappy domestic life of the other characters in the novel. In the final part, Part Three, of the novel entitled ‘Harry Morgan: Winter’, Harry undertakes to carry a few Cubans out of the United States. The Cubans get into a boat that he has hired, but on their way to Cuba, as Harry tries to kill the Cubans, he himself is fatally wounded.
The main burden of the present novel is the severity of the economic depression that hit America during the thirties, and though this book does also deal with the theme of domesticity, of close-knit family relationship, basically it brings out Hemingway’s awareness of the contrast between the rich and the poor, the have and the have- nots. Harry Morgan is the first protagonist in Hemingway’s novels to have been individualized through his physical features. He is a man of solid physical build; he has his own determination, single-mindedness, self-command and capacity for endurance. He begins his life as a man of action; initially he is rank individualist, and it is no surprise that he choose to become a pirate. However, at the end of his life he realizes that a man cannot do or achieve anything all by himself and that he must accept society and work in harmony with it. Harry Morgan is a code hero who impresses us as the very image of virility and self-confidence, as one who evolves his code out of his own eventful life and transmits it to the world in the hope of doing well to humanity.
For Whom the Bell Tolls is not a flawless novel, first, because it deals with a rather idealized and romantic love story; secondly, because the story in it appears to be one of melodramatic struggle rather than of conviction, and, lastly, because the protagonist of the novel, Robert Jordan, does not seem to be experienced enough to say what he does actually speak to the other characters in the book. And still, through a treatment of Jordan’s life and death, through the very manner of his dying, Hemingway is able to impress upon us the basic idea that in spite of all odds life has its own attractions, that life is really worth living, and that there are causes worth dying for. In the present novel Hemingway describes three days, nearly seventy hours, in the life of Robert Jordan. He is fighting as an American volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, and is sent to a guerrilla camp in the mountains near Segovia to destroy an important bridge there in order to stall the advance of the enemy forces. Jordan spends three days and three nights in the cave of the guerrillas, waiting there for the assault on the bridge to materialize, and in the meantime falls in love with Maria whose father, a Republican mayor, has been murdered by the Falangists and who herself has been raped by them. Jordan is not very sure if he would be able to destroy the bridge; he is not at all sure of the timing of the assault too; nevertheless, he moves forward and blows up the bridge, but in the process gets grievously wounded and is left to die all by himself. We may lament the manner in which Jordan has been abandoned to die, and we may look upon his death as something cruel and humiliating, and yet the novel has offered us its prize that no sacrifice, perhaps, is too big to make human life better and more worth living.
Robert Jordan is a character who has plenty of courage, strength and valor, and who may and does risk everything, his life itself, for the achievement of his goal. He is not a conscript, and he does not stumble into war or embrace it in the spirit of adventure. Jordan is one of those protagonists that Hemingway has tried to present to us in bold and vivid physical terms. He is young, tall and thin. Later, Jordan becomes a teacher of Spanish at Montana from where he joins the civil War in Spain. He is an intellectual; he has been a teacher and also a writer, but the moment he realizes that his mind is likely to interfere with his zeal for action, he decides to stop making an exercise of it. Jordan is in full command of himself; he has nothing to do with sham heroism, and he certainly harbors no illusions. He knows his intentions; he knows as well the true nature of the Spanish people and the officers participating in the war, and but for the cause to which he has pledged himself, he would have gone in for a life with Maris in place of dangers and death. His personality has its own magnetism, and it is for very understandable reasons that Anselmo and Pilar and El Sordo, and even Pablo, get drawn towards him and respect him. Robert Jordan is full of his sense of duty; in his devotion to work he ignores the pleasures of life, and he believes in the Republic “with fervor as those who have religious faith believe in the mysteries” (Hemingway, p.89). The motive that inspires him to participate in the Spanish Civil War is clear; like the ‘partzans’, he is fighting so that eventually ;there should be no more danger and  so that the country should be a good place to live in!(Heminway,p.158)
Robert Jordan may be a Hemingway hero, as he indeed is, and still he is a code hero, for his character has undergone great changes, and he has built strong defenses around himself. He is a man of action, of determined action, and, as we have seen, all that he does is inspired by his commitment to a code of values.
Although, as Philip Young puts it, Across into the Trees ‘reads like a parody of Hemingway’s earlier works’ (P. Young, 1964), and although in this novel ‘the distance that Hemingway once maintained between himself and his protagonist has disappeared’ (P.Young, 1964), still we have reasons to believe that because of the presence of certain qualities in him, the protagonist of this novel does deserve to be called a code hero.
