What Is the Hemingway Code Hero?

The Hemingway code hero, sometimes more simply referred to as the Hemingway hero, is a stock character created by Ernest Hemingway. The character is easily identified by its strong masculinity, enthusiasm for life and often excessive indulgence in its pleasures. The code hero was embraced by readers in the 1920s as a kind of literary antidote to the increasingly sensitive, emasculated American male.

The code hero can be thought of as a “man’s man.” He likes to drink, hunt, make love to many different women and watch savage sports like bullfighting. His love of life is based on a rejection of the existence of an afterlife, and the code hero fights passionately to remain alive. However, this is not to be confused with a fear of death. Although Hemingway often placed his code heroes in mortal danger, such as on a battlefield or in a bullfighting ring, this was to demonstrate their courage and defiance in the face of death. Such “grace under pressure” is one of the hallmarks of the Hemingway code hero.

Another key characteristic is the code hero’s preference for action over theory. Rather than discussing his philosophy of life, the code hero will exhibit it in deeds and demeanor.