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

General Introduction

Most of the time, one hears the words gender and sex, but s/he does not give them much attention, for s/he considers them expressing the same concept, but unfortunately this is wrong. Benshoff& Griffin (2009) report that one’s sex totally differs from one’s gender; they argue that the former is considered as the biological identification of what is to be a male or a female, while the latter refers to the socially constructed roles established upon a culturally and historically determined set of possibilities linked to masculinity and femininity. Accordingly, masculinity has known changes along the history of America since the early settlement to the 20th century: “In every generation in America, manhood has been at the center of life and progress.” (Davis, 2002, p.10).

The need for a wise strong man to rule the new nation created the notion of the self- made man who became the ideal symbol of masculinity and manhood (Ibid). The Civil War and World War I erased the two men qualities existed earlier in the Victorian era; the Genteel Patriarch and the Heroic Artisan (Kimmel, 2012). Hence, a shift in definitions was accompanied by a shift in the gender role which the man used to fill in the American society, what developed later to a crisis in masculinity in the USA. How this crisis affected the attitudes and the life-style of the Americans, and how it was shaped and reflected is the cause behind this investigation.

To examine the new masculinity taking place, it would be much better to investigate an unchained historical force, which is literature. A better choice for the analysis seems to be Earnest Hemingway, one of the ‘lost generation group’ who witnessed the war and reflected its trauma in his writings. His novel, The Garden of Eden, triggers the shift in gender roles which makes it a legitimate material to conduct the analysis.

The present work aims at highlighting the gender role shift in the American society, understanding Hemingway’s notion of masculinity in The Garden of Eden and depicting the masculinity themes shaped in the main characters of the novel that come along with the characteristics of the 20th century American masculinity. It also attempts to contribute to the existing knowledge in the field of gender studies and masculinities. In order to accomplish the objectives of this work, the researcher tends to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the masculinity traits in Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden?
  2. How does Hemingway portray the shift in gender roles in the novel?
  3. Do the Bournes in Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden define the masculinity notion of the 20thcentury American society?

To respond the previously-mentioned questions, the present work is qualitative content analysis in nature so that it will be clear how to find out patterns of masculinity in the novel. This research work uses the gender theory and masculinity studies in order to put the analysis in its parallel framework. It is also thematic study; having recourse to an already established set of themes taken from the theoretically derived norms of traditional masculinity ideology developed by Levant et al (2016), for the Male Role Norms Inventory Short Form (MRNI- SF).

Thus, in order to establish a well-structured work on Hemingway’s masculinity in the novel, the present work is divided into four chapters; the first three chapters are theoretical; Chapter One tackles different theories in the field of masculinity and gender studies. Chapter Two sheds light on masculinity in American literature. Chapter Three is about Ernest Hemingway the author and the selected novel The Garden of Eden. Chapter Four represents the practical part and it depicts the masculinity traits in the novel.

By the end of this work, we hope that we would be familiar with the concept of American masculinity developed in the USA since the early settlement. Also, we would hopefully identify the different masculinity traits in the novel to which we prove its presence at the heart of the 20th century American society. Finally, the research is to end revealing some important facts on the gender role shift which had occurred by the late of the nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century in the US society.

Chapter one

Masculinity Theories


Masculinity, as one might perceive, is what defines the male gender; a persona of determined qualities that defines such notions of strength, power, control, dominance and body (Reeser, 2011). It also means the contrary of a feminine persona, in qualities and figures. This is the case for the ordinary eye when trying to give the meaning of what man should be. However, what is noticeable is that these traits are most of the time invisible, and they appeal to one’s conscious when it comes to facing a situation where the masculinity is absent, as none well costumed or crying man (Ibid). Yet, those masculine qualities are not taken for granted; it is the socio-historical contexts which shape the individual’s identity (Gatens, 1991).

Thus, in order to understand masculinity, one should look at its complexity across the different ideologies and perspectives. The tools by which researchers may use to investigate this gender study are multiple, and across this chapter, the researcher will try to illustrate the different relevant theories and approaches that contribute to the understanding and the analysis of masculinity.

