Masculinity in Ernest Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden (Chapter Three).

Chapter Three

Investigating Hemingway’s Masculinity


The bloody history of America caused by war affected most of the social concepts of the American citizen. The two World Wars and the Cold War turned the Americans’ concept of life and its meaning; it was the period of disillusion. Accordingly, Literature had its role in transmitting those questions and speculations on the war and the future of the nation as well  as the new identity taking place. Literary men questioned the shift in the concepts on their way; a group of novelists immigrated to Paris seeking refuge in the new setting in order to cope, this group is called the ‘Lost Generation’ (VanSpanckeren, 2007). Other novelists went to different parts of the world bringing back different cultures and ideas to share with the Americans; this group is called ‘the Beat Generation’ (Monk, 2008).

The present study seeks to reveal the themes of the American masculinity of the 20th century. Therefore, the choice of Ernest Hemingway as the source of the analysis was not set randomly; he was a member of the lost generation group who participated in the war and was affected by its trauma which was reflected later in most of his writings. By the end of this chapter, the study will, briefly, shed light on the masculinity notion as the concern of the American citizen by the early twentieth century throughout the eye of literature, Hemingway and his posthumous novel, The Garden of Eden.

Ernest Hemingway: The Macho Man

Ernest Hemmingway is considered as one of the most known figures in American literature. He worked as a journalist first, then he enlisted the military but his attempt seemed to fail according to medical reasons (Benson, 1989). His fortune glanced in 1819 when the red Cross needed a volunteer of an ambulance driver, he joined the military and worked as a correspondent in Paris. This gradual flux taught him the art of authenticity and precision; he gained important insights on the war he participated in, which shaped his personality as a sharp writer (Domotor, 2012).

As half citizen and half soldier after being injured both psychologically and  physically, he took a hiatus of the wars; and took advantages of such realistic themes that he frankly lived, he portrayed the most of them (Ibid). This subject matter clashed within his return to his community, both the war and post-war harsh experiences; he predated these acts of brutality into manageable segments of his very first publishing of books.

Hemingway’s lifetime was full of adventures and stories as journalism, war and sport which are present there within his literature what shaped his public image as a heroic masculine character (Herlihy, 2009).Domotor (2012) denotes that “Hemingway’s narrating persona and the male subjects in his short stories negotiate apose of rough masculinity and heroism” (p.3), which is explained by the trauma of war. He was representing the dominant male values of all Americans which later created a contradiction in representing the ideal American woman (Fantina, 2005). He was also remarked by a submissive and passive texture in his works that is the reflection of his biographies (Ibid).

He shares his life with his characters what makes his narratives alive and capturing. Taking the example of hunting animals, fishing and living in the wilderness of Africa, he attributes these traits to most of his characters; in Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway introduces his two important themes of violence and death in the main character as the bullfighters’ journeys (Gandal, 2008). On the other hand, he portrays them as obsessed with sex, like Catherine in The Garden of Eden. These activities were the source of his pleasure to entertain, and it seemed to be inspirational materials to write about.

In The Garden of Eden, Hemingway includes the African journeys within the novel; David, the young dreaming writer, finds refuge in his writings about the hunting trip in the jungles of Africa, enjoying the company of his father hunting the wild elephants. It is there, in a way or in other, the adventure and the passion for the adrenaline. Accordingly, Carlos Baker, Hemingway’s biographer, states that Hemingway “gloried in his proximity to the field of battle” (Quoted in Gandal, 2008, p.31)

Masculine Language in Hemingway’s Novels

What distinguished Hemingway style is the difficulty of its simplicity. The simple language he uses throughout the narrative is too simple to believe that these words hold such effect on the reader’s mind. It captures the attention and brings the audience to multi-levels of understanding and anticipation using an ordinary simple langue of simple short sentences characterized by the directness (Domotor, 2012). The difficulties refer to the strength and the density of the underlying structure of the stories he writes. Eby (1999) explains that:

Hemingway broke new ground in a quintessentially modernist direction, compressing dialogue by removing or masking authorial guidance, forcing his readers to interpret for themselves shades of meaning resulting from indirection, repetition, omission, juxtaposition, objective correlatives, and referential ambiguity. (p.175)

The deep meaning of his words is not kept on the surface due to his first job as a journalist, where he had to use short sentences in a clear simplified English language for the magazine, a set of well-picked adjectives that serves the aims of his themes (Torma, 2014; Meyers, 1985). Hemingway calls this technique the ‘iceberg principle’, giving the example of the iceberg that stands high and clear on the water surface for the strength that is under the water. Add to the latter, there are a number of realistic themes which Hemingway uses, adopted from his experience in life; these themes give soul to the literature he writes. (VanSpanckeren, 2007)

The dialogue also characterizes Hemingway’s fiction; the characters in the prose communicate oneanother in tone of reality, in which the human mind is complex and interacts simultaneously with the surroundings, and that what makes the characters and the events energetic and realistic (Torma, 2014). Hemingway also used the element of repetition in his style in order to keep the ideas spotted in the mind in certain manipulated rhyme which facilitates creating the imagery of the events (Eby, 1999).

