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A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway – Essay

Ernest Hemingway


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Introduction

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway

The following entry presents criticism on Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1929). See also, Ernest Hemingway Criticism.

A giant in the field of American literary modernism, Ernest Hemingway has long been called an important spokesman for the “lost generation” of disillusioned, war-wounded young Americans after the First World War. His 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms, a tragic love story about an American ambulance lieutenant and an English nurse, was based on Hemingway’s own experiences on the Italian front. In the novel, Hemingway uses his characteristic unadorned prose, clipped dialogue, and understatement to convey an essentially cynical view of the world. Critics were at first skittish about Hemingway’s linguistic and sexual frankness but soon began to regard him as a pioneer in establishing a writing style that came to dominate realistic writing for many decades. Although feminist critics have denigrated Hemingway’s alleged male bias, and others have found the love story unsatisfying, A Farewell to Arms remains a powerful statement about the effects of the horrors of war on ordinary people.


Plot and Major Characters

A Farewell to Arms is autobiographical in that Hemingway himself was with the Red Cross ambulance corps in Italy and also had a romance with a nurse after he was wounded by shrapnel. His protagonist, Frederic Henry, is a young American who joins the Italian ambulance corps, only to be wounded and sent to a hospital in Milan. He soon falls in love with his English nurse, Catherine Barkley, who then spends a happy summer with him in the country while he recuperates. In the fall, Catherine reveals that she is pregnant but refuses to marry Frederic, fearing that she will be sent back to England and asserting that the two are “married” in all but a legal way. A depressing scene ensues, with Frederic back at the front commiserating with his despondent comrade Rinaldi. With him he shares the further disappointment of the retreat from Caporetto. Discouraged and disillusioned, Frederic deserts, finding his way back to Stresa, to which Catherine has been transferred. Although in civilian clothes, Frederic fears detection, and he and Catherine flee to Lausanne to await the birth of their child. After a traumatic childbirth scene, both Catherine and the child die. Frederic walks away alone in the rain, chastened by his experiences and feeling alone in the universe.


Major Themes

An overarching theme in A Farewell to Arms is the hopelessness of war and the futility of searching for meaning in a wartime setting. Further, Hemingway suggests that the only true values people can cling to are in individual human relationships, not in abstract ideas of patriotism or service. A Farewell to Arms is above all a story of the development of Frederic Henry, who begins as a rather rootless character who does not really know why he joined the war effort. His own wound, however, teaches him to value life and prepares him to enter into a love relationship with Catherine. When Frederic makes his “separate peace” by deserting, he begins to take responsibility for his own actions. By the end of the novel, with love and hope seemingly dead, he has come to an understanding that one must be engaged in life, despite the vicissitudes of an indifferent universe.


Critical Reception

Early critics of the novel emphasized its realistic picture of war and disagreed over the effectiveness of Hemingway’s laconic literary style. A number of critics were squeamish about the frank language and sexual situations Hemingway presented. A Farewell to Arms was in fact banned in Boston in its first serialization in Scribner’s Magazine. By the 1940s, however, proponents of the New Criticism had begun to do closer textual studies of A Farewell to Arms, finding it rich in language, symbolism, and irony. Other critics praised Hemingway’s narrative structure and explored themes such as the conflict between abstract ideas (like honor and service) and concrete experience with love and death.

The 1970s and early 1980s saw a new flurry of Hemingway scholarship after his papers and manuscripts were opened to the public at the John F. Kennedy Library, allowing insight into Hemingway’s processes of composition. In the early 1970s, feminist critics began to lambast Hemingway for his treatment of the character of Catherine, whom they saw as little more than a projection of male needs and desires. Her relative lack of development, compared with Frederic’s evolution as a character, was called a weakness in the novel. In answer to feminist critics, others argued that one should not judge the novel from a particular ideological framework. In the 1980s and 1990s, criticism shifted back to close analyses of the text itself and explorations of the ways in which Hemingway’s life and the culture in which he lived influenced the novel. Reader-response critics sought to infer what Hemingway expected from readers, psychoanalytic critics delved into the character of Frederic, and deconstructionists noted subtle uses of language, which often masked deep meanings not at first evident.