Post-structuralist Theory

In the world of literature, culture is transmitted by words in which the artist marks the different hidden meanings of his conscious unconsciously (Pilcher & Whelehan, 2004). From this point of view, post-structuralist theory investigates the different interpretations of signs, or what is not mentioned behind the lines in a piece of literature (Brooker et al, 2005). In their book, 50 Key Concepts in Gender Studies, Pilcher & Whelehan (2004) argue that structuralism is concerned with language which only takes meaning when it is investigated itself.

Further, Reeser (2010) highlights the relation between language and masculinity’s ideologies as the medium to understand those ideologies stating that “Language is an important aspect of understanding gender because language defines the reality that we experience and because we cannot experience reality without using language” (p.29); he adds “the ways in which language functions are important to the study of masculinity because they influence how we perceive masculinity” (p.29).On this belief, for the post-structuralists, the word is considered as a valuable tool when it comes to analyzing and investigating masculinity in literature (Ibid).

Feminist Theory

Masculinity has been accompanied by femininity in a way or another. Throughout centuries, women had difficulties with patriarchy concerning her position as a person in her society where she was oppressed, abandoned, violated for her weakness and marginalized for her silent voice which was the concerns of the feminist criticism (Tyson, 2006).

Things changed by the late 1960s where the ‘Women Movement’ emerged raising the voice and the right of the female in the world (Ibid). The different socio-cultural factors along the history participated mainly in reshaping the aims and goals of the Movement, which took different dimensions and perspectives later. Gardiner (2005) argues in herMen, Masculinities, and Feminist Theory that the 20th century, for feminists, marked the concept of gender as a social construction; a concept in which there was reformulation of what is to be a man or a woman and introduction to new definitions concerned with inherent characteristics of gender identity. Tyson (2006) also in Critical Theory Today discusses the feminist criticism, where she introduces a sub-feminist theory; a theoretical basis created by De Beauvoir as a result of her book The Second Sex in 1949 called ‘materialist feminism’ (Tyson, 2006). Tyson (2006) states:

In a patriarchal society, Beauvoir observes, men are considered essential subjects (independent selves with free will), while women are considered contingent beings (dependent beings controlled by circumstances). Men can act upon the world, change it, give it meaning, while women have meaning only in relation to men. Thus, women are defined not just in terms of their difference from men, but in terms of their inadequacy in comparison to men. The word woman, therefore, has the same implications as the word other. A woman is not a person in her own right. She is man’s Other: she is less than a man; she is a kind of alien in a man’s world; she is not a fully developed human being the way a man is. (p.96)

From this point, Tyson notices again the interrelation afforded by the feminist criticism between woman and man.The oppression of woman, though it is represented in many ideologies and forms, remains a universal case that always targets the opposite gender, the male. This is what also makes the feminist theory a useful tool when tackling the subject of gender.

Classical Psychoanalytic Criticism

It is somehow strange that people change their attitudes in a moment of instant anger or love, they lose control of what to say, or what to do; they scream, insult, cry etc. The cause of these deeds is an area in our brain that we do not give it much attention though it involves our dark box of thoughts and emotions (Pilcher & Whelehan, 2004). The psychoanalytic criticism triggers one of the complex issues that concern the human mind, the ‘unconscious’ (Brooker et al, 2005). According to the father of the classical psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, the unconscious was a closed restricted area to the self that can be only accessed at the absence of the conscious; by sleeping, slipping or dreaming (Pilcher & Whelehan, 2004).

In this way, psychoanalytic concepts are rooted in one’s life and whether we realize it or not, we are familiar with them and they are parts of our everyday life; inferiority complexes, sibling rivalry, and defense mechanisms represent some of these concepts (Tyson, 2006). Childhood, adulthood and manhood/womanhood are the ground-stage in which psychoanalysis is concerned; the psychological history of the individual since his early birth to an early age in his life is what shapes his persona, and thus determines his behavior within his society (Ibid). In relation the present study on masculinity, sexuality is considered in the masculine norms (Levant &Kopecky, 1995); consequently, the sexual area of the classical psychoanalysis is to be investigated.