The characters in The Garden of Edendiffer socially; for instance, Marita is a Latin girl, the Bournes are Americans and the waiter in the café is European.Hemingway uses different social dimensions in his narrative which reflects his travels to Europe and his social integration with the different social types (Herlihy, 2009).

The Garden of Eden: A General Overview:

 To understand masculinity in the novel, it is highly recommended to go throughout different stages where the researcher introduces the sequence of the events and the characters roles that reveal their personality and their position in the story.

The Publication of the Novel

The Garden of Eden is a posthumous novel, edited, and published after the suicide of its author, Ernest Hemingway. Published in 1986, the novel was no wonder for Hemingway’s readers who got used to such rough masculinity and deep meaning from the author (Fantina, 2005). The author did not write it at once; it took him fifteen years writing it, yet he did not finish it for the no regular way he used to write in (Del Gizzo& Svoboda, 2011). The novel was constructed on a large amount of manuscripts and drafts Hemingway left; however, there was no clear ending. Therefore, publishers, editors and scholars raced to gain the valuable collection, yet most of them failed (Meyers, 1985). In 1985, a young editor for Scribners succeeded in finishing the piece of work, yet it was reduced to 70,000 words from the original 200,000 words (Ibid).

The novel manifests the journeys of a new married couple on their honeymoon in Europe, David Bourne, an ambitious American young writer, and his bourgeois wife, Catherine. By the beginning of the novel, Catherine starts a series of changes starting with her physical appearance which develops later to a thrill desire to play the man’s role in the relation she has with David. The latter seems not to reject that change; he goes further with her will and changes his attitudes also. Later, throughout the narrative that starts in spring and ends in autumn, the couple meets Marita, a young Latin woman with whom they fall in love. They make a triple relationship that ends the future of the marriage and the ruin of David’s writings.

  • Characterization

The Garden of Eden’s fame is built on the attitudes of its characters (del Gizzo& Svoboda, 2011). The shift in gender role comes in a way that portrays the independence of woman and its trauma on the masculinity. Catherine is the dominant character, David represents the crisis in masculinity and Marita is seen as the balance of relation. Hemingway drives his characters in the novel into dangerous occasions which become masculine assertions (VanSpanckeren, 2007). It is the case of Catherine’s anger rage and David’s peak  of impatience.

  • Catherine

Hemingway turned the gender role norms when he presented his female character, Catherine, as a masculine persona that seeks the destructive power to control over David; she wants to be a man badly that she changes her haircut shorter as David’s, and later she names herself Peter in bed, asking David to be Catherine when they make love. In a dialogue with David, she tells him:

I’m the destructive type”, she said.”And I’m going to destroy you. They’ll put a plaque up on the wall of the building outside the room. I’m going to wake up in the night and do  ‘something to you  that  you’ve never even  heard of or imagined”(The Garden of Eden, p.5)

Catherine marks the start of her darkness, and her attitudes along the narrative express some sort of insanity. In this regard, Anderson (2010) notes that Catherinehas “crisis of sexual identity” (p.104). This sense of insanity comes from her will to live happily with David as equals; Catherine feels too enchained being a wife restricted by the norms of the housewife that makes her frustrated and out of control. In order to achieve her goal, she follows those physical changes mentioned earlier as a weapon to reinforce her masculinity for dominance (Bayley, 2016).

Hemingway demonstrates how the villagers thought of them; “Most people thought they were brother and sister until they said they were married. Some did not believe that they were married and that pleased the girl very much” (The Garden of Eden, p.6). For the sake of equality, she dresses David the same as she does; the same clothes they wear make people think twins of them. She was succeeding in turning her husband into the ‘Catherine’ she  wants him to be.

