Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”: Henry – A Man of Action, Self-Dicipline, andOne Who Maintains Grace Under PressureHemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms”: Henry – A Man of Action, Self-Dicipline, andOne Who Maintains Grace Under PressureIt is the nature of the beast within that fuels our inclination towardsconflict and destruction. During the surreal powers of war, life hangs in thebalance setting the stage for an elite group of individuals who triumphantlyrise above the rest amidst the chaos. As Ernest Hemingway illustrates in hisbook, Farewell to Arms, the character of Frederick Henry; an ambulance driver,is put to the ultimate test during the madness and atrocity of WWI. Hisexperiences at the front pose a challenge only a Hemingway hero can affrontsuccessfully. 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 takingcontrol of potentially dangerous incidents with quick decision leaving no roomfor second thought. After Frederick is captured by the battle police, heforesees his inevitable death if no action was taken and instinctively escapeddetainment. “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 asplash” (Hemingway, 214). Henry witnessed the gruesome executions of theofficers before him and knew he was not going to die without a fight to preservehis precious existence. Being a man of action rather than words, was thedetermining factor which helped him survive this unfortunate confrontation withdeath. Regardless of the circumstances, Henry used his authoritative positionto make sure others did not engage in any threatening positions that couldjeopardize the ir safety and the safety of others. When one of his ambulancesgot suck in the mud during a retreat, two sergeants simply tried to abandon thesituation but Frederick stopped them in their tracks. “Halt, I said. They kepton down the muddy road, the hedge on either side. I order you to halt. Icalled. 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 weregiven an ample opportunity to obey Henry’s commands and by ignoring them, itsuggested that they were challenging their superior’s authority. Such actionsare not tolerated by Frederick as he was once again forced to take theinitiative as his character is always compelled to do.
The possession of self-discipline is another vital element that formsthe 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 hedoes not know what he is doing or can control his behavior and actions. “Hepoured two glasses and we touched them, first fingers extended. The grappa wasvery strong. ……We drank the second grappa, Rinaldi put away the bottle andwe went down the stairs” (Hemingway, 17). Presented with the invitation, Henrygladly accepted a few drinks an acted like a dignified gentlemen even though inthe immediate presence of alcohol. A man of strength and character will not letsubstance control and influence his actions for only the weak are dependent andrely upon such means to live out each day. Frederick’s self-discipline not onlyshines in his drinking habits, but shows in all instances especially when thechallenge to maintain it is at its greatest. After he plunged intothe lake escaping the battle police, Henry boarded a train and entered a wineshop in the town of Milan where the train stopped. The owner of this shopoffered to sell him leave papers and also a place to stay to avoid theauthorities, but Frederick avoided the temptation. “Remember, he said. Comehere do not let other people take you in. Here you are all right.”…..”I am inno 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 thatwould 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 firststranger who accosts him after his disersion. He uses his self-control toresist his overwhelming urges to accept the help as not to risk jeopardizing hisfuture with Catherine who was the one and only love of his life. He has anuncanny ability to weigh and analyze the choices he makes without gettingemotionall y involved.
Frederick is sentimentally detached from the rest of the world whichenables him to deal with intensely climatic moments with such aplomb and ease.
When being transported to his room in the American hospital, Henry graciouslyacknowledged the stretcher bearers even in such grueling pain. “There is moneyin my pocket. I said to the porter. The porter took out the money. The twostretcher bearers stood beside the bed holding their caps. Give them 5 lire apiece and five lire for yourself” (Hemingway, 81). Rewarding the staff fordoing their job in spite of Henry’s uncomfortable dilemma is a perfect exampleof how he is able to put aside his true inner feelings to accommodate thosearound him. Regardless of the severity of any given situation, Frederick isable to mask his emotions showing only a nonchalant facade as he performsmundane duties in traumatic or pressure filled predicaments. He deals with hiswife’s death by merely observing her lifeless body and casually strolling backto the ho tel like nothing had ever happened. “But after I had got them out andshut the door and turned off the light it wasn’t any good. It was like sayinggood-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walkedback to the hotel in the rain” (Hemingway, 314). The statue is a metaphoricalcreation, which attempts to grasp the nothingness Frederick feels afterCatherine’s death. Perhaps the path Henry takes towards the hotel symbolizes anew chapter in his life one in which he begins without the love he held sodearly and strived to maintain.
Throughout this tragic piece, Frederick reflects the essential elementsof a true code hero with dignity and grace. By following his character in everyfacet of his journey, we see how Hemingway uses it to unify the central eventsof the story around his creation of a new breed of hero and all the qualitiesthey possess. Such characteristics will set one apart and become evident in allaspects of life where they are truly challenged and welcomed. As it may be, weall hold the potential to achieve the status of a code hero; but only the strongand willing are able to look within and release the true essence of their beingfor others to experience. English