Summary Of A Farewell To Arms
A Farewell to Arms, written by Ernest Hemingway, is a well known war love story. In fact, it could be compared to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as well as various other well known romance novels. Hemingway utilizes two strong, elaborate main characters, the lovers Henry and Catherine, which cuts the need for complex secondary characters, and truly gives it the complete romantic feel of early 1900s America.
Ernest Hemingway’s, A Farewell to Arms, is set in Italy during World War I. Lying along a river amidst fields of crops, is a small village in which troops fighting in the war reside. Working as part of an ambulance service, the main character Henry, occasionally referred to as “tenente” meaning lieutenant, is preparing to go on break over the winter, after learning of a pause in the combat. His troops transfer to the town of Gorizia before he goes on leave. It was is Gorizia that he saw his first snowfall.
Henry returns in the spring to find that his fellow troops are still stationed in Gorizia and he still lives in the same house, describing it as, “It was all as I had left it. ” He tells his roommate, Lieutenant Rinaldi, of how he traveled all over Italy to Milan, Florence, Rome, and Naples. He says he enjoyed Milan the most because it was the first place he traveled to. Rinaldi tells of a nurse that he met and wants to impress as a wealthy man. It is then that Henry first hears the name Catherine Barkley. He first meets her the following morning when he tags along with Rinaldi to the new hospital. Amidst talking to her, he learns that she is a widow and her late husband died in the war.
He meets her the following night in the garden at the hospital. It seems as though the time is right for him to make a move. He leans in for a kiss, but she hits him in denial. Rinaldi begins to see the effects that love has on Henry, and says, “Thanks God I did not become involved with the British. ” referring to Catherine.
Henry continues to mention how he believes the next attack of the war will be imminent in just a few days, somewhere in the town of Pavla. He continues his work as a paramedic, still thinking of Catherine and whether or not he has decided to love her. Henry begins to turn towards alcohol, getting so drunk at a party that Rinaldi has to escort him to the hospital. It’s there that all of his cheerful thoughts about Catherine come to a halt, when Catherines friend and fellow nurse Helen, informs him that she is very ill.
With a St. Anthony medal given to him by Catherine, Henry enters Pavla to sights of war. On the same day as of his arrival, he is met with an enemy bomb that exploded in his trench. His leg is badly injured and he is immediately transported to a hospital, by those who survived. While the nurses are making his bed, Rinaldi brings him a bottle of cognac and tells him of how he will be receiving the Medallion Argento for his bravery. However, Henry denies it saying he was “blown up while eating cheese” and that he, “didn’t carry anyone. ”
In the following week or so, Henry learns that he will be sent to Milan, where they can provide better and more proper care for his disabled leg. Henry, gets very sick as he leaves for Milan, and soon discovers that Catherine had also been deployed to Milan too. Catherine and Henry meet up as soon as he arrives in his new hospital, and they proceed to have sex in the hospital bed. They will end up spending the rest of the summer together in Milan until Henry learns that he has to return to the war. This is the same time that Catherine announces her pregnancy.
When Henry returns to Italy, the Americans are forced to fallback with the Italians. The Austrians have built up such a power that it had become too much for the fellow troops of Henry’s battalion. Fearing for his life, Henry witnesses traitors being murdered all around him, and plunged into the Tagliamento river, essentially deserting his the Italians, which is a war crime. He crosses the fertile plains and stumbles upon train tracks, in which he uses to locate the next train, hitchhiking all the way to Milan. Laying in the bottom of the car, he refuses to think of Catherine because he doesn’t want to get too excited until he is sure he will get to see her.
To conclude, Henry and Catherine flee to neutral Switzerland on a boat, move into a hotel for the winter, and finally move to the town of Lausanne where, unfortunately, Catherine and her child both pass away during childbirth.
This book reflects the time of the 1910s because it truly follows Hemingway’s theme of The Lost Generation. The Lost Generation was a part of America's population in the early 1900s that left for Europe, often being in disagreement with societal beliefs of their homeland. They pursued a new lifestyle, one full of literature and art in many of the large cities, rich with history, throughout Europe. In this novel, Hemingway portrays two human beings, Americans at that, fighting for their country overseas and looking for a fresh place to start their family. They may have been deployed there, but the idea of them starting a family, or new beginning, really exemplifies and embodies the ideal member of this generation. Second Most, Ernest displays the World War I atmosphere with pristine detail in the fact that he utilizes a protagonist narrator to tell the story. Stories of war from this time, were said to have been best told through personal accounts, and it just so happened that Hemingway was once in the war as well.
In chapter 6, when Catherine and Henry meet for a second time, she asks if he already loves her. She lets him know that it is okay if he doesn’t and she doesn’t want him to lie about it, but Henry says, “But I do love you” (AFTA p. 45). For a quote so simple, it carries a lot of meaning. This was the first time that Henry expressed his true love to Catherine, essentially confirming that he was serious about her. They end up living out the rest of their days together because of quotes and moments like this. My second favorite quote comes from chapter 2, “And looking out at the snow falling slowly and heavily, we knew it was all over for that year. ” This is when a snow squall hits the town of Gorizia. It struck me because of how much Henry talked about such an insignificant thing such as flurries. It seemed to bring him happiness, something that lacks amongst troops during any war. As he described its effect on Gorizia, I began to observe the significance of snow towards him in that moment.
My favorite character from Hemingway’s novel is Rinaldi. The reader is first introduced to him when Henry bunks with a fellow troop in the medical field, which is Rinaldi. He is the one that introduced Catherine to Henry, even with different intentions that what actually happened, but later admitting that he was glad they were together. Rinaldi appears in Henry’s life throughout the book, visiting him in the hospital and bringing him news of Catherine while he can’t see her. Being one of the minority characters, masked behind the relationship of Henry and Catherine, his role in their relationship is not recognized as much as I believe it should be. He changes from a young surgeon, interested in all of the new British nurses, to a wise friend of Henry.
To conclude, Hemingway’s theme of using the ideas of the Lost Generation accurately embodies the societal interests of the 1920s; hence, the reason why this novel has become so iconic in literature. I enjoyed this novel because it follows one storyline, without and flashbacks or cuts in the plot, making his writing easy to understand. His use of a love story, similar to that of Romeo and Juliet, written by the famous Shakespeare, shows his strength as an author in a post World War I America.