Hemingway's Masochism, Sodomy, and the, Dominant Woman

By Fantina, Richard | The Hemingway Review, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Hemingway's Masochism, Sodomy, and the, Dominant Woman


Fantina, Richard, The Hemingway Review


Recent studies recognize the complexity of Hemingway's female characters. The devotion to these women reveals a submissive and masochistic sexuality in the male heroes that occasionally includes their participation in passive heterosexual sodomy. While some recent gender theorists seek to identify male masochism as a viable, alternative form of masculine sexuality, others see it as disguised form of sexism. This essay examines Hemingway's texts in light of these theories and explores how the novels and stories embody many of the subversive elements of masochism that undermine certain patriarchal values, even while their author upholds others.

INTRODUCTION

Although many critics now readily dismiss the old Hemingway myth of machismo, few seem prepared to acknowledge the masochism that prevails in much of his work. The ideal Hemingway woman, revealed as early as The Sun Also Rises 0926), demonstrates power and a will to dominate. This becomes particularly apparent in the posthumous The Garden of Eden 0986), where Hemingway celebrates a woman who controls the sexual relationship with her husband, and who initiates female-on-male sodomy. Since its publication, the dominance of Catherine Bourne in that novel has led scholars to reappraise the foundations of Hemingway's machismo, which coexists with an alternative, masochistic sexuality.

Hemingway's work does not feature incidents of female domination in the sense of the woman with the whip who so intoxicated Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. But despite the absence of the dominatrix, submissive sexuality reveals itself more subtly and at times more dramatically than in the ritualized fantasies of Venus in Furs (1870). Although little attention has been devoted to its appearance in Hemingway's texts, male heterosexual masochism represents to some a legitimate, alternative form of masculine sexuality and has been the focus of study in recent gender theory. This essay seeks to locate Hemingway's work within this discourse. Although psychoanalysis necessarily informs this discussion, the purpose here is not to offer another psychoanalytic interpretation but to discuss Hemingway's work in the tradition of literary masochism and the critical responses to it.

Psychoanalysis has a long history of diagnosing masochism both as feminine and as misdirected homosexuality all the while trying to "cure" it. This attitude has been increasingly challenged in recent years. Carol Siegel writes of the tendency of psychoanalysis toward a "nonsensical conflation of male homosexuality with submissively expressed male heterosexuality and its touting of female masochism as essential femininity" (16). Gilles Deleuze's Coldness and Cruelty (1969) places masochism within a tradition of masculinity that had been denied or disparaged by psychoanalysis. Deleuze insists on masochism as an arena in which masculinity can assert itself. The avowal of masochism as a tenable masculine position allows for new interpretations of some classic literature. Elements in much of Hemingway's work indicate a masochistic sensibility coexisting with his cult of traditional masculinity. As an artist, Hemingway expresses an alternative masculinity that on the surface seems diametrically opposed to that which he publicly embraced, but both paradigms of masculinity (and others, including gay models) now have a more recognized validity despite a century-long tyranny imposed by the Victorians. Hemingway's embodiment of diverse models of masculinity may be his greatest legacy.

Traditionally, when critics comment on masochism in Hemingway they generally do so idiomatically, without touching on the sexual implications, by referring to the many physical wounds his characters suffer. Yet the wounded heroes exhibit a non-genital sexuality and occasionally submit to passive sodomy. Their general physical and psychological submission to women who alternately punish, humiliate, and nurture these suffering men, sufficiently demonstrates masochism. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hemingway's Masochism, Sodomy, and the, Dominant Woman
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.