Principal Works

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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Three Stories & Ten Poems (short stories) 1923

in our time (sketches) 1924

In Our Time (short stories) 1925

The Sun Also Rises (novel) 1926; published in England asFiesta (novel) 1926

Today Is Friday (journalism) 1926

The Torrents of Spring: A Romantic Novel in Honor of the Passing of a Great Race (novel) 1926

Men Without Women (short stories) 1927

A Farewell to Arms (novel) 1929

Death in the Afternoon (nonfiction) 1932

Winner Take Nothing (short stories) 1933

Green Hills of Africa (nonfiction) 1935

To Have and Have Not (novel) 1937

Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories (short stories and play) 1938

The Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (short stories) 1938

The Spanish Earth (criticism and broadcasts) 1938

The Fifth Column: A Play in Three Acts (play) 1940

For Whom the Bell Tolls (novel) 1940

The Portable Hemingway (novels and short stories) 1944

Across the River and Into the Trees (novel) 1950

The Old Man and the Sea (novel) 1952

The Hemingway Reader (novel) 1953

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories (short stories) 1961

The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber and Other Stories (short stories) 1963

A Moveable Feast (memoir) 1964

Hemingway’s African Stories: The Stories, Their Sources, Their Critics (short stories) 1969

Collected Poems (poetry) 1970

Islands in the Stream (novel) 1970

The Nick Adams Stories (short stories) 1972

Ernest Hemingway: Eighty-Eight Poems (poetry) 1979

Ernest Hemingway, Selected Letters, 1917-1961 (letters) 1981

Hemingway on Writing (essay) 1984

The Dangerous Summer (nonfiction) 1985

Conversations With Ernest Hemingway (interviews) 1986

The Garden of Eden (novel) 1986

The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition (short stories) 1987

The Only Thing That Counts: The Ernest Hemingway/Maxwell Perkins Correspondence (letters) 1996

The Short Stories (short stories) 1997

J. B. Priestley (essay date Winter 1929)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: A review of A Farewell to Arms, in Now and Then, Vol. 34, Winter 1929, pp. 11–12.

[In the following essay, the Priestley recommends Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms to readers while expressing some reservations about its franker aspects.]

Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is one of the very best novels that have passed through the hands of the Book Society Committee. Why, then, didn’t we choose it? Well, I think anybody who reads our first choice, Whiteoaks,1 and then this novel will understand why. Whiteoaks, an equally good piece of writing, is one of those novels that all sensible readers can enjoy. A…

(The entire section is 743 words.)

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T. S. Matthews (review date 9 October 1929)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: A review of A Farewell to Arms, in Hemingway: The Critical Heritage, edited by Jeffrey Meyers, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982, pp.121–26.

[In the following review, originally published in 1929, Matthews outlines Hemingway’s transition in A Farewell to Arms from the realism of war to the idealism of a love story.]

The writings of Ernest Hemingway have very quickly put him in a prominent place among American writers, and his numerous admirers have looked forward with impatience and great expectations to his second novel. They should not be disappointed: A Farewell to Arms is worthy of their hopes and of its author’s promise.

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Robert Herrick (essay date November 1929)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “What Is Dirt?” in The Bookman, November, 1929, pp. 258-62.

[In the following essay, Herrick raises questions about the propriety of certain frank sexual references in A Farewell to Arms, comparing them unfavorably with similarly explicit passages in Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.]

The censor, whatever he may think of himself, is always a ridiculous figure to the impartial observer. Latterly the censoring spirit has been especially active around Boston, that ancient home of witch hangers, offering comic relief to the gods. That a community which could perpetrate the Sacco-Vanzetti outrage on justice should try to…

(The entire section is 3,006 words.)

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Donald Davidson (review date 3 November 1929)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: A review of A Farewell to Arms, in Hemingway: The Critical Heritage, edited by Jeffrey Meyers, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982, pp. 126–30.

[In the following review, originally published in 1929, Davidson criticizes what he calls Hemingway’s behaviorist, “scientific” approach to writing in A Farewell to Arms.]

Ernest Hemingway’s novel A Farewell to Arms is like a direct and most remarkable answer to the recent wish of Dr. Watson,1 prophet of behaviorism, that somebody would write a novel containing people who act in a lifelike and scientific manner. That is exactly what Mr. Hemingway does, with such astounding verity as to…

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L. P. Hartley (review date 7 December 1929)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: A review of A Farewell to Arms, in Hemingway: The Critical Heritage, edited by Jeffrey Meyers, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982, pp. 134–35.

[In the following review, originally published in 1929, Hartley states that A Farewell to Arms is particularly interesting because of its account of war on the Italian front.]

Mr. Hemingway is a novelist of the expatriated. Fiesta showed us a group of Americans and one Englishwoman being violently idle, first in Paris and then in Spain. They went to bull-fights, they made love, they drank. Above all, they drank. They were not congenial company even in a book, but they knew how to get the utmost out…

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Ford Madox Ford (essay date 1932)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: An introduction to A Farewell to Arms, in Hemingway: The Critical Heritage, edited by Jeffrey Meyers, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982, pp. 151-59.

[In this introduction, originally published in the 1932 edition of A Farewell to Arms, Ford, a novelist himself and a friend and colleague of Hemingway’s from his days in Paris in the 1920s, dwells on Hemingway’s literary discipline, clarity of language, and economy of form.]