The protagonist in this novel, Richard Cantwell, has been a professional soldier; he is now fifty-one, and has, not unnaturally, acquired a good deal of experience and worldly wisdom. He has fought gallantly in world wars I an II, and has received both physical and emotional wounds. He has his right hand, head and his body in general injured in the war; his heart has become weak, and his face has been disfigured. He has lost the love of the three women who were there earlier in his life, and he is now in love with Renata, a Venus-like girl of nineteen. At the same time he is also obsessed with the sin of issuing foolish orders to his men during the war, resulting in terrible loss of human lives. At his age Cantwell is shorn of most of his illusions and romantic ideas, and it is quite in a characteristic vein that he says: “Everything is much smaller when you are older” (Hemigway, 1966). Commenting on the character of the Grand Master, Hemingway says: “He was truly handsome as a man should be, from the inside out, so that his smile starts from his heart, or whatever is the center of the body, and comes frankly beautifully to the surface, which is the face” (Hemingway, 1966). And this is exactly how the novelist paints Cantwell’s character. Cantwell moves about with superb confidence and with a well-defined plan of being kind, decent and good to people. Precisely speaking, it is this very disillusioned, but sturdy, aspect of Cantwell’s character that gives us the first distinct ideas of his being a code hero.
Cantwell, being aged and mature, is not at all interested in the ordinary pleasures of life; instead, he is in search of perfection, of something stable and enduring, so that he may find himself in a position to make the most of his life. It is indeed something remarkable to see that Cantwell is not afraid of death and that he faces death or the idea of death with boldness and courage. He is a man of tremendous will-power, and whenever he tends to feel depressed, he cheers himself up by saying: “Cheer up, boy…. So don’t be gloomy, boy, or man” (Heminway, 1966). The truth is that he offers a challenge to death when he declares: “…you can sheathe your seythe, old brother death, if you have got a sheath for it. Or… you can take your seythe and stick it”. (Hemingway, 1966). Cantwell addresses death as his “old brother” because throughout his life he has been dangerously close to it. He may, with due reservations, be accepted as a code hero, not really because of his revulsion against war or because of his passion for the life of the senses, but because of his superb self-confidence, his commitment to the principle of honor and his bold defiance of death. Like Robert Jordon, Cantwell too is a citizen of the world, for though he is an American, he belongs as well to Italy and Venice where he has shed his blood; and he reminds us also of Santiago because of his defiance of death and his fierce commitment to his conviction.
Robert Jordon and Cantwell are code characters in a rather special sense, but Santiago’s case is different. He is distinct and distinctive kind of code hero, and as such his character demands treatment on a much wider and deeper scale.
The Old Man and the Sea  is perhaps a long short story or a very short novel rather than a novel proper; it is ‘an epic metaphor for life, a contest in which even the problem of right and wrong seems paltry before the great thing that is the struggle’(Young,1964), and it may as well be read ‘as an allegory entirely personal to its author, as an account of his own struggle, his determination, and his literary vicissitudes’ ( Young,1964). In any case, the protagonist of this book, Santiago, is outstandingly a code hero, whose message to mankind is that ‘while a man may grow old, and be wholly down on his luck, he can still dare, stick to the rules, persist when he is licked, and thus by the manner of his losing victory’ (Young, 1964).
Santiago is an old Cuban fisherman. After eighty-four days without a fish, he ventures far out to sea alone, and hooks a giant marlin in the Gulf Stream. For two days and two nights the old man holds on while he is towed farther out to sea; finally, he brings the fish alongside, harpoons it, to take his prize away from him. He kills them all until he has only his broken tiller to fight with. By that time, however, the sharks have eaten up everything except the skeleton which the old fisherman tows to the shore. Half-dead with exhaustion, he makes his ways to bed to sleep and dream of other days and things.
Santiago is “a strange old man”(Hemingway, 1967); in fact, ‘everything about him was old except his eyes’( Hemingway,1967). Although, for obvious reasons, he is considered to be ‘definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky’ (Hemingway, 1967), he looks at things, in spite of his moments of depression, with his ;sun-burned, confident loving eyes’(Hemingway,1966). Santiago is indeed a picture of self-confidence, but at the same time he is also an image of humility. ‘He was’ says Hemingway, ‘too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride’ (Hemingway, 1967). Santiago is not a religious man, and yet the pictures in color of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the virgin of cobre keep hanging on the walls of his shack. It is very frequently that he dreams of the days of his boyhood and youth, of Africa, and of lions on the beaches in the evening. It is with an obvious sense of exhilaration that he speaks to Manolin about his great strength and vigor in his youth, but he loses no time in telling the boy: “I may not be as strong as I think…. But I know tricks and I have resolution” (Hemingway, 1967).
