The Odd Couple: Ernest Hemingway and Anthony Trollope, Part II

Andrew Scragg

The response of both writers was to look at what these new times meant for masculinity; what were the values that a man of the time needed to navigate a moral path in the world? For Trollope this became the code of the "gentleman": for Hemingway it is called the Hemingway "Code." Although neither were crusading novelists, this theme looms large in any reading of their works.

The Trollopean gentleman is made not born. A man is what he learns to be, and it is through observing and reflecting on his fellow man’s behaviors and his own mistakes that he will learn the key values of a gentleman. For Trollope, his character Plantagenet Palliser was probably the ideal gentleman, demonstrating a range of such values – he is self-aware, hardworking, courteous in terms of considering others’ needs, demonstrating an ability to learn from his mistakes. He behaves honestly and expects the same from others; he has integrity in that he is not a victim of social pressures as others are. Most of all, he comes to recognize that birth does not make a gentleman, it is how he behaves.

Hemingway developed what has been called the "Code Hero" who defines "grace under pressure"; this hero has learned how to live in changing times. He has self-awareness and self-control, honour and courage, which distinguishes him from people who follow random influences, are messy, cowardly and have no code to live by.. The "Code hero" serves to teach the story hero the code. In "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber": the white hunter, Wilson, although flawed, teaches Macomber this code – not showing fear, following through to complete a task, taking responsibility – enabling Macomber to live a happy life (albeit short).

Although separated by nearly a century, Trollope and Hemingway were both trying to understand and truthfully portray their times and identify values (particularly masculine values) to navigate changing situations; both defined very similar characteristics. Perhaps we should ask if this Victorian novelist should be recognized as an influence on Hemingway’s writing?


Sources Cosulted

Berthoud, Jacques. "Introduction: Trollope the European" in Trollope, Anthony, Phineas Finn [1869]. Oxford UP, 1882, repr. 1991.

Hall, N John, Trollope: a biography. Oxford UP, 1991, pbk ed 1993.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume 2 1923 – 1925, ed Sandra Spanier, Albert J DeFazio III, and Robert Trogdon. Cambridge UP, 2013.

Letwin, Shirley Robin. The Gentleman in Trollope: Individuality and Moral Conduct. MacMillan, 1982.

Mellow, James R. Charmed Circle: Gertrude Stein and Company. Phiadon, 1974.

Reynolds, Michael S. Hemingway’s Reading, 1910 – 1940: An Inventory. Princeton UP, 1981.

Smalley, Donald, (ed) Trollope: the critical heritage, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969.

Young, Philip, Ernest Hemingway: a reconsideration, University Park PA, Pennsylvania State UP, 1966, repr. 1981.


Andrew Scragg is a retired librarian from The West Midlands in the United Kingdom and long-time Hemingway reader and member of the Hemingway Society. He has previously published on Hemingway in the Journal of Wyndham Lewis Studies (2013).

Andrew Scragg 04/03/2023

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