Furthermore, Catherine feels enchained again for not being creative like David, she is neither qualified to write nor to paint which adds to her frustration; she is losing the control and the dominance over her role as the man, as Peter. In the next passage, Catherine expresses her anguish towards her usefulness:

The whole way here I saw wonderful things to paint and I can’t paint at all and never could. But I know wonderful things to write and I can’t even write a letter that isn’t stupid. I never wanted to be a painter nor a writer until I came to this country. Now it’s just like being hungry all the time and there’s nothing you can do about it (The Garden of Eden, p.53)

Catherine suffers; she can’t do anything about it, for she is not talented. Yet, throughout the novel, she rebels against the ‘patriarchal expectation’ of the society norms (Bayley, 2016), against what defines gender roles and the authority. Still, Catherine makes a lot of changes in the narrative, those changes are going to be seen and interpreted as her embodiment of the masculine persona in Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden. Scholars reappraised Hemingway’s principles on machismo, for the position Catherine portrays as the dominant element in the novel (Fantina, 2005).


According to Catherine, his wife, David seems to be the feminine character that fights for his raped masculinity. The use of rape in this context refers to all kinds of change he has made upon himself. First, He has been an imaginative writer who likes to fish and to hunt:

A jetty ran out into the blue and pleasant sea and they fished from the jetty and swam on the beach and each day helped the fishermen haul in the long net that brought the fish up onto the long sloping beach. (The Garden of Eden, p.3)

David’s activities and interests in fishing and the pleasant way he feels demonstrate  his primitive masculinity (Domotor, 2012). Later, he starts a series of changes, beginning by the hairstyle, to the clothes and to the ‘Catherine’ role he performed in bed with his wife.

At the beginning of the narrative, David introduces himself as the simple character; “I have these flashes of intuition,” he said. “I’m the inventive type.” (The Garden of Eden, p.5). He has been proud of his published work and his gain from it. The fish he caught at the café has made him proud also, proving his masculinity as a man who can take care of himself.

He expresses his will to deal with the fish by his own strongly: “”He’s got my arm tired,” the young male said. “Do you want me to take him?” the waiter asked hopefully. “My God no.””(The Garden of Eden, p.9)

Yet, his character, as the passive member in the relation, makes him so fragile; that he has to depend on his writings on Africa and his journeys with his father hunting the elephants to keep him standing. Nevertheless, he accepts to break the norms of gender roles when he does not reject the role of the female in bed; yet, he feels her hand touching him and he seems to enjoy the way she treats him as her lady.

Seeking refuge sometimes from this pressure, he runs to the two stories he writes. Later, Catherine invites Marita and makes a homosexual couple with her. She gives her a role of love provider for her husband. David finds his refuge again to his masculinity when he falls in love with Marita who has proved his masculinity, and then he abandons Catherine and marks the beginning of the end.


Marita is the young woman the couple met at the café in the city. As we have seen earlier, Marita marks the climax of the story. Her entrance to the Bourne’s life separates the couple; it causes relief to David and madness to Catherine. Bayley (2016) argues that her role as ‘the loving provider’ comes from her name Marita, which means “little Mary”; The Mother’s name in the Bible who looks after the others (p.10). Yet, Catherine calls her ‘Heiress’ referring to her as a trophy, while David names her ‘Haya’ for the modesty he likes in her. By the close of the novel, Marita wins David’s heart and fires Catherine out of the marriage.


Hemingway uses fiction to apply the realistic themes depicted from the society in a way he will not fall enchained by the restriction of gender role norms. Accordingly, the fictional space of the literature allows Catherine to break the chain of society and morality; a dominant role she portrays that is not limited by the feminine ideologies (Novelli, 2013). The example of Catherine portrays the independent woman of the 20th century who found her way through independence, dominance and control. On the other hand, David represents the illusionist man who found himself raped from his position and role as the man in charge of  the house.



Barry, P. (2002). “Lesbian/Gay Criticism”. In Barry, P (ed.). (2002). Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. 2nd ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp.139-155.

Bayley, M. (2016). The Devilish Ways of Catherine Bourne: Breaking Heteronormative Gender Roles in The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway. 1st ed. Barcelona:

Independent University of Barcelona.

Bell, R. (1991). Women of Classical Mythology: A Biographical Dictionary. 1st ed.

California: Oxford University Press.

Bennett, J. (2015). “A Master’s Degree in…Masculinity?”. In New York Times (Aug 8, 2015). [Accessed on March 28th, 2017].

Benshoff, H. & Griffin, S. (2009). America on Film. 2nd ed. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. Boeree, C. (1997). Personality Theories. 1st ed. Shippensburg: C. George Boeree.