After a dry and unlucky spell of eighty-four days, it is on the eighty-fifth day that Santiago goes out on the sea for fishing with a sense of trepidation as also of determination. Over the years Santiago has identified himself with the sea, with the wind that blows over it, with the sky that covers it, and with the creatures that live in it; truly speaking, there is something elemental about him. ‘He had’, observes Hemingway, ‘no mysticism about turtles although he had gone in turtle beats for many years…. Most people are heartless about turtles because a turtle’s heart will beat for hours after he has been cut up and butchered. But the old man thought, I have such a heart too and my feet and hands are like theirs’ (Heminway, 1967). Besides other things, Santiago is also a picture of love and affection and tender feelings.
Armed with his stamina and stubbornness, everyday is ‘a new day’ (Heminway, 1967). He thinks it is better to be lucky (Hemingway, 1967). On the eighty-fifth day he is lucky enough to hook a giant marlin, but he finds it terribly difficult to control it or to pull it into his boat. And it is from this very moment that his epic fight with the fish begins. For two days and two nights he stays out on the sea, struggling, despairing, trying again and again, thinking, and talking to himself or to the fish. “Fish” he says, “I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead” (Hemingway, 1967).  In a highly poetic and poignant manner, Hemingway describes his predicament, his feeling of being all alone far out on the sea in a trying and tense situation: ‘The old man had seen many great fish. He had seen many that weighed more than a thousand pounds and he had caught two of that size in his life, but never alone. The author puts it, his ‘determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him’ (Hemingway, 1967). In fact, his mind works on two interlinked levels: ‘I must kill him and keep strong to do it’ (Hemingway, 1967). Santiago is haunted by his sense of loneliness too:
…he began to pity the great fish that he had hooked.
He is wonderful and strange and who knows how old he is, he thought.
Never have I had such a strong fish nor one who acted so strangely.
Perhaps he is too wise to jump…
I wonder if he has any plans or if he is just as desperate as I am?   (Hemingway, 1967)

The novelist goes further, and this is how he brings out the fisherman’s tortured psychology: ‘His choices had been to stay in the deep dark water far out beyond all snares and traps and treacheries. My choice was to go there to find him beyond all people. Santiago is at his wit’s end. His patience, his perseverance, his doggedness is there, and he has decided that he would give up neither the fight nor the fish, and yet old fisherman feels miserable and helpless. He goes on trying and trying. Santiago has won the battle, and what has sustained him all through is his stamina, his vigor. The old man is perhaps too much tired and broken to realize that he is in for yet another spell of serious encounter. He is now without any weapon; the sharks eat up the entire flesh of the fish, and what the old fisherman brings to the coast is just the huge skeleton of the giant fish.
Santiago is a man of stupendous courage, and his old age is certainly no handicap to him. He is a code character, not merely because he is man of bold and brave action, but because he goes by his code of values according to which he just refuses to accept defeat.”… “Man is not made for defeat”, says he, “A man can be destroyed but not defeated” (Hemingway,1967). Success or failure is not at all important and significant in his scale of values; what is really important and significant there is man’s commitment to action, his determination to carry on his struggle against all odds and obstructions, his stubbornness to defy defeat. The old fisherman, all alone far out on the sea and nearly defenseless, fights with the great marlin and the dangerous sharks, with elemental forces, for two days and two nights, and in the process gets bruised, injured, and terribly fatigued. And even though he carries to the coast just the skeleton of the huge fish, in his heart he carries the satisfaction and the pride of having fought to the last ounce of his energy and strength. Santiago is an exemplary character, an epic character, a heroic character, indeed a code character. The symbolical dimensions of Santiago’s character may invoke different and differing interpretations, but there is, or could be, absolutely no confusion about his identity as a code character.
It is indeed true that Hemingway’s heroes are expatriate and rootless people, but it is also true that, in their own ways, they are honest, virile and sensitive people. They have seen the nothingness and despair and death at the centre of the world; they are terribly aware of the milieu or situation they find themselves placed in. Through his heroes Hemingway has shown what right conduct is or could be in a given situation, and these situations usually are of an extreme nature dealing with varied crises in human life.

Work Cited:                                     

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  4. Rovit, Earl. Ernest Hemingway (New York, 1963), p.85.
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  6. Hemingway. E. The Sun Also Rises (Penguin edition, 1974), p.51.
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