The Oedipus Complex vs. the Electra Complex

One of the tackled issues by Sigmund Freud is the Oedipus complex in which he sheds light on the sexual desires of man from the childhood phase where he denotes that the child develops certain sexual desires toward his opposite gender parent(Sofe, 2012). Tracing the story of the story, Oedipus comes from a Greek myth in Thebe where the Prince Oedipus killed his father the King Laius and married his mother Jocasta unconsciously; people at that time explained the incident as to be fate (Ibid). Accordingly, Freud founded the theory upon the complexity of this familial relation. In this regard, Boeree denotes “The infant, in the Freudian view, is pure or nearly pure id” (Boeree, 2006) in a try to reject the Freudian theory that claims the presence of critical feelings and behaviors from the part of the child; the ‘id’ represents the desire we know that motivates us to behave in a particular way, while for Freud it represents the part of our nervous system that transforms the needs of our organism into motivational forces which he denotes as wishes (Sofe, 2012). Therefore, Freud places sexuality at an early stage in the life of man, and what behaviors follow later are the consequences of those early conflicts between the father, the mother and the child.

In contrast to the Oedipus complex, the Electra complex introduced by Carl Jung explores the same attitudes for the young girl as threatened by her mother for gaining the love of the father (Scott & Jill, 2005). This Electra complex, as Freud calls it, comes from a Greek methodology too; where Electra and her brother Orestes planned a revenge for their father Agamemnon against their mother Clytemnestra (Bell, 1991). Freud rejected this complex on the belief that those psychological attitudes are restricted to young males only and not the contrary (Thompson, 1991).

The Id, the Ego and the Superego

The idea that the human mind is divided into more than one aspect comes from Freud perception of the psyche (Sofe, 2012). In an attempt to decipher the personality, Freud distinguished three non-concrete parts in the human brain that shape and control one’s behavior and attitudes namely: the Id, the Ego and the Superego (Ibid). The Id represents the primitive part of the mind that holds our instinctual nature, our hidden memories, sexual and aggressive drives of pleasure. It reacts directly driving the self without rethinking the consequences. The Superego plays the contrary role, as the moral conscious that contains the traditions and laws of society. The Ego represents the ground where the Id and the Superego meet; it is the actual personality which is, for Freud real, it reacts and interacts in the real life within the society (McLeod, 2016).

Similarly, Freud divided the mind to three elements: the preconscious, the conscious and the unconscious (Sofe, 2012). The first element represents what we are becoming aware of, in the process to be at the conscious level. The second one is what we are aware of, it is more realistic. The things we are not aware of yet are represented by the unconscious (Carlson, 2010).

Psychoanalytic Literary Criticism

Psychoanalytic literary criticism is concerned with the analysis of literature and its elements, and it emphasizes on the author and the characters in a literary work; it tracks behavior, psyche, setting and symbols, and justifies them in relevance to the psychoanalysis principals rather than analyzing the artistic side of a literary work (Ousby, 1995). The psychoanalysis theory main concerns are the interpretation of dreams, death, aggression, anxiety and sexuality; consequently, most of the elements are in direct relation to masculinity norms, or ‘real’ world norms, determined by Levant &Kopecky (1995). Moreover, this psychoanalysis theory is also concerned with female homosexuality which makes it considerable for this study; as to analyze Catherine Bourne sexual behavior with Marita in the novel. In this regard, Laplanche & Pontalis (1973) mark that in addition to the physiological needswhich depend on the functioning of the genital apparatus, female homosexuality holds a whole range of activities and excitations that cannot be explained physiologically.

However, Freud’s theory of psychoanalysis was criticized for the lack of scientific roots; it was invented upon Freud’s own imagination and supposition (Rahim, 2002). The way Freud treated his patients of hysteria was also non-scientific, it was the kind of sorcerer and charmer (Ibid). Accordingly, Boeree (2006) states that some theorists do not even use the concept. Due to this belief, classical psychoanalysis theory was not used for the sake of the needed analysis on masculinity.