I experienced a singular sensation on reading the first sentence of A Farewell to Arms. There are sensations you cannot describe. You may know what causes them but you cannot tell what portions of your mind they affect nor…

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Wyndham Lewis (essay date 1934)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “Ernest Hemingway: The ‘Dumb Ox’,” in Men Without Art, 1934. Reprint by Russell & Russell, Inc., 1964, pp. 17-41.

[In the following essay, originally published in 1934, Lewis accuses Hemingway of borrowing the style of Gertrude Stein, purveying brutish speech patterns, and championing the unthinking masses, but at the same time praises his skill as a writer.]

Ernest Hemingway is a very considerable artist in prose-fiction.

Besides this, or with this, his work possesses a penetrating quality, like an animal speaking. Compared often with Hemingway, William Faulkner is an excellent, big-strong, novelist: but a conscious artist he…

(The entire section is 9,242 words.)

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Robert Penn Warren (essay date Winter 1947)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “Hemingway,” in The Kenyon Review, Vol. IX, No. 1, Winter, 1947, pp. 1-28.

[In the following essay, Warren answers critics of Hemingway and explores themes of the quasi-religious significance of human love and the solitariness of the individual in A Farewell to Arms.]

The situations and characters of Hemingway’s world are usually violent. There is the hard-drinking and sexually promiscuous world of The Sun Also Rises; the chaotic and brutal world of war as in A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, many of the inserted sketches of In Our Time, the play The Fifth Column, and some of the stories; the world of…

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Francis Hackett (essay date 6 August 1949)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: A review of A Farewell to Arms, in Saturday Review of Literature, August 6, 1949, pp. 32-3.

[In the following essay, Hackett asserts that Hemingway’s hero in the novel represents a false concept of male dignity.]

In one detail time has dulled the luster of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. He had gone through the First World War with the Italians and he put much of his own experience into that brilliant book. When he issued it in 1929 the story was still fresh but familiarity with war material now makes it a little trite. A wholly imagined experience, as in The Red Badge of Courage, is the kind that keeps its salience, though Stendhal…

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James F. Light (essay date Summer 1961)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “The Religion of Death in A Farewell to Arms,” in Ernest Hemingway: Critiques of Four Major Novels, edited by Carlos Baker, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1962, pp. 37-40.

[In the following essay,originally published in 1961, Light discusses the four ideals of service in A Farewell to Arms.]

One way of looking at Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is to see its close involvement in four ideals of service.1 Each of these ideals is dramatized by a character of some importance, and it is between these four that Lt. Henry wavers in the course of the novel. The orthodoxly religious ideal of service is that of the Priest, who wishes to serve…

(The entire section is 2,709 words.)

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Daniel Schneider (essay date Autumn 1968)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms: The Novel as Pure Poetry,” in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 14, Autumn, 1968, pp. 283-96.

[In the following essay, Schneider compares A Farewell to Arms to a lyric poem, where plot, character, and images all contribute perfectly to a feeling of hopelessness and desolation.]

In a well-known essay1 Robert Penn Warren has drawn a distinction between two kinds of poetry, a “pure” poetry, which seeks more or less systematically to exclude so-called “unpoetic” elements from its hushed and hypnotic atmosphere, and an “impure,” a poetry of inclusion or synthesis, which welcomes into itself such…

(The entire section is 7,025 words.)

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Floyd C. Watkins (essay date 1971)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “World Pessimism and Personal Cheeriness in A Farewell to Arms,” in The Flesh and the World: Eliot, Hemingway, Faulkner, Vanderbilt University Press, 1971, pp. 109-26.

[In the following essay, Watkins asserts that, in both theme and style, A Farewell to Arms sets up a conflict between abstract notions of patriotism and honor and the concrete world of individual choice.]

After describing every nation fighting in World War I as “cooked,” a British major in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms tells Frederic Henry “Good-by” cheerfully and wishes him “Every sort of luck!” Henry reflects on the contradictions in the major:…

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David L. Carson (essay date December 1972)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “Symbolism in A Farewell to Arms,” in English Studies, Vol. 53, December, 1972, pp. 518-22.

[In the following essay, Carson explores the ways in which A Farewell to Arms fuses a naturalistic approach with compressed, symbolic language.]

Edmund Wilson proclaimed in 1931 that the ‘literary history of our time is to a great extent that of the development of Symbolism and of its fusion or conflict with Naturalism.1’ History and the course of literary criticism have proved him correct. Strangely, however, he neglected all but passing mention of Ernest Hemingway, who had already demonstrated successful fusion of these elements in A…

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Judith Fetterley (essay date 1978)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “A Farewell to Arms: Hemingway’s ‘Resentful Cryptogram,’” in The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction, Indiana University Press, 1978, pp. 46-71.

[In the following essay, Fetterley states that the character of Catherine is a scapegoat for Frederic’s hostility rather than a true object of romantic love, providing a way for Frederic to avoid commitment.]

