A Farewell to Arms – Analysis
After high school, he got a job writing for The Kansas City Star, but left after only six months to join the Red Cross Ambulance Corps during World War I, where he was injured and awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor. Afterward, he lived in Ontario and Chicago, where he met his first wife, Hadley Richardson. In 1921 they moved to Paris, where he began a long friendship with F. Scott Fitzgerald and other ex-patriot American writers of the “lost generation. ” After the 1926 publication of his first novel, The Sun Also Rises, he divorced Hadley and married Arkansas native Pauline Pfeiffer.
The couple moved to Florida, where Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms (1929), which became a bestseller. Hemingway finally moved to Spain to serve as a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War, a job which inspired his famous 1939 novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. After its publication, he met his third wife, Martha Gellhorn. Hemingway married his fourth and final wife, Mary Hemingway, in 1946, and the couple spent the next fourteen years living in Cuba. After a final move to Idaho, Hemingway to Arms: another anti-war novel et in the trenches of World War I, it was published in German the same year that A Farewell to Arms was published in English. Related Historical Events: World War I (1914–1918) was fought between the great powers of Germany and Austria on one side and Great Britain, France, Russia and the United States on the other. It is estimated to have caused 20 million military and civilian deaths, and astonished people with its unprecedented bloodshed. Italy, the nation whose army Frederic Henry is involved with, joined the war in 1915.
The Italians’ main strategic goal was to prevent German troops from reinforcing Austrian troops on the eastern front. The most historically significant event depicted in the novel is the Italian retreat that took place following the Battle of Caporetto on October 24, 1917. However, in October 1918 the rejuvenated Italian army mounted an offensive that resulted in the surrender of 300,000 Austrian soldiers, and hastened Austria’s defeat in the war. Key Facts Full Title: A Farewell to Arms Genre: War Novel Setting: Italy and Switzerland during World War I, 1916–1918 Climax: Catherine Barkley dies during childbirth.
Antagonist: The military system, including the enemy troops of Austria and Germany, the chaotically organized Italian army, and the ruthless military police. Point of View: First-person; (Frederic Henry is the narrator. ) Historical and Literary Context When Written: 1928 Where Written: Piggott, Arkansas When Published: May–October, 1929 Literary Period: Modernism Related Literary Works: An oft-cited model for A Farewell to Arms is Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage (1895), a Civil War novel that also features a protagonist named Henry who deserts from his army.
Crane’s Henry sees the war as a lost cause, but eventually returns and is redeemed through heroism in battle, something Hemingway did not allow his protagonist to do. All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), by Erich Maria Remarque, is seen as a counterpart to A Farewell Extra Credit Farewell to Hollywood: A Farewell to Arms has been adapted for film three times: the 1932 Gary Cooper film was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award, the 1957 remake starring Rock Hudson got a Best Supporting Actor nomination. A BBC version of the film was also made in 1966.
Autobiographical: Hemingway’s injury in World War I resembled that suffered by Henry in A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway also had a brief affair with a nurse during his recovery. Plot Summary It is World War I, in 1916, and the Italian army is trying to hold off the united forces of Austria and Germany. The narrator, Lieutenant Frederic Henry, is an American who has joined the Italian ambulance corps as a volunteer. As the novel opens, Henry is about to take his winter leave. He spends the evening with his fellow officers, who mock the regiment’s priest for his celibacy.
Then the officers go to the officer’s brothel for the night. When Henry returns from leave, his roommate Rinaldi introduces him to two English nurses, Catherine Barkley and Helen Ferguson, and although Rinaldi had been interested in Catherine, the immediate chemistry between her and Henry is obvious. On their first meeting, she tells him the sad story of her fiance who was killed in the war, whose riding crop she still carries. As their flirting deepens in the following days, Henry is able to coax kisses from her, and she asks him to say he loves her before acknowledging that this is only a game.
Soon, Henry goes to the first major battle in which he has taken part. He is innocently eating macaroni and cheese with the other ambulance drivers when a mortar shell crashes through his bunker, killing a driver and injuring Henry’s leg. Henry is taken to an American hospital in Milan for treatment. When he arrives, he discovers the hospital is badly managed and the doctors are incompetent. Fortunately one doctor, Valentini, is able to remove the shrapnel from Henry’s leg. While Henry is recuperating, Catherine Barkley is transferred to the hospital and when Henry sees her again, he realizes he loves her.
