Masculine Characters: Male Nature Found in Hemingway and Amadi Essay
This essay will compare the theme of masculinity in the writing of Hemingway and Amadi in the novels, The Sun Also Rises, and The Concubine as seen through the main characters of the novel and expressed through the actions and sentiments of the authors: Thus, the thesis of the paper is comparing and contrasting masculinity in either book. The essay will be a critical and analytical viewpoint into Hemingway’s and Amadi’s character’s lives. Just as Hemingway writes of landscape he also writes with the intention of landscape as being a way of revealing a character’s inner thoughts and emotions, thus, environment will be a major factor in the analysis of masculinity in the main characters. Amadi gives his characters a plethora of dialogue in which his characters reveal their masculine viewpoints.
The characters in the novels will be presented as hoping against the odds of love and either fulfilling their desire or running away, and it is in these emotions of hope and love that their masculinity is revealed. The different ways of masculine hope will also be examined in that hope may turn into acts of desperation from a different point of view. Finally, this essay will discuss the nature of hope, and how the characters throughout the novels may either accept a hopeless state (a characteristically un-masculine thing to do) and be changed by it, or accept hope as a gift despite the fact that reality and circumstances may deny them their desires (an altruistic male part of the novels). The theme of this novel will coincide with changes or awareness through masculinity.
In Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises the narrator Jake travels through many landscapes from Paris, to Madrid and even San Sebastian. It is through these landscapes that the reader may see the rising masculine hope (that is the male instinct toward finding love and a family) that Jake has, or the desperation of the peace he has or longs for in such scenery (Hemingway gives a lot of emphasis on how male the landscape is, describing mountains, fishing and bulls – all forms of masculine behavior). Such activities are a staple of masculine feats, a type of sport which allows man to conquer his surroundings – almost as though it is a battle between man and nature in winning over animals, either fish or bulls is what allows Hemingway’s characters to feel as though they are men. In fact, the only way that the men in The Sun Also Rises are expressing themselves as men is through such sports (i.e. fighting themselves or animals) or even the only time in which they choose to express anything between themselves. The cast of characters suggests a variety of different possibilities of masculinity: with Jake, his masculine hope (that is, his family desires of being a husband and a father) is to be with Brett, despite the cost and the treatment he receives from her, uttering in the novel’s last line, “’Yes, isn’t it pretty to think so’ after Brett states that she and Jake would have had a wonderful time together. In Amadi’s story, one of the main protagonists, Emenike, dies being overcome with injuries he had sustained from a fight as Amadi states
“It was very easy for him to pick quarrels with Emenike because many events called for a degree of intimacy between the villagers. Take the sharing of meat after a general village hunt. Madume would always argue that Emenike had not been particularly active in the killing of a particular animal and so deserved only a fraction of what the old men actually gave him. But Emenike was not afraid of him. Her knew he could hold his own against him any day given a fair chance. But a man’s god may be away on a journey on the day an important fight and that may make all the difference. This was clearly what happened in the last fight between Madume and Emerike.”(Amadi).
The fight was about ownership or property lines for a farm. Thus, Amadi is giving the reader two scenarios of masculinity: Fighting, and ownership. Already the reader is prepared for a very aggressive novel, in which testosterone is the main element. For, there seems to be no greater way of dying for a man, but in battle and that is exactly what Emenike has done; he dies after trying to defend his property. Thus, the tradition of being a man, of having masculine qualities is similar for either author: To love a woman, to die in battle – both expressions of violent behavior. Also, these writers have a major force in common in the theme of masculinity: Landscape. Either author gives their landscape definite masculine features, either in farmland, or bull fighting, in either case they are features which allow for a more primal man to appear, a hunter man with instincts for battle and love and no means in expression except through fighting or their long looks at the landscape.