I

Once upon a time there was a writer who told the truth. He wrote a story called “Indian Camp” and in that story a little boy watches his doctor-father perform a contemptuous and grotesque Caesarean section on an Indian woman while her husband in…

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Millicent Bell (essay date 1984)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “A Farewell to Arms: Pseudoautobiography and Personal Metaphor,” in Ernest Hemingway: The Writer in Context, edited by James Nagel, The University of Wisconsin Press, 1984, pp. 107-28.

[In the following essay, Bell uses drafts and revisions of the novel to show that, while not autobiographical in every detail, A Farewell to Arms is highly realistic as a reflection of Hemingway’s state of mind.]

Autobiographic novels are, of course, fictions, constructs of the imagination, even when they seem to incorporate authenticating bits and pieces of personal history. But all fiction is autobiography, no matter how remote from the author’s experience the…

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Robert Merrill (essay date May 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “Denoting Hemingway: Feminist Criticism and the Canon,” in American Literature, Vol. 60, No. 2, May, 1988, pp. 255-68.

[In the following essay, Merrill asserts that a work of art should not be divorced from aesthetic judgments because of an author’s alleged male bias.]

In the “Extra” for March 1987 Lawrence Buell presents a deeply informed overview of what feminist revisionism can do for American literary history.1 As Buell’s reasoning and examples are quite persuasive, it will perhaps seem ungenerous for me to take issue with a single comment, offered as a parenthetical illustration. Nonetheless, I think the comment in question points up the…

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Margot Norris (essay date Winter 1994)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “The Novel as War: Lies and Truth in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms,” in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 40, No. 4, Winter, 1994, pp. 689-710.

[In the following essay, Norris uses reader-response criticism to argue that Hemingway uses the love story in the novel to turn readers’ attention from the brutal realities of war.]

The project of reevaluating Modernism in terms of the political interests that informed its formalistic claims has particularly questioned the aesthetics of the American moderns—Pound, Eliot, Stein, Fitzgerald, and Hemingway. Hemingway’s style has suffered an especially damaging translation into its ideological determinants—for…

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James Phelan (essay date 1996)

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SOURCE: “Voice, Distance, Temporal Perspective, and the Dynamics of A Farewell to Arms,” in Narrative as Rhetoric: Technique, Audiences, Ethics, Ideology, Ohio State University Press, 1996, pp. 59-84.

[In the following essay, Phelan emphasizes the novel’s progression in voice which allows Frederic’s character to develop gradually into a manifestation of Hemingway’s views of the universe.]

This chapter builds on the model of voice outlined in the essay on Vanity Fair by deploying it to reexamine Hemingway’s famous style in A Farewell to Arms and to offer an account of how voice contributes to the novel’s progression. Although I want to claim…

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Ben Stoltzfus (essay date 1996)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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SOURCE: “Ernest Hemingway: A Farewell to Arms Pronominal Shifts and Metaphorical Slippage,” in Lacan and Literature: Purloined Pretexts, State University of New York Press, 1996, pp. 66-89.

[In the following essay, Stoltzfus presents a complex analysis of the use of language in A Farewell to Arms, with particular reference to the way in which Hemingway’s use of metaphor and shifting pronoun references masks the primal story of Frederic’s (and the author’s) unconscious separation anxiety.]

The realization of perfect love is a fruit not of nature but of grace—that is to say, the fruit of an intersubjective agreement imposing its…

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Further Reading

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Monteiro, George. “Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms—The First Sixty-Five Years: A Checklist of Criticism, Scholarship, and Commentary.” Bulletin of Bibliography 53 (4) (December 1996): 273-92.

Comprehensive, chronological list of works about the novel and its film, radio, and television adaptations through 1994.

BIOGRAPHY

Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York: Scribner, 1969. 697 p.

One of the first authoritative biographies of Hemingway, with a short section on A Farewell to Arms.

Meyers, Jeffrey. Hemingway: A…

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A Farewell to Arms Homework Help Questions

  • What is the main theme of A Farewell To Arms?

    When I first read this story, I considered the horrors of war to be the primary theme.  However, there is an excellent link given below to an eNotes page that details all of the themes of "A…

  • Define symbolism in A Farewell to ArmsErnest Hemingway

    Much symbolism in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms relates to the tragic love story of Frederic Henry, an ambulance driver for the Italian army and Catherine Barkley. his English nurse after…

  • In A Farewell to Arms, does Lt. Henry really love Catherine?

    In the beginning, he does not. He sees her only as a sex object and their relationship as game playing. Frederick says, “I knew I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This…

  • Please discuss the tone (or tones) of Ernest Hemingway’s novel A Farewell to Arms.

    The tones of Ernest Hemingway’s novel A Farewell to Arms are various, and they tend to change as one moves through the book. Often the tones of the early chapters are light-hearted, as in the…

  • Explain what makes the central character of A Farewell to Arms dynamic?