She begins to sneak into his room at night and they conduct a love affair all summer. But Henry eventually has to return to the front. Before he leaves, Catherine tells him she is pregnant with his child. Henry returns to Gorizia and is plunged into battle. The Austrian and German armies have broken through the Italian lines, and a massive retreat from the front begins. Since the main road is blocked with so many vehicles, Henry and his ambulance drivers try to cut across the countryside. They become stuck in the mud, and two sergeants they have picked up try to flee rather than help.
Henry shoots at them, hitting one. Another ambulance driver, Bonello, executes the sergeant with a bullet to the head. When they reach the Tagliamento River, there is a cordon of Italian military police who, out of paranoia and misguided patriotism, are shooting their own officers for having retreated. Henry escapes by diving into the river. He makes his way back to Milan, having decided that he will no longer fight for the Italian army or participate in the war. Henry learns that Catherine is in the Italian town of Stresa, a resort town near the Swiss border.
He goes there, and he and Catherine reunite. Soon, Henry learns from a friendly bartender that the military police are coming to arrest him for desertion. He and Catherine escape across Lake Maggiore to Switzerland, where they successfully pass for tourists and receive visas to stay. In Switzerland, Henry and Catherine live outside the quiet ski town of Montreux, waiting for Catherine’s baby to arrive and utterly content with each other’s company. They go on holiday to the nearby town of Lausanne to be closer to the hospital. When Catherine’s contractions begin, Henry takes her to the hospital.
As the day progresses, it is clear that Catherine’s labor is becoming increasingly complicated and dangerous. The doctors try to give her a Caesarian operation, but the baby is stillborn and Catherine eventually dies of multiple hemorrhages. Henry, now alone, walks back to his hotel in the rain. Characters Lieutenant Frederic Henry – An American who volunteers for the Italian ambulance corps before the United States joins the war. Various Italian characters also refer to him as “Tenente” (Lieutenant) or “Federico” (Frederic).
Henry is a classic Hemingway hero in that he is a stoic who does his duty without complaint. Yet Henry also undergoes tremendous development through the course of the novel. At the beginning of the novel, he has never experienced true loss, believes that war is dreadful but necessary, has a lust for adventure, drinking, and women, and sees Catherine as just another diversion. As the stakes of the war intensify, however, he becomes deeply pessimistic about the war and realizes that his love for Catherine is the nly thing he is willing to commit himself to. Catherine Barkley – An English nurse in Italy, she bears the spiritual scars of having lost her fiance in the Battle of the Somme. When she meets Henry, she is ready to throw herself into a new relationship in order to escape the loss of the old one, enlisting Henry to pretend that they are deeply in love almost as soon as they meet. Emotionally damaged, she can never bring herself to marry Henry, but wants to be with him in an idealized union apart from the rest of the world.
Through the constant understatements and deprecating humor in her dialogue, even at moments of extreme danger such as the labor that goes wrong, she reveals herself to be a stoic match for Henry, the female side of the Hemingway hero, who does much and says little. Rinaldi – A skilled surgeon, ladies’ man, and Henry’s best friend in the Italian Army. His boastful rambunctious banter provides a counterpoint to Henry’s reserved stoicism. Helen Ferguson – An English nurse’s aide and close friend to Catherine.
As Catherine and Henry’s love affair becomes more consuming, Helen becomes concerned for her friend’s emotional well-being. Though she is confident and competent, Helen is also lonely. The Priest – A military clergyman from a peasant community in northern Italy. He endures endless jibes from the soldiers about his celibacy, but with good humor. He and Henry have several conversations about manhood, religion, and values. L I T CHA R T S TM GET LIT TM www. LitCharts. com Piani – Another ambulance driver. 2 Copyright © 2009 LitCharts. All rights reserved.
The Major – Another officer serving in the town of Gorizia, he delights in taunting the priest, who he thinks is pathetic for not sleeping with women. Count Greffi – A 94-year-old former diplomat, he is a father figure to Henry. He beats Henry at billiards and engages him in a philosophical conversation about love and war. Dr. Valentini – A capable, boisterous doctor who operates on Henry’s leg, providing a contrast with the timid trio of doctors who wanted to wait six months before operating. Ettore Moretti – A decorated Italian-American war hero whom Henry finds tedious.
