Arguably there is much of the artist in the art when it comes to Hemingway as, for instance, his hero Nick Adams is quite autobiographical. Untypically, Catherine of A Farewell to Arms displays characteristics of the Hemingway hero. Usually women in Hemingway's narratives are unheroic; instead, they are often emasculating and antagonistic. This behavior mirrors that of Hemingway's mother who henpecked his father and expressed only negative remarks about her son's literary efforts. It may well have been his mother, also, who exerted an influence upon Hemingway's formulation of what is called his code hero.
The Hemingway Code Hero is male and mainly characterized by exhibiting "Grace Under Pressure." While Frederick Henry at times fails in exhibiting courage, he does possess a certain honor and endurance in his life which certainly contains pain and misfortune. Much like Hemingway's code heroes, he believes in little, but creates for himself a formulation for enduring and creating meaning on his own.
Here are some of the characteristics that Frederick Henry and Catherine Barkley exhibit that are in line with the typical Hemingway protagonists.
- nihilism/rejection of traditional values - Although he can not deny his experiences, especially that of holding the bleeding, dying soldier, Henry attempts to distance himself from thoughts of the war. Early in their relationship, he suggests to Catherine, "Let's drop the war."
- stoicism - Frederick creates a world with Catherine which allows him to heal his soul. He replaces his loyalty to the army and his religious faith with his loyalty and love for Catherine. With her hair, he sometimes makes a "tent" under which he exists solely with her.
- "grace under pressure" - After Catherine's death, Henry walks out of the hospital into the rain, which symbolizes death, accepting what fate has wrought, although he is again spiritually lost because his "religion of Catherine" is gone.
- stoicism - Like Frederick, Catherine has lost her belief in traditional religion. In Chapter 19, she tells him, "You're my religion. You're all I've got."
- heroic rejection of disorder and war - At least one critic argues that Catherine is the true heroine in A Farewell to Arms. While others find Catherine passive, critic Sandra Whipple Spanier contends that Catherine is the "hero" of the novel because she chooses to love Frederic and by doing so, she saves her own life. Like Frederick, Catherine creates "a separate peace" with her absorbing love for Henry, which she uses to endure.
- "grace under pressure" - Catherine exhibits much "grace under pressure" since she never complains; in fact, she apologizes for the trouble caused by her having become pregnant. "Don't worry, darling...I'm not a bit afraid. It's just a dirty trick," she tells Frederick as she is dying.