    The central character in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is Lt. Frederic Henry.  At the beginning of the novel, Henry is quite shallow and does not appear to care very deeply about anything.  He…

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Themes in A Farewell to Arms

  • Paper Type: Research Paper
  • Citation Style: MLA
  • Majors: American Literature Literature and Languages
  • Number of pages: 10
  • Spacing: Double
  • Language: English US

A Farewell to Arms is a novel that is set during the World War 1. It is the story of two lovers, Henry and Catherine and the impact of the war on their life and love. The novel has several strong themes that are continuous throughout the books.

I.Tragedy

The novel ends with Catherine’s death and Henry walking alone back home in the rain. He has lost his baby and the love of his life. When authoring the book Hemmingway said “The fact that the book was a tragedy did not make me unhappy since I believed that life was a tragedy and it could only have one end” (Hemmingway, 1948, pvii-viii) The author referred to the novel as his Romeo and Juliet.

Unlike other forms of tragic narratives where the character suffers as a result of his wrong decision, Henry suffers for committing himself to love. He makes the decision that the readers desires him to make. He decides to be with his love and at the end it turns out to be a sad affair when Catherine dies.

As one reads the book, they sense an inevitable doom for the two lovers. The story will not end with them escaping to Switzerland to live a peaceful life. When the tragedy occurs, the readers come to concur with the author’s thoughts on life. It is indeed a tragedy (Merril, 1974).

The tragedy is inevitable similar to the way Macbeth could not be forgiven his sins and restored to virtue or Lear be allowed to live his days with the faithful Cordelia. The author from the beginning of the story creates tragic expectations which must be fulfilled for the piece of literature to succeed. The author creates a sense of foreboding in several ways.

When Henry thinks Catherine’s courage he concludes that “If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them so of course it kills them…it kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially” (Hemmingway, 1948, pg258-259)

When the lovers are in Switzerland and the seasons change from summer to autumn, Catherine also has a bad premonition. She tells Henry “I’m afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it.”(Hemmingway, 1948, pg131). The rain in the novel is symbolic of the tragedy that will occur.

The pattern of the book’s narrative structure is also a premonition of danger in the future. In the first book, Henry is deep in the war experiencing its horrors. In book two life gets better as he is off the battleground and taken to Milan. He meets Catherine and falls in love. However in book three, it again changes and he is back to the war. In book five and six, the couple escapes into Switzerland however the reader knows that it will not end well. He waits for the cyclic pattern of peace and turmoil to be fulfilled.

II. War’s devastating effects

From the beginning as the author narrates the story in the setting of the World War 1, the reader is shown the horrors and trauma of war. In the second chapter, the landscape is described as “the forest of oak trees on the mountain beyond the town was gone. The forest had been green in the summer when we had

come into the town but now there were stumps and the broken trunks and the ground torn up.”(Hemmingway, 1948, p6). The war changes the landscape from fruitfulness to barrenness.

The first dialogue shows the baiting of a priest by Italian officers. Henry is blown up while consuming a piece of cheese. As he is being transported to the hospital, a dead soldier bleeds all over him. The bleeding soldier had been put above him in the ambulance. The man bleeds on Henry till he dies.

Henry remembers that the stream of blood just kept on flowing. “In the dark I could not see where it came from the canvas overhead….After a while the stream from the stretcher above lessened and started to drip again and I heard and felt the canvas move as the man on the stretcher settled more comfortably. “How is he?” the Englishman called back. “We’re almost up.” “He’s dead I think,” I said (Hemingway, 1948, pg61).

Two of his favorite subordinates, Passini and Aymo die and he feels that they died unreasonably. By the end of the war, his best friend, Rinaldi ends up having a depression.

When Henry asks Catherine what happened to his fiancée the way she responds to the questions shows the devastating effects of the war. “He didn’t have a saber cut. They blew him all to bits” (Hemingway, p20). The author’s choice of words shows how he personally felt about the World Wars.

The wounds that the characters get in the war show the way they affect the individual’s life even when they are away from the battle field. While Henry is in Milan he runs into an American-Italian on his convalescence

leave. Ettore Moretti had been injured three times in his body. He had a wound on the shoulder, on the leg and on the foot. Moretti describes his wound in lurid detail. “There’s dead bone in my foot that stinks right now. Every morning I take new pieces out and it stinks all the time” (Hemingway, 1948, pg122).

There are feelings of helplessness, defeat and despair. Henry himself also suffers from an injury and has to take some time off recuperating in Milan.

The doctor describes his wounds in detail. “Multiple superficial wounds of the left and right thigh and the left and right knee and right foot. Profound wounds of right knee and foot. Lacerations of the scalp…with possible fracture of the skull. Incurred in the line of duty” (Hemingway, 1948, pg59).