Brah, A. (1991). “Questions of Difference and International Feminism”. In Aaron, J. & Walby, S. (eds.). Out of the Margins. 2nd ed. London: Falmer Press, pp. 168-176.

Brooker, P. et al. (2005). A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory. 5th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Longman.

Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Carlson Neil, R. (2010). Psychology the Science of Behavior: The Psychodynamic Approach.

1st ed. USA: Pearson Canada.

Chafetz, J. &Saltzman, S. (1999). Handbook of the Sociology of Gender. 1st ed. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

Connell, R. et al. (2005). Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities. 3rd ed. London, England: SAGE Publications.

Davis, G. R. (2002). Understanding Manhood in America: The Elusive Quest for the Ideal in Masculinity. Freemasonry’s Enduring Path to the Mature Masculine. USA: Anchor Communications LLC

De Beauvoir, S. (1989). The Second Sex. 2nd ed. New York, USA: Vintage Books.

De Beauvoir, S. &Parshley, H. (1968). The Second Sex New. 2nd ed. New York: Bantam Books.

Del Gizzo, S. & Svoboda, F. (2011). Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden: Twenty-five Years of Criticism. 1st ed. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press.

Domotor, T. (2012). Hemingway’s in Our Time: Masks, Silences and Heroes. 1st ed. England: University of Surrey Press.

Elmore, M. (2007). Masculinities and Men’s Studies: The Literature of a Growing Discipline.

1st ed. Chicago: Academic Research Library.

Erwin, E. (2002). The Freud Encyclopedia: Theory, Therapy, and Culture. USA: Taylor & Francis.

Fantina, R. (2005). Ernest Hemingway: Machismo and Masochism. 2nd ed. New York: MACMILLAN.

Flora, J. &MacKethan, L. (2001). The Companion to Southern Literature: Themes, Genres, Places, People, Movements, and Motifs. 1st ed. USA: LSU Press.

Friend, C. (2010). Southern Masculinity: Perspectives on Manhood in the South since Reconstruction. 1st ed. Georgia: University of Georgia Press.

Gandal, K. (2008). The Gun and the Pan; Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Faulkner and the Fiction of Mobilization. 2nd ed. New York, USA: Oxford University Press.

Garrett, S. (1992). Gender. 1st ed. London: Routledge.

Gatens, M. (1991). Feminism and Philosophy: Perspectives on Difference and Equality. 1st ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Gros, E. (2010). The Southern Gentleman and the Idea of Masculinity: Figures and Aspects of the Southern Beau in the Literary Tradition of the American South. [online] Dissertation. Available at: http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/english_diss/64 [Accessed on Apr. 27th, 2017].

Hale, M. & Finn, S. (2010). Masculinity and Femininity in the MMPI-2 and MMPI-A.1st ed.

Minnesota: Minnesota Press.

Healey, J. (2003). Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Class: The Sociology of Group Conflict and Change. 6th ed. London: SAGE.

Hemingway, E. (1986). The Garden of Eden. New York: Scribner’s

Hollander, P. (2009). Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of Good Society. 4th ed. USA: Transaction Publishers.

Jagose, A. (1996). Queer Theory: An Introduction. 2nd ed. New York: New York University Press.

Jill, S. (2005). Electra after Freud: Myth and Culture. 1st ed. New York: Cornell University Press.

Kemen, Z. (2007).“Hemingway: A Study in Gender and Sexuality”. [online] Digital Commons. Available at: http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/srhonors_theses/27 [Accessed on Apr.7th 2017].

Kimmel, M. (1996). “Manhood in America: A Cultural History-The Contemporary ‘Crisis’ of Masculinity in Historical Perspective.”In Brod, H. (1996)The Making of Masculinities: The New Men’s Studies. 1st ed. Boston: Allen & Unwin, pp.56-60.

Kimmel, S. (2006). Manhood in America: A Cultural History. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kimmel, S. (2012). Manhood in America: A Cultural History. 3nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kimmel, S. (2017). Manhood in America: A Cultural History. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Komarovsky, M. (1973). The Unemployed Man and His Family- The Effect of Unemployment upon the Status of the Man in Fifty-Nine Families. 2nd ed. New York: Octagon Books.

Krijnen, T. & Van Bauwel, S. (2015). Gender and Media: Representing, Producing, Consuming. 1st ed. New York: Routledge.

Laplanche, J. &Pontalis, J. (1973). The Language of Psychoanalysis. 1st ed. London: Karnac.

