Robert Jordon-a Code Hero/“His heroes are almost always defeated physically: their victories are moral” Discuss.

The Hemingway hero is young, lost and confused in this valueless world while the code hero or ‘the tutor’ in Earl Rovit’s terms is usually an older man who has become what he had to become. He has realized the potentialities and known the area of his operation. He is usually a professional, a bull-fighter, a fisherman or a veteran soldier.

Robert Jordan conforms to a character type that recurs throughout Hemingway’s novels—referred to as the “code hero” because he follows the Hemingway moral code. The code hero’s characteristic is his ability to exhibit what Hemingway called “grace under pressure.” The code hero lives life for the present and takes his pleasure in the physical world of food, sex, and nature. He is a man of action rather than thought, and his greatest triumph is conquering his fear of death and nothingness (Nada). He is sure to excel in the area of his choice and he does not step out of that. He possesses immense resources of courage and endurance.  In Hemingway’s novels and short stories the code hero sets an example for the Hemingway hero to imitate if he can.  As Paolini points out the hero in ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ belongs to the category of “Professionals”. He is like Manuel in “The Undefeated” who must perform his duty and whether he lives or dies becomes immaterial. He is not after gains, for the real satisfaction must come, in the last analysis, from within. Man must overcome pessimism and find:

“his own unit of measurement”
Jordan finds his measurement in his satisfaction that he has done his little bit as this is all be could do. Robert Jordan’s appreciation for nature and physical experiences— the taste of absinthe that evokes Paris and his coupling with Maria—indicates that he fits the code hero type, but we see that Jordon evolves as a Code hero. Earlier, we see that Robert Jordan experiences many unresolved tensions that he tries to work through in his head.  He mostly appears as a man of thought as contrasted with man of action-the code hero. But later, Robert Jordan’s competent behavior under difficult circumstances fits him in to a line of Hemingway code protagonists. Nowhere more than towards the end does Robert Jordan display this virtue of the code hero. With Pablo gone and the explosives stolen, Robert Jordan manages to control his anger and apply himself to solving the new, more difficult problem of destroying the bridge with less manpower and fewer explosives. Always supremely pragmatic, Robert Jordan neither dwells on the past nor fears the future but instead concentrates on the present situation. This focus on the present allows him to savor fully the physical pleasures that fate grants him — the taste of absinthe, sex with Maria. It also enables him not to fear death, which is the code hero’s true antagonist. Joseph Vladimir notes courage in Jordon as he:
“must depend upon himself alone in order to assert his manhood, and the assertion of his manhood, in the face of insuperable obstacles, is the justification of his existence”
The protagonist must face fear along with a growing sense of despair over the meaninglessness of experience. Fear results not only from physical danger and death but also from the gradual disintegration of the self in a world of “nothingness,” a world stripped of consoling ideals. He reveals his courage as he stoically faces his inevitable defeat and accepts it with dignity. In his early work, Hemingway’s heroes find dignity through purely personal moments of fulfillment. For example, the protagonist in his short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” becomes a code hero when he stands his ground as a buffalo charges at him. Earlier, he had become a timid and was insulted by his wife. Now he experiences a perfect moment of transcendence when he faces the buffalo without fear to desperately prove to his wife. Robert Jordan, the protagonist presents another example of code hero. Hemingway alters his characterization of Jordan. Instead of defining him as a hero through a personal moment of dignity, he presents a man who becomes a hero through an expression of communal responsibility. Robert Jordan volunteers to help the Loyalists in their war with the Fascists during the Spanish Civil War because of his liberal politics and his great love for the Spanish people. Initially, he is devoted to their cause; however, he soon becomes disillusioned about the reality of war. He sees atrocities committed on both sides. He has heard Russians, who in theory have come to aid the Loyalists, discuss their personal gains during the war. He has also heard of how the Spanish people, for whom he is ultimately fighting, can take enjoyment from the brutal slaughter of the enemy. Unlike Macomber and Frederick Henry, Jordan, however, stands his ground and shows “grace under pressure,” not for a purely personal sense of dignity and self-worth but for the common good.  For Pablo, Jordan is a “good boy” whose sense of morality is tied to the protection of his community. This moral code frames the novel. Hemingway expressed one of the tenets of his code heroes:
 “Moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.”
Hemingway quotes John Donne’s poem that opens with “No man is an island” and closes with “it tolls for thee.” This opening suggests that Jordan‘s experience is for the good of the community. He can only fulfill his personal destiny if he fulfills that of the group. Near the end of the novel, he tries to convince himself, “why wouldn’t it be all right to just do it now?” Yet, finally, he thinks that he must resist the urge to end his suffering and stand his ground, because, he notes, “there is something you can do yet.” Thus while Jordan is a member of the Lost Generation, facing a world bereft of meaning, he ends his life in a community. The ultimate dignity that Jordan achieves in the novel is through his determination not to give up his hope for the future, even though he knows that he cannot be a part of it. Thus he achieves the status of a true hero, one who not only honors his own sense of responsibility but also, ultimately, that of his community – The Spanish land that he lives and admires.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s