III. Masculinity

This is one of the main themes in the novel. Women are portrayed or treated as sexual objects. The reader encounters the first hero, Rinaldi in a brothel. Catherine Barkley is a nurse in the world of the Italians where all the women are viewed as whores.

Rinaldi speaks to her and even fantasizes about marriage with her but eventually his attitude goes back to the standard attitude of male dominance and chivalry. “What a lovely girl…Does she understand that? She will make you a fine boy. A fine blonde like she is..What a lovely girl.”(Hemmingway, 1948, pg99).

If one encounters a doctor he would ask if he is great in surgery and can make a fine leg. However, in the novel, Rinaldi thinks whether the nurse is sexually adequate, if she will be able to make a fine boy! When Henry comes back from Milan, Rinaldi asks him whether Catherine was of practical help to him. The question carries with it a strong sexual connotation.

The soldiers visit whores and regard the women as nothing more as the nature of work that they do. When the whores are being loaded into a truck for a retreat, the men start talking about how much they are being overcharged for the women’s services. They speak of the low value they get from them. “Over in half an hour or fifteen minutes. Sometimes less. Sometimes a good deal less.” (Hemmingway, 1948, pg170-171).

The soldiers in another scene start baiting the priest with sexual jokes, totally disrespecting the nature of life he has chosen and making him highly uncomfortable. There is hostility between Henry and the women in authority. He also shows chivalry and a domineering masculine nature when he interacts with the head of the hospital in Milan, Miss Van Campen.

The nurse sees Henry as domineering and rude while Henry sees that she is jealous of the sexual relationship he has with Catherine. He considers Miss Campen as the old maid who persecutes those who have sex as she has never experienced sex herself.

In the final struggle with her, he actually tells her she cannot judge him since she is not a man. Secondly he does not view her as a full woman either because she has not had any sexual experiences (Fetterley, 1976).

Henry does not like being dominated by any woman which is evident when he speaks of his experiences with whores. “Does she(the whore) say that she loves him?…Yes if he wants her to. Does he say he loves her? He does if he wants to” (Hemmingway, 1948, pg105).

Catherine in speaking of her dead fiancée tells Henry how he wanted them to have sex. However, Catherine was reluctant bound by the traditional mindsets of the society at that time. This shows the difference in how sex was perceived by the men and women at that time. It is a casual affair for the men while it carries a significant weight for the women.

IV. Lack of heroism

The author does not show the traditional kind of hero that is often portrayed in war literature books. When comparing Henry to these heroes, he immediately falls short or pales in comparison. In the period that Henry is first called to serve at the Italian Front, Henry does not show any heroic thoughts on the war or retribution. He spends idyllic days with his friends in brothels and cafes.

“I watched the snow falling, looking out of the window of the bawdy house, the house for officers, where I sat with a friend and two glasses drinking a bottle of Asti” (Hemingway,1948, pg6). In fact there are feelings of detachment from Henry concerning the war (Silvester, 2002). He is not involved emotionally in the process.

He goes ahead and naively thinks “well, I knew I would not be killed. Not in this war. It did not have anything to do with me. It seemed no more dangerous than war in the movies”(Hemingway, 1948, pg37). Henry at the beginning of the novel is a naïve man on the war and its close devastating effects (Dodman, 2006). When Catherine asks why as an American he is fighting in the Italian army, Henry gives a lot of evasive answers.

It is an odd thing which Catherine mentions to him but Henry just comments that in life there are at times when there is no explanation for everything.

This shows again the lack of traditional heroism attributes in Henry. A heroic individual would have taken the opportunity to elaborate on the importance of fighting in the war and the reasons for his actions. He describes how his injury occurred while he was eating cheese. There are no glorified stories as he narrates the incident. He does not show heroism or patriotism. They are almost irrelevant to him (Hatten, 1993)

He also feels a lot of helplessness at his role as an ambulance driver in the war. He does not see how he plays a critical role in the whole process. Henry observes that “Everything seemed in good condition. It evidently made no difference whether I was there or not.

I had imagined that the condition of the cars, whether, or not things were obtainable, the smooth functioning of the business of removing wounded and sick from the dressing stations . . . depended to a considerable extent on myself. Evidently it did not matter whether I was there or not (Hemingway, 1948, pg16).

Initially he had thought he was important and the smooth running of operations depended on him. Henry faces reality of the war and its horrors in the battleground that totally shatter the way he used to see things. Certain concepts lose meaning. The value of a man’s life seems not to carry much weight as he sees the dead soldiers. His thoughts are now devoid of any heroism or similar concepts. He concludes that the

“Abstract words such as glory, honor courage, or hallow were obscene…”(Hemingway, 1948, pg185).

He is under such trauma that he says “I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it” (Hemingway, 1948, pg185).