Jake reveals to Brett, and to the reader that although he and Brett do not manage to come together as a couple, that in Jake’s view they are joined together through consequences and circumstances. For Hemingway, the stunted acceptance of fate in the character Jake quickly defines his masculine nature: to suffer in silence from the thing he is incapable of having – namely, Brett. This means that Jake’s masculinity cannot come to be, rather he could have been a man (masculine) if Brett and he would have come together as a couple. This un-fulfillment is Hemingway’s defining Jake’s masculinity for the reader. A statement of masculinity is asked in The Concubine Emerike as he tries to pretend like he is normal after his fight. He acts as though he is not hurt which is a very masculine thing to do – to not show one’s weakness or vulnerability. Amadi is making a statement that masculinity has a certain amount of pride which comes with a masculine persona.
Amadi expresses masculinity not only through the actions of the men in the village
Such as Emerike’s pride but also through how the females treat their husbands. Ihuoma is a prime example of how masculinity is reinforced in Amadi’s work through her behavior toward her husband. Ihuoma calls her husband “my lord” and in this dialogue and in her treatment of him or rather her devotion to him, the reader is able to see that Amadi gives severely feminie traits, or docile subservient traits to the females in order to better aggrandize the men in the village and therefore their masculine nature (Amadi 7).
With the character Cohn, hope is a desperate emotion in which the reader finds that Hemingway did make him a masculine man, but also a bewildered and cruel man thinking that masculinity is brute force and not quiet dignity. The author gives this impression upon the reader’s first introduction to Cohn with the lines, “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up except bull-fighters” (Hemingway 18). His brute force is overpowering; it lies with being madly in love, or having an infatuation with Brett and the unrequited love of Brett drives Cohn into a furious temper for any man who is with her, or desires her; Cohn’s masculinity is defined by the force of his anger (much like Amedi’s god Amadioha with characteristics such as rage and stubbornness and his supreme power (Amedi 9)), a rather primal view and reaction for masculinity to take on the characters. Cohn follows Brett around, which summons images of puppy love, and blind obedience, and when Brett’s fiancé Mike tells Cohn again and again to lay off, Cohn refuses and tensions rise during the fiesta in Madrid. Cohn ignores level-headedness and knocks out Jake (is this masculine or someone whose at the end of their rope?), Mike, and Brett’s new lover, the bullfighter Romero. Having been a boxer in his youth, he tries to draw lines of distinction between friend in foe, but being unable to keep control of his emotions, he goes berserk (the idea of going berserk comes from Viking culture in which men on the battle field would become so enraged, they would lose all sense of their surroundings and attack everyone with raging force – they were known as Berserkers, which exactly describes Cohn’s behavior). Recognizing his actions, Cohn insists on having Jake forgive him (a masculine trait of trying to play the good sport), which Jake does with lack of enthusiasm and even wants Romero to shake his hand, which Romero refuses. Here, then is Cohn’s ultimate masculine trait; that he is willing to forgive after he tries to punch someone out, “Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn.” (Hemingway 11). In this line, Hemingway is expressing another means of being considered masculine – boxing. Again, the image of brute force in Cohn’s nature is brought up as a way of defining the man. In Amedi’s case, the interaction between male and female is stilted at best. Amedi depicts Emenike paying his wife to dance thereby establishing that wealth is the means in their relationship and that there is no feeling between the couple, only the male balance of power (Amedi 13).
Therefore in trying to find a proper definition of masculinity in either novel, the reader may look to Amedi’s book because the examples of man pitted against man, or man pitted against god are far superior than Hemingway’s examples of man floundering with their masculinity (as Cohn exemplifies). Amedi’s characters are far more primal and therefore there is a more extant definition of masculinity found with his characters. Perhaps Hemingway’s characters have been too much exposed to cultivation or domesticity (family) that they are too removed from their roots of hunters to know what to do with themselves in this new society. In the simplicity of Amedi’s tribal/village society the men know their roles in accordance with their families and their culture, in fact the men are even willing to help out their women which is a sign of great masculinity (Amedi 43). Both authors use fighting as a means of proving the characters’ masculinity, assuring that suffering is a part of being a man- and it is this suffering which Amadi gives the reader in great amounts.
