In what ways does A Farewell to Arms reveal the Hemingway code of behavior for a man?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lt. Fredric Henry, the protagonist in A Farewell to Arms, exemplifies Hemingway's code hero in several ways. He is a man who engages in life, rather than observing it as a bystander. He maintains self-control in the face of overwhelming adversity, and he does not demonstrate self-pity. Like Hemingway's other code heroes, Lt. Henry is very competent and professional in his work. He possesses personal integrity, often feels isolated, and frequently views life as a game with senseless rules, or no rules at all. Most of all, Lt. Henry functions as a Hemingway code hero because he faces life with courage, and he endures life with dignity.

All of these characteristics are found in Frederic Henry as the novel unfolds. He is an American who enlists in the Italian army during World War I, a dangerous role he assumes by choice. As an officer who commands an ambulance unit, he serves on the front lines, exposing himself to the greatest danger. Lt. Henry is diligent and meticulous in his duties. Before an imminent battle, he checks each ambulance in his unit to make sure it is ready for service, and he visits the site where the battle will occur so that he and his men will be ready for what is coming. When he is severely wounded in the battle, he does not give in to fear and pain; instead, he tries desperately to save one of his dying men. He endures the many horrors of war without self-pity or loss of control.

As the novel continues, Lt. Henry eventually deserts the army, but his is not as an act of cowardice. Caught up in the chaos and carnage of a military retreat, he leaves the army to save his own life. He has lost his ambulances and his men. He will not sacrifice his life without purpose. He no longer feels a part of the war; he feels isolated from it. He declares an individual separate peace and acts decisively to make his way back to Catherine.

Reunited with Catherine, Lt. Henry enjoys a period of peace and happiness with her as they await the birth of their baby. When she dies in childbirth and the baby dies, also, Lt. Henry is truly alone. He sees life as a senseless game. As the novel ends, Lt. Henry leaves the hospital, after saying goodbye to Catherine's lifeless body. He walks away, in the rain. He is isolated in his grief, but he will endure this greatest of all his losses.