The honor and glory of the dead soldier is not expressed by Catherine either when she speaks of her dead fiancée. She tells Henry that her fiancée was killed and that was the end. Her actual words are that he was blown to bits. There is no portrayal of the woman who despite her loss speaks of her brave and patriotic man who participated in the war and lost his life.

At the end, Henry gives into his desire to be with Catherine and deserts the army. He feels a lot of shame though for what he has done and tells Catherine that they live like criminals.

“l wish we did not always have to live like criminals,” I said.

“Darling, don’t be that way. You haven’t lived like a criminal very long. . . .”

“l feel like a criminal. I’ve deserted from the army.”

“Darling, please be sensible. It ‘s not deserting from the army. It’s only the Italian army.” (Hemmingway, 1948, pg251)

V. Escapism

There is the element of individuals seeking escape in A Farewell to Arms. Catherine meets Henry when she is mourning for her dead fiancé.

She does not really deal with her pain but immediately starts flirting and engaging in romance with Henry. She uses love to escape from the pain. Similarly Henry has seen the horrors of war which have had a huge impact on him. He also escapes into a love relationship with Catherine. In the end he even escapes from his duties and goes with Catherine to Switzerland where they can live an idyllic life.

He however does feel guilty for the decisions that he has made. They therefore find a form of temporary solace from the pain they have experienced. What started as an amusing distraction for both of them soon becomes what actually sustains them and prevents them from going crazy in their minds.

The novel portrays that love has some curative properties for the ones who choose to use it in order to escape from pain. However, the individual who still uses love to escape pain can never really be wholly healed; he will always to some extent be in pain. Love therefore is shown as a metaphor of illness and cure (Lahrmann, 2006)

VI. Love

In the book, love is a recurrent theme that plays a big role both in Henry’s and Catherine’s lives. The way the couple relates shows the depth of their feelings for each other. Looking at what Catherine tells Henry concerning her feelings, they are now past the age of flirting to deep feelings for each other. Initially, they had been playing and flirting with each other which Catherine knows very well.

“I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards. . . .

“This is a rotten game we play, isn’t it?”

“What game?”

“Don’t be dull.”

“l’m not, on purpose.”

“You’re a nice boy,” she said.

“And you play it as well as you know how. But it’s a rotten game.”

“Do you always know what people think?”

“Not always. But I do with you. You don’t have to prctend you love me. That’s over for the evening. . . .”

“But I do love you.”

“Please let’s not lie when we don’t have to. I had a very fine little show and I’m all right now. “(Hemmingway,1948, pg 30- l).

Catherine’s fiancé had been killed in the war and after nearly a year in mourning she was still in pain. Henry was initially a diversion, a stand-in for the time being to play with. When Catherine slaps Henry in another scene, he gets angry but is certain of conquering her. He plans to achieve mastery of the game, seeing their interaction together as moves in a chess game.

Later, they fall in love and their conversation changes. Catherine, deep in love tells Henry “l’ll say just what you wish and I’ll do what you wish and then you will never want any other girls will you? There isn’t any me anymore. Just what you want.” (Hemmingway, 1948, pg115) Catherine is very submissive even as she expresses her love to her man (Lockridge, 1988) “There isn’t any me. I ‘m you. You’re my religion. You’re alI I’ve got ” (Hemmingway, 1948, pg 116).

Henry in the beginning had portrayed himself as an individual who does not love at all. He had actually told the priest that he does not love. In the course of the novel however, he falls deeply in love with Catherine, abandons the army and escapes with her into Switzerland.

Works Cited

Dodman, Trevor. “”Going All to Pieces”: “A Farewell to Arms” as Trauma Narrative”

Twentieth Century Literature,52.3 (2006):249-274. Print.

Fetterley, Judith. “A Farewell to Arms: Hemingway’s “Resentful Cryptogram””

The Journal of Popular Culture, X:1 (1976): 203–214.Print.

Hatten, Charles. “The Crisis of Masculinity, Reified Desire, and Catherine Barkley in “A Farewell to Arms”” Journal of the History of Sexuality, 4.1(1993): 76-98. Print.

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York. 1948. Print.

Lahrmann, Jessica. “Metaphorical Illness in Hemingway’s Works”. College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal (2006): 1-30.

<http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1016&context=curej&seiredir=1#search=%22escape%20from%20pain%20farewell%20arms%20journal%22>

Lockridge, Ernest. “Faithful in Her Fashion: Catherine Barkley, the Invisible

Hemingway Heroine”. The Journal of Narrative Technique, 18.2(1988): 170-178. Print.

Merril, Robert. “Tragic Form in a Farewell to Arms”. American Literature, 45. 4(1974): 571-579. Print.

Silvester, Katie. “The Wound in War Literature: An Image of Heroism”

Chrestomathy: Annual Review of Undergraduate Research at the College of Charleston, 1(2002):214-231. Print.