The American Soldier – A fellow American serving in the Italian army who purposely tries to magnify the severity of a hernia he has in order to get out of combat. Miss Gage – A young nurse at the hospital in Milan who is fond of Henry. the panicked Italian rear guard during a disastrous retreat. Miss Van Campen – The head nurse of the hospital. She and Henry dislike each other. The Porter – An underling at the hospital. He works for tips. The Barber – Hired by the Porter to shave Henry, he nearly ends up cutting Henry’s throat because he thinks Henry is an Austrian.
The Sergeants – Given a lift by Bonello during the Italian retreat, they refuse to help when the vehicles become stuck. Henry and Bonello shoot one of them. The Lieutenant-Colonel – A dignified officer who is executed by military police, in front of Henry, for some imagined treachery or cowardice during the retreat. Crowell Rodgers – A young American soldier who has injured himself while trying to remove the cap of a trench mortar shell to keep as a souvenir. Mr. Meyers – A shady fixer of horse races in Milan. Gino – A patriotic Italian youth.
The Proprietor – A man who serves Henry wine and then offers to let Henry, clearly a fugitive at that time, hide in his house. Ralph Simmons – An American opera singer, Simmons helps Henry after Henry deserts from the Italian army. Gordini, Passini, Manera, and Gavuzzi – Ambulance drivers under Henry‘s command. Bonello – A bloodthirsty ambulance driver who finishes off a man that Henry has shot, and then jokes about it. Aymo – An ambulance driver who is killed by friendly fire from Emilio – The bartender at the hotel in Stresa where Henry is reunited with Catherine.
He helps Henry and Catherine escape the military police. Mr. and Mrs. Guttingen – The kind proprietors of the chalet where Henry and Catherine live in Switzerland. Mrs. Walker – An overly anxious nurse at the hospital in Milan where Henry is taken to recuperate from his injury. Themes In LitCharts, each theme gets its own corresponding color, which you can use to track where the themes occur in the work. There are two ways to track themes: • Refer to the color-coded bars next to each plot point throughout the Summary and Analysis sections. Use the ThemeTracker section to get a quick overview of where the themes appear throughout the entire work. dies in childbirth. In fact, the incredible intensity of Henry and Catherine’s relationship seems almost dependent on the loss surrounding them. Without the specter of loss threatening them from every side, Henry and Catherine would not have had to fight so hard to be together. to find something he can commit to, for the second half of the novel Henry’s chief and only concern is for Catherine. Even after escaping the war, neither of them wants the responsibility of having a child.
By turning away from the world and trying to seek their own happiness, Henry and Catherine find more meaning in their relationship than in any other obligation. Reality vs. Fantasy Throughout A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway shows how the harsh truths of reality always infiltrate and corrupt the distracting fantasies that characters create to make themselves feel better. In terms of war, Hemingway shows how ideals such as glory and honor quickly fade when one is confronted with the stark or absurd realities of battle—for instance, when Henry is maimed by a mortar shell while eating macaroni and cheese.
Many characters create escapist fantasies to make the war around them easier to bear. Catherine pretends that she and Henry are deeply in love to escape the pain of her fiance’s death in battle. Henry’s fellow officers celebrate America’s entry into the war by drinking in a hospital that is being cleared out to make room for casualties. Most tragically, Henry and Catherine retreat from the world to live an idealized private life in the mountains of Switzerland, only to have the specter of reality return when Catherine and her baby die during childbirth. Manhood
Henry is a classic Hemingway man: a stoic man of action with a personal code of honor who also enjoys the pleasures of life. For instance, the three doctors who fail to treat Henry’s leg are the antithesis of Hemingway men. Besides being timid and unsure, they fail the test of manhood by refusing to drink with Henry when he offers. While Henry has many attributes of a Hemingway man at the start of the novel, he nonetheless evolves over the course of the novel. He gives up the macho posturing and womanizing of his fellow officers in favor of a life of commitment to Catherine.
He also asserts his individualism by refusing to participate in what he sees as a corrupt and pointless war. War A Farewell to Arms takes place in Italy during World War I, and the lives of all the characters are marked by the war. Most of the characters, from Henry and Catherine down to the soldiers and shop owners whom Henry meets, are humanists who echo Hemingway’s view that war is a senseless waste of life. The few characters that support the war are presented as zealots to be either feared, as in the case of the military police, or pitied, such as the young Italian patriot Gino.