Levant, R. et al. (2016). “Construct Validity Evidence for the Male Role Norms Inventory- Short Form: A Structural Equation Modeling Approach Using the Bifactor Model”.In Journal of Counseling Psychology. [Online] Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/cou0000171 [Accessed on Feb. 21st2017].

Levant, R. (2011). “Research in the Psychology of Men and Masculinity Using the Gender Role Strain Paradigm as a Framework.” In American Psychologist. [Online] Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0025034 [Accessed on March18th2017].

Levant, R. (2007). Initial Validation of the Male Role Norms Inventory-Revised (MRNI-R).

 In The Journal of Men’s Studies. SAGE Publications Inc, 5(2), pp.130-146.

Levant, R. &Kopecky, G. (1995). Masculinity Reconstructed: Changing the Rules of Manhood—At Work, in Relationships, and in Family Life. 2nd ed. New York: Dutton.

Levenz, D. (1989). Manhood and the American Renaissance. 1st ed. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Malti-Douglas, F. (2007). Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan. Mansfield, H. (2006). Manliness. 1st ed. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Mayers, J. (1985). Hemingway: A Biography. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan.

McKay, B. (2014). “The 3 P‘s of Manhood: A Review”. In The Art of Manliness. Available at:http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/03/31/the-3-ps-of-manhood-a-review/ [Accessedon Feb. 15th2017].

McLeod, S. (2016). “Id, Ego and Superego”. [Online] Simply Psychology. Available at: http://www.simplypsychology.org/psyche.html [Accessed on Feb. 10th2017].

Mintler, C. (2008). Fashioning Identity: Consumption, Performativity and Passing in the Modernist Novel. 1st ed. Illinois: University of Illinois press.

Monk, G. (2008). Writing the Lost Generation; Expatriats Autobiograpgy and American Modernism. 1st ed. Lowa City, USA: the University of Iowa Press.

Novelli, L. (2013). Hemingway, Trauma, and Power. Ohio State University.[Online] Dissertation. Available at: http://hdl.handle.net/1811/54776 [Accessed on Feb. 9th 2017].

Ousby, I. (1995). The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English. 1st ed. Cambridge: University of Cambridge press.

Pilcher, J. & Whelhan, I. (2004). 50 Key Concepts in Gender Studies. 2nd ed. London, England: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Reeser, T. (2011). Masculinities in Theory: An Introduction. 1st ed. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell.

Rogoff, B. (2003). The Cultural Nature of Human Development. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sofe, A. (2012). “Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theory Oedipus complex: A Critical Study with Reference to D. H. Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers”. [Online] Internal Journal of English and Literature. Available at: http://www.academicjournals.org/ijel DOI: 10.5897/IJEL11.137 [Accessed on March 14th2017].

Thompson, D. (1991). Reading between the Lines: A Lesbian Feminist Critique of Feminist Accounts of Sexuality. 1st ed. North Melbourne: Spinifex Press.

Torma,    H.     (2014),     Style and Gender in Ernest Hemingway’s     The Sun Also Rises,  The Ohio State University,                                     [Online]            Dissertation.           Available            at: http://kb.osu.edu/dspace/handle/1811/60323 [Accessed on March 19th. 2017].

Tyson, L. (2006). Critical Theory Today: A User-friendly Guide. 2nd ed. New York, USA: Taylor & Francis.

VanSpanckeren, K. (2007). Outline of American Literature. 2nd ed. US Department of State: Bureau of International Information Programs.

Watson, D. & Versus Cavalier, Y. (1993). The Old Southwest’s Fictional Road to Rebilion.

1st ed. Louisiana: LSU Press Books.

Winnett, S. (2012). Writing Back: American Expatriates’ Narratives of Return. Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Zabala, K.(2007). Hemingway: A Study in Gender and Sexuality. Honors Scholar Theses.


  1. [online] Available at:      http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/srhonors_theses/27 [Accessed on March24th 2017].

Zabala, K. (2007). Hemingway: A Study in Gender and Sexuality. Connecticut: University of Connecticut Press.

Ziemann, B. (2007). War Experiences in Rural Germany. 1914-1923. 2nd ed. Oxford: Bloomsbury Academic.



Show More

Amine Allane

Hiii I'm Amine Allane, born in El Meniaa-Algeria on April 91. I had my master degree in English language in 2017 from UKM-Ouargla in Anglo-Saxon Literature. An optimistic common person with a vital spirit ! I like discussing, sharing, criticizing and experiencing life ! Your are welcome for any further contact ! Politique47@gmail.com It's Never too late !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button