The decision to make Grettir the protagonist for Grettir’s Saga is an interesting if not unusual choice on the part of the author(s). Examination of this atypical choice speaks volumes about the Icelandic society in the 13th century, when it is believed the saga was written down, as well as Icelandic society during the 10th century, when the majority of the action in the saga occurs.
Before we begin an analysis and examination of Grettir, however, it is important to understand what a saga is and the purpose it serves. The author of Grettir’s Saga is unknown. In fact, there is actually more than one author. Sagas were not written down until the 13th century at the earliest, yet they cover events that occurred even before the founding of Iceland between 830-950 (Hastrup 150-51). The reason for this discrepancy is that sagas began as oral stories. The sagas were passed down from generation to generation orally until they were written down in the 13th century. This is why there are actually multiple authors to the saga. Each time the saga was told, it was not told exactly the same. As the storytellers changed, so to did some of the events of the saga. While the changes made to the saga by the storytellers were not significant to change it’s overall meaning, they do have the ability to enhance certain feats by Grettir, attacking the credibility of the story if dwelled upon. However, while certain events may not be completely true, the message that Grettir portrays and the issues that he represents are true and accurate. It is important to remember that the saga was considered a history, but was not to be used as a primary source for information. It served better when considered a vehicle for transporting traditional wisdom based on historical knowledge (Hastrup 143).
Grettir was an unusual choice as a protagonist because he was an outlaw. He did not possess many heroic qualities and was not the typical protagonist that was liked by many of the characters in the novel or saga. Grettir was actually disliked by many and constantly in trouble with the law. Grettir’s exploits were humane at times and bordered on heroic but his misdeeds weighed heavily against him. The author(s) of the saga took a chance by using Grettir as their protagonist.
Nick Adams as Code Hero of In Our Time
Nick Adams as Code Hero of In Our Time
Ernest Hemingway is noted for having made many contributions to the literary world and one of his most notorious contributions is the Code Hero. The birth and growth of the Code Hero can be easily observed simply by watching the growth and development of Nick Adams throughout Hemingway’s writing. In Our Time contains a various assortment of Nick Adam stories at various stages of his life and also shows the Code Hero at various stages of its development. In Our Time was the second book Hemingway had published. His first contained only three short stories and ten poems and had little to do with the Code Hero, making In Our Time the first time Hemingway revealed the Code Hero to the rest of the world. The technique and characterization contained in In Our Time is consistent with most of Hemingway’s later writings, setting up In Our Time as a model of Hemingway’s style and the Code Hero
According to Professor Paul Totah of St. Ignatius, Hemingway defined the Code Hero as “a man who lives correctly, following the ideals of honor, courage and endurance in a world that is sometimes chaotic, often stressful, and always painful.” The Code Hero measures himself by how well they handle the difficult situations that life throws at him. In the end the Code Hero will lose because we are all mortal, but the true measure is how a person faces death. The Code Hero is typically an individualist and free-willed. Although he believes in the ideals of courage and honor he has his own set of morals and principles based on his beliefs in honor, courage and endurance. Qualities such as bravery, adventuresome and travel also define the Code Hero. A final trait of the Code Hero is his dislike of the dark. It symbolizes death and is a source of fear for him. The rite of manhood for the Code Hero is facing death. However, once he faces death bravely and becomes a man he must continue the struggle and constantly prove himself to retain his manhood (Totah).
The Code Hero is present in the majority of Hemingway’s novels. Even the young man in Hills Like White Elephants contained many of the characteristics of the Code Hero such as free-willed, individualist, and travel. The individualism comes out in his desire to not have a child.