Tags: A Farewell to Arms , Ernest Hemingway , Love , Napoleonic Wars , World war , World War I , World War II , World War III

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(a Farewell to Arms)Modern Tragedy Essay

(a Farewell to Arms)Modern Tragedy Essay

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Throughout the history of American literature. narratives of the white knight salvaging the demoiselle in hurt and siting off into the sundown to populate merrily of all time after have plagued our shelves for centuries. The birth of the modern calamity came in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century with novels such as Red badge of Courage. and All Quiet on the Western Front. They show the pragmatism of war and the harass calamity that comes with it. Ernest Hemingway was a merchandise of war himself. functioning in the WWI.

Some see his short narration. A Farwell to Weaponries to be a contemplation on his life during the war. Hemingway uses many subjects. including love. religion. war and decease in order to turn this narrative in a modern calamity for the universe to see. Some older authors of literature believe a true calamity can merely picture those with power and high position. As centuries past. the modern writer’s belief that calamity may besides picture ordinary people in domestic surrounding came to life in narratives such as Henrik Ibsen “A Dolls House. ” With the exigency of the modern calamity. Hemingway released A Farewell to Arms.

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Through out this short narrative filled with five short narrations. you are taken on a journey through the eyes of a soldier. Frederic Henry. and into a tragic love narrative. His farewell is from Henry. to the adult female Catherine Barkley. whose weaponries held understanding in the brainsick universe of the Great War. In the beginning of the book. Hemingway takes the chief character. Henry. and introduced him to Catherine Barkley. the adult females he becomes romantically entangled with. Catherine seems to hold a full appreciation on the thought of war and the calamity that comes with it.

Henry. whose emotions towards adult female have dulled. is rekindled with the outgrowth of Catherine. “I had treated seeing Catherine really lightly. I had gotten slightly intoxicated and had about forgotten to come but when I could non see her there I was experiencing lonely and excavate. ” ( 41 ) Henry is depicting his first hint that his feelings for Catherine Barkley are more important than he has antecedently felt for other adult females. The paradox of this occurring is. that Henry has Catherine to care for. and she all ready lost one love in the war. A modern calamity looks at the mean adult male with an mundane happening.

Hemingway uses Henry to demo the reader what can happen to work forces in clip of war. and how it affects their life. It besides shows their battle to accommodate to tragedy. As Italians are losing land. many soldiers are losing religion and pulling back. “They were beaten to get down with. They were beaten when they took them from their farms and set them in the ground forces. That is why the provincial has wisdom. because he is defeated from the start. Put him in power and see how wise he is. ” ( 179 ) Henry. to the priest refering the temperament of the Italian ground forces. Soldiers of this Italian ground forces are merely regular work forces. set into this state of affairs.

Henry has lost religion in the armed forces. and the war. After flying an ground forces. Hemingway brings Henry back to Catherine. Hemingway brings this relationship to the following degree of love and rapture. Transporting them off excessively Switzerland. to populate unworried signifier the Italian state they could non return to. Catherine becomes pregnant and Henry comes to the realisation that he genuinely does love this adult females. “We knew the babe was really near now and it gave us both a feeling as though something were travel rapidlying us and we could non lose any clip together. ” ( 311 ) Henry depicting he and Catherine’s temper in the hebdomads before the babe is due.

Hemingway portrays these chief characters in cloud nine. and the deep love they portion with each other. Neither knew that a traumatic decision loomed around the corner. In the concluding narration of A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway concluded this modern calamity with the birth of a still born babe to Henry and Catherine. Following this dry happening. Catherine hemorrhaging was excessively much for the physicians to mend and she rapidly faded off. “But after I had got them out and close the door and turned off the visible radiation it wasn’t any good. It was like stating adieu to a statue.

After awhile I went out and left the infirmary and walked back to the hotel in the rain. ” ( 332 ) Hemingway ends this tragic love narrative of and ordinary adult male in an ordinary state of affairs. who meets with a grievous loss of a kid and the adult females he loves. He lost a adult female. who seems to hold an apprehension and the ability to shelter him from the universe plagued by war. A Farewell to Arms. which Henry narrates after Catherine’s decease. confirms his love and his loss. Hemingway proves his ability to compose a modern calamity in these five short narrations.

He uses this ordinary character. Henry. and shows the positions of person who has love and lost. Hemingway uses many subjects to demo his readers the dramatics’ that war can convey to people. and the oddity of destiny. which people go through everyday. Man has the ability to lose religion when confronted with hardship. but besides can larn to love as he shows when Henry transforms from a adult male looking for pleasance. to a adult male that falls in love. A Farewell to Arms is a authoritative modern calamity that proves that there is non ever a happy stoping. and merrily of all time after doesn’t occur all the clip.

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