Gender Studies:

The concept of gender studies refers to a field of interdisciplinary study used as an analytical tool that contrasts and analyzes the issues of gender identity and gender role as the central aim of the study (Pilcher & Whelehan, 2004). Men’s studies, women’s studies and Queer studies are the concerns of gender studies as well as the study of sexuality in literature, language, geography, history, sociology and more (Krijnen & Bauwel, 2015). It is also concerned with the analysis of race, ethnicity, class, nationality and disability in relation to gender and sexuality (Healey, 2003). The term ‘gender’ was debated and it held more than one meaning; for instance, Simone de Beauvoir refers to the socio-cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities and not the physiological state of being a male or a female (Garrett, 1992).

The first principles of gender studies tackle the different perspectives of gender. Being a discipline itself, it also contributes in investigating the different sexual differences between the two genders (Krijnen & Bauwel, 2015). The universal suffrage revolution changed the vision of the early feminists which resulted in the women’s liberation movement; it was the time to actually measure and report the observed differences between the two genders (Chafetz& Saltzman, 1999). The feminist theorist’s first aim was analyzing and recognizing the contributions made by women and men in what is known as women’s studies, but later, men started to tackle their masculinity in the same way feminists did toward femininity and that created what is called men’s studies (Douglas, 2007). The increasing interest in lesbian and gay rights helped in assembling the two fields together in what comes to be known as ‘queer theory’ (Ibid).

Women’s Studies:

The relationships between power and gender, the social status and the contribution of women in the society are the aims of the interdisciplinary field of women’s studies that examines gender as a socio-cultural construct (Pilcher & Whelehan, 2004). This field discusses the women’s history, social life, psychology and anthropology; how women are treated, viewed and progressed in different cultures. It embodies feminist theory, women’s history, social history, women’s fiction, women’s health, feminist psychoanalysis and gender studies (Brah, 1991).

Men’s Studies

 Men’s studies, or what is called Masculinity studies, were founded in the 1970s as a reaction to women’s studies which call for the role and the position of women in society (Alorda, 2013). Men felt the change happening around them, so theorists founded the field that studies men’s issues in relation to society and women (Pilcher & Whelehan, 2004). The goal of men’s studies is to analyze and to investigate men’s identity within the different socio- historical settings to reach the meaning of what is to be a man, sharing the women’s studies in questioning the relation of men to the patriarchal power (Bennett, 2015).

The movement was divided later into two branches; the first branch was peaceful considering the gender studies and feminists as the tool for their objective of defining the man, while the second branch refused the principal of women’s oppression claiming that men also are oppressed (Pilcher & Whelehan, 2004). Brod (1987) defines men’s studies as “the study of masculinity as a specific male experience, rather than a universal paradigm for human experience” (p.40).

Queer Theory

Queer theory investigates the differences and the relationships between gender, sex and desire, as well as classifying individuals as either males or females(Jagose, 1996).Grounded in gender and sexuality, a debate emerged on the nature of sexual orientation whether it is natural as an essentialist belief or if it is a changeable social construction (Barry, 2002). In this regard, Butler (1990) argues in her book, The Subversion of Identity, that gender is neither natural nor stable elements of biological identity, but rather it is brought into existence constantly as a result of everyday activities that have the potential to reconstitute the notions of masculinity and femininity. Rogoff (2003) points out that biology and culture are not independent entities, for the ways in which they interact with each other. Culture defines the understanding of the physiological elements of the body, the reason behind them; for instance, Catherine Bourne in The Garden of Eden refers to her breasts as her ‘dowry’ (p.17) when David reminds her of her anatomical parts that remain sexed female (Minter, 2008). Catherine’s denial of this part of her part is built upon social-cultural contexts which define her understanding of her body.