Brett rebukes her fiancé Mike for her new lover Romero; an action which allows Hemingway to further delve into the theme of masculinity. An interesting scene in the book is when Brett receives Romero’s gift of a bull’s ear he had slain, a bull which had earlier slaughtered another man (thus Romero is showing Brett that he is man enough to kill a murderous bull and therefore worthy of her affections – another primal instinctive male trait that Hemingway writes into his characters). This ear signifies that Brett had to cut off a piece of herself in order to live the life she does, traveling and falling in love over and over and changing her mind and following a different lover around until regret or a new love shows up – even the goddess in Amadi’s novel have to relinquish power in order to allow the male characters in the novel to gain power (i.e. Ihuoma’s love with a mortal man). This ear resembles Brett’s hope – her hope of love in constant fury which is her feminine trait. She must not leave too much of herself with one man leastwise she become completely attached and dependent, thus, the vivisected ear is Brett’s heart, torn off from its owner, and kept in a distant spot. Brett does not hope with commitment, but with transitory lust for new things, places, and men (in fact Brett is almost masculine in these traits, this predatory disposition). Although Jake tells these words to Cohn about traveling to South America this following quote may be applicable to each character in the novel and the theme of hope, “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” (Hemingway 11).
Hemingway’s characters in the novel suggest constant movement in order to escape something; to escape fidelity in setting and environment; it is as though the characters feel that if they move enough their desires and regrets won’t be able to catch up. In Amedi’s characters the reader finds that landscape and religion are points to ponder in discussing the culture’s definition of masculinity – as in the god, Amadioha’s power.
In Hemingway’s final scene in the car with Jake and Brett, when the two are alone together, Jake says it’s pretty to think so (pretty to think that they could have had a life together), this is the only acknowledgement of truth the reader receives from Jake concerning his masculine desires for Brett, his desire to be her protector, and husband. Bullfighting and fishing are the cohesion of masculinity in the novel as each man states their enjoyment of either-just as fighting and trying to master the strengths of the gods become factors in defining masculinity for the characters in Amedi’s novel. It is these things which allow the men to express their feelings – such as Romero giving Brett the bull’s ear, it is how he shows his desire for her (Amedi 77). Thus, these masculine things allow for the men in both novels to feel like men. Hemingway further shows the reader how much of a man Romero in the scene of his last bullfight,
The crowd was the boys, the dancers, and the drunks. Romero turned and tried to get through the crowd. They were all around him trying to lift him and put him on their shoulders. He fought and twisted away, and started running, in the midst of them, toward the exit. He did not want to be carried on people’s shoulders. But they held him and lifted him. It was uncomfortable and his legs were spraddled and his body was very sore. They were lifting him and all running toward the gate. He had his hand on somebody’s shoulder. He looked around at us apologetically. The crowd, running, went out the gate with him (Heminway 224-225).
In this scene it is obvious that Romero is uncomfortable for he is used to supporting his own weight and not having anyone help him to do so. Thus, the reader also knows there is an imbalance in his and Brett’s relationship – perhaps as a woman she is too independent for Romero whose traditional male ego (that is, similar with Jake he expects to be the supporter not the supported) removes him from Brett’s interests.
In Jake’s final line to Brett, he reveals a rather wistful desire of what could have been; that is, a life with Brett in which he could have been her husband and a father – two areas in which he would have felt at the apex of his masculinity. The novel ends on a note of cynicism which is overshadows the entire novel. This cynic note neither extols nor clarifies any masculinity but rather it tells about the type of man Jake is: That is, he is almost a man, almost able to fulfill his role as a man in being a husband and a father. Amedi gives the readers this point to ponder – does fighting define a man? Just as Jake loves Brett in order to prove his masculinity, so do the villagers in Amedi’s novel prove they are men by defining their roles according to their culture. Both authors prove a type of masculinity for their protagonists, in their own capacities they are able to find their definitive qualities of manhood.
Amadi, Elechi. The Concubine. Heinemann. New York. 1991.
Hemingway, E. The Sun Also Rises. Scribner, New York, 1996.