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A Farewell To Arms

A Farewell To Arms was written by Ernest Hemmingway and published in paperback classic by MacMillan Publishing Company, Collier Edition, in 1987 and runs to 332 pages. It is a novel set during the time of the World War I, and is the story of an American Lieutenant, Frederic Henry, who drives an ambulance during the conflict. This work is classic Hemmingway, and he sets the mood from the opening page, saying, “…and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves,” (Page 1? ).

As the story opens the war is coming to a pause as winter approaches, though there are still battles going on. Henry takes off to go on a tour of Italy. When he returns to the front lines the following spring he meets Catherine Barkley, who is English and a nurse’s aide, working in a nearby British hospital. She is the love interest of Henry’s friend, Rinaldi. The two quickly move Rinaldi aside and begin a courtship aimed at seduction. The underlying motif at this point involves the emotional detachment, which Henry has manifested in an effort to avoid being scarred by the mayhem and destruction he witnesses on a daily basis.

It will become Catherine’s job to jar him out of this malaise, make him recognize that life continues and that love is worth the effort it takes to bring it to fruition. Henry is wounded on the field of battle and is taken to a Milanese hospital to recover from his injuries. He is told that he requires bed-rest of six months and then a dangerous operation if he wishes to ever become ambulatory again. Henry is not capable of such long and tedious recuperation and moves to locate a surgeon who will perform the surgery immediately and get him out of his bed.

Then comes Dr. Valentini, an outgoing surgeon, confident of his abilities and willing to perform the operation sooner. Catherine is transferred to Milan and takes over the care of her young lieutenant as he convalesces. His love for Catherine, possibly exacerbated by the Florence Nightingale Syndrome, intensifies and a set of circumstances arise in which little goes as it should in a fairy tale and the relationship and the book both end on a sad note, foreshadowed by Henry’s dream of abandonment, and he says, “You wouldn’t go away in the night would you?

” with Catherine replying, “Of course I wouldn’t go away. I’m always here,” (page ? ). The character of Lieutenant Henry is stoic and self-effacing. He spurns such generally accepted human traits as patriotism and honor. One wonders why Hemmingway wrote him so devoid of emotional baggage other than to show that a man can survive and even thrive in such a milieu. It is at the end of the novel that the reader understands the depth of Henry’s feelings for Barkley. The title of the novel makes it clear that the work will somehow involve war.

It is this setting, one of the great wars in human history, in which Hemmingway chooses to set his tale of human emotion. The convoluted plot deals with how his protagonist removes and detaches himself emotionally from this human condition and manages to put it all behind. Hemmingway’s central theme in this work is the ambivalence that is shown by the major character of this work. Hemmingway demonstrates his own disdain for the trappings of war, including patriotism and heroics. His narrator has strong reservations concerning the glory of war.

Hemmingway goes to great depths in his description of war and the mayhem and carnage that man is capable of inflicting on his fellow man. A particular moving scene, illustrative of the ambiguity of war and the ease in which roles can reverse and the fortunes of war can turn, is the rout of the Italian army during a particularly tense period. Henry is obviously a non-combatant for reasons that serve to advance the theme of Hemmingway’s story, so it seems shocking and totally out of character for him to shoot an innocent man.

It serves to point out the incongruities of war as practiced by flawed and illogical humans. It allows Hemmingway to drive home his point that war is not a prelude to glory, but rather a dark and dismal continuation of the values found in a world devoid of love, suggesting that humanity, indeed, resides on that darkling plain, where ignorant armies clash by night. Motifs in A Farewell to Arms begin, as do so many Hemmingway novels, in a cult of machismo, where manliness is next to godliness. The character of Rinaldi is a satyr and Valentini is depicted as a virile and peerless womanizer.

Hemmingway glorifies the manliness of his male characters almost to the point of satire, making them larger than life testosterone laden caricatures imbued with allure which women seem unable to resist. Not satisfied with glorifying the macho, Hemmingway ridicules those less manly, depicting them as cowards, beneath contempt and not really men. For every Valentini there are several non-descript doctors who seem to have no role in the work save that of counter-points to the suave and dashing romanticized surgeon.

These lesser lights are under-drawn and described as physically less appealing to highlight Valentini, causing him to shine by comparison. The same is true of Rinaldi, whose sexual prowess is favorably held up in comparison with a catholic priest’s lack of libido. Hemmingway lays in a motif of loyalty and its place in love and war but over all the tragedy is paramount. He has Catherine saying, just before she discovers she is pregnant, “I’m afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it,” (page ?

). Lieutenant Henry believes in obeying orders and takes his job and his duties seriously, but it is obvious that he is not dedicated to his job and does not possess the qualities so often associated with the protagonist of a combat story. The idea of God and Country have little meaning to Henry. Even as he executes a man for failure to follow orders it is more perfunctory than impassioned. It is just a necessary thing to do. There is no deep message attached to the novel.

It appears to be one man’s story of an individual and unexamined life. Works Cited Hemmingway, E. A Farewell to Arms CITY OF PUBLICATION (COLON) NAME OF PUBLISHER (SPACE) DATE OF PUBLICATION . Hi, the highlighted material is in this version is added quotes. Just put the page numbers inside the parentheses. The punctuation (period) goes after the closed parenthetic mark, and not at the end of the words in the quote. It looks odd but that is how it is done.. I’m sorry you had to do this yourself.

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