Ernest Hemingway defined a hero as, “A man who lives correctly, following the ideals of honor, courage and endurance in a world that is sometimes chaotic, often stressful, and always painful.” It is blatantly apparent that Henry, the protagonist of A Farewell to Arms, did not exemplify any of these traits at all in the beginning of the novel. However, as the book progressed, Henry gradually learned how to be a “Hemingway Hero”, and he eventually progressed to the point where he completely embodied all that is expected of such. It is crucial to realize, however, that Henry did not become a textbook example of a Hemingway Hero overnight. It would have been absolutely impossible for Henry to become the man he was at the end of the novel without two very important things: his experiences brought on by the war and Catherine Barkley.
Throughout all of his works, Ernest Hemingway builds a hero that possesses a set of unique attributes. Yes, the Hemingway hero is courageous, calm in the face of danger, and selfless. They are also free-spirited, existential, humble, and self-disciplined; however, what really sets a Hemingway Hero apart from your average well-to-do man is his perspective on the world. Death is a potent theme in Hemingway’s works and plays a vital role in Farewell to Arms. A Hemingway Hero is judged by how well he can handle adverse situations, above all being death. Staying strong in the face of death itself and truly grasping the finality of death is what makes a Hemingway Hero unique. In addition, their outlook on death also leads these heroes to believe their existence to be meaningless. All Hemingway Heroes are fated to lose their battle with life because they will all eventually die. Ernest Hemingway uses this “hero template” in nearly all his works, including A Farewell to Arms.
In the beginning of the novel, Henry couldn’t have been farther away from being a true Hemingway Hero. He had absolutely none of the attributes that would classify him as one. Henry was just a carbon copy of the average soldier. On his off time, he frequented the whorehouses and drunk himself to sleep. Sure he wasn’t a fan of the war, but who was? He was just as selfish as the next guy, and if he had personal values he definitely didn’t show them. Henry’s whole leave in the beginning of the book showed just how distant he was from being anything close to a Hemingway Hero. Granted, a Hemingway Hero isn’t perfect, and doesn’t live under strict morals, but parading through a foreign country sleeping next to a different woman every night is far from the controlled self-discipline a Hemingway Hero is supposed to have. The only admirable quality Henry had in the very beginning was that he did not engage in taunting the priest. There is no question that Henry was not always the hero we saw him to be in the latter part of the book.
The events that Henry experienced greatly aided him in progressing to the point where he could be called a Hemingway Hero....