The main defining characteristic of Jonathan Hemlock in The Eiger Sanction is his uber masculinity. Somehow he seems to be “the perfect male” in every aspect of his life – he easily and effortlessly seduces every single woman he encounters, intimidates other men, drinks a lot of beer, and is highly respected in his masculine field. This novel is like an amped-up version of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale and other Bond novels. By taking the tropes seen in this and other secret agent novels (rugged masculine hero, who has all of the women, booze and hero worship that that he wants) and highly exaggerating them, the novel develops a satirical tone towards masculinity itself and the spy novel in general.
The mountain in this novel seems to exist as another extremely hyped-up test of masculinity for our hero, Hemlock. He easily completes the other tasks placed before him in the beginning of the novel, whether it’s teaching or assassination. Climbing the mountain becomes the next bigger thing to demonstrate the abilities of men. The mountain is portrayed as a man’s world in this novel and there is not even the suggestion of a woman climber. The mountain, therefore, becomes another test in which Hemlock can prove his superior manliness and persona. It’s almost too much – our main character is not only a highly intelligent, incredibly attractive secret agent, but also used to be one of the best mountain climbers in the world. In this novel, the “adventure narrative” exists not only as a demonstration of masculinity, but also adds to the satirical nature of the narrative because it is so extreme and deadly.