Many theorists debated over the meaning of masculinity, but the general overview is that masculinity represents the subordinated characteristics and roles of the male. Kimmel (1987) argues that “Masculinity was a relational construct and was to be reconstructed, reasserted, or redefined in relation to changing social and economic conditions and the changing position of women in society” (p.153).On the other hand, masculine ideology is defined by Levant and Richmond (2007) as “an individual’s internalization of cultural beliefs and attitudes towards masculinity and men’s roles” (p.131).Masculinity construction is made by both, the social definition and the biological factorsaway from the definition of the male biological sex (Hale & Finn, 2010).

Excessive, epic and gay are the three qualities of masculinity Halberstam (1998) refers to; the excessive masculinity represents the physical bodies of hyper-masculine men, while the epic masculinity shapes the masculinity of white males, and the gay masculinity embodies the homosexual’s.In short, Masculinity, as the socially constructed idea of men, is in line with the definition of masculinity given by Benshoff and Griffin (2009) stating that masculinity includes the roles and behaviors associated with being male, and that within the contemporary Western culture, including strength, leadership ability, and the restraint of emotional expression.

Male Role Norms Inventory- Short Form (MRNI-SF)

Dealing with masculinity in the novel in a thematic way was in need of themes, whether to conclude them from the text sample or to start looking for an already made set of themes. The complexity of Hemingway’s notion of masculinity in The Garden of Eden inparticularand his practice of gender issues along with his works, in general, made the researcher eliminate the first option of constructing the themes from the text. The second option was available and offered a better realization of my dissertation that it updated, tested and tackles the 20th century traditional masculinity of the American society (Levant et al, 2016).

The deconstruction of gender by the beginning of the 1960s followed the traditional masculinity ideology which was the dominant ideology in the USA. Levant (2011) argues that the masculine ideology was diverse for the different cultures America contained. Accordingly, it is more accurate to “traditional White Western masculinity ideology” as the new contrast that marks the White Western World (Ibid).

Psychologists have developed a number of scales to measure masculinity ideology (Thompson &Pleck, 1995). A common set of standards and expectations is associated with the traditional male role throughout most of the world, which has been referred to as ‘traditional masculinity ideology’ (Pleck, 1995). According to a recent study (Whorley& Addis, 2006), the Male Role Norms Inventory (MRNI) (Levant et al., 2016) is most commonly used measures of masculinity ideology. Seven theoretically-derived norms concerned with the traditional masculinity ideology were developed by Levant and his colleagues (Levant et al. 2016; Levant & Fischer, 1998) which are claimed to be the most commonly used measure of masculine ideology (Whorley& Addis, 2011).

Those norms are achievement/status, aggression, avoidance of femininity, fear and hatred of homosexuals, non-relational attitudes toward sex, restrictive emotionality and self- reliance. Those norms were developed later to a shorter form holding the same norms called: Masculinity Role Norms Inventory- Short Form (MRNI-SF) (Levant et al, 2016). The updated form stands for avoidance of femininity, negativity toward sexual minorities, self-reliance through mechanical skills, toughness, dominance, importance of sex, and Restrictive emotionality (Ibid).

According to Levant et al (2016), “the MRNI-SF measures the endorsement of masculinity ideologies, a construct that is frequently used in the study of psychological issues related to men and masculinities” (p.1). Accordingly, the present study uses the MRNI-SF norms in order to investigate the 20th century American masculinity in the selected novel. The challenge is not only to investigate the masculinity traits of a male character, but it also concerns the female character as well, Catherine Bourne.


As we have seen throughout this chapter, masculinity is considered as a part of one’s identity. The different cultures and the different socio-historical factors of each civilization, nation or society govern ways of understanding of masculinity. Accordingly, the tools to analyze and to investigate it differ as well; if the feminist theorist links masculinity to the patriarchy of men, the psychoanalytic theorist would prefer to explain it by the repressed emotions and the unconscious’ issues on the behavior. Gender studies and its sub-disciplines offer the appropriate framework to conduct this analysis in a literary environment where the character’s sexual life is less to say about it: Queer.


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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 !

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