To Henry, the war is, at first, a necessary evil from which he distracts himself through drinking and sex. By the end of the novel, his experiences of the war have convinced him that it is a fundamentally unjust atrocity, which he seeks to escape at all costs with Catherine. Religion A saying that came out of the trenches, or foxholes, of World War I was, “There are no atheists in foxholes. ” Henry, who sees the world as a bitter realist, does not love God. However, he is not above turning to religion in times of crisis, as can be seen in the St.
Anthony medallion he puts under his shirt before going into battle or his moving, desperate prayer when Catherine is dying. While Henry never becomes a conventionally religious man, he does follow the advice of the priest and Count Greffi, who in separate conversations outline a sort of humanist theology for Henry: he should commit with religious devotion to the person he loves, who is Catherine. Even this personal form of religion, however, fails Henry in the end. Love and Loss Much is made throughout the novel of Henry’s aversion to falling in love.
Yet in spite of his natural cynicism about love, he falls for Catherine. At the other end of the spectrum, Catherine craves love to an unstable degree, to the exclusion of everything else in the world. But their relationship is always surrounded by loss: the loss of Catherine’s former lover to war before the novel begins, and the foreshadowing of the loss Henry will have to live with at the novel’s end, when Catherine Self vs. Duty Henry is an ambulance driver and Catherine is a nurse, so each of them has a responsibility to others during wartime. However, as Henry’s love for
Catherine deepens and Henry begins to see that the war is unjust, he begins to adopt a philosophy of “every man for himself. ” When the Italian Army fractures during its retreat and the military police Henry because he is an officer, Henry makes a final break from the army and throws off his responsibilities. Following the priest’s advice Symbols Symbols are shown in red text whenever they appear in the Plot Summary and Summary and Analysis sections of this LitChart. The presence of the rain shows that no matter how hard Henry tries to escape death, he can never outrun it. Rain
Rain is a recurring symbol of death in A Farewell to Arms. From the first chapter, when rain is associated with the cholera that kills 7,000 soldiers, to the last sentence, where it is raining outside the hospital where Catherine has died, the reader is reminded that during wartime, tragedy can fall as randomly and unstoppably as rain. Whenever Henry makes a significant nighttime transition from one place to another—the night that he leaves Milan to return to the front, the night of the largescale Italian retreat, and the night that he and Catherine row across the lake from Italy to Switzerland—it is pouring rain.
Riding Crop When Henry first meets Catherine, she is carrying the riding crop that belonged to her fiance, who was killed in the Battle of the Somme. The war represents Catherine’s inability to let her fiance go. His sudden unfair death in war informs her view, shared with Henry, that the world is a cruel place that eventually crushes and kills people who have real courage. tini agrees to operate on Henry’s leg in Chapter 15, Henry is comforted not only by Valentini’s brash confidence but also by the stars on his sleeve that mark him as a major.
When Henry deserts and cuts off the stars from his sleeve to disguise himself, he throws away his former identity and responsibilities. Hair and Beards Catherine’s hair, and Henry’s beard (grown in Book 5), symbolize Catherine and Henry’s temporary insulation from the world. Early in their relationship, Henry loves to remove Catherine’s hairpins so her hair surrounds him, like being “inside a tent or behind a falls,” both images of shelter and protection. When Henry and Catherine are living an isolated life in Switzerland, Henry’s beard grows longer, an implied layer of defense.
Officers’ Stars The stars that military officers wear on their sleeves in A Farewell to Arms represent competence and duty. When Dr. Valen- L I T CHA R T S Summary and Analysis TM GET LIT TM www. LitCharts. com Book 1, Chapter 5 Henry goes to pay a visit on Catherine the next day. At the hospital, he speaks with the head nurse, who asks why he, an American, joined the Italian army. He answers that he happened to be in Italy and spoke Italian. She tells him to come back in the evening if he wants to see Catherine, who is on duty.
When Henry returns that night, Catherine is in the garden with Helen Ferguson, another English nurse. After Helen departs, they talk about Catherine’s nursing duties until Henry suggests they stop talking about the war. As Henry had planned, he tries to kiss her. She slaps him. He makes her laugh by saying that at least they are no longer talking about the war. Catherine eventually relents and lets Henry kiss her. Afterward, she cries on his shoulder and asks him to be good to her. He obliges by putting his arm around her, though he isn’t sure what’s going on.
She tells him they are going to “have a strange life. ” Henry goes back to his room, where Rinaldi wants to know all the details of what happened between Henry and Catherine. Henry responds only by saying that he and Catherine are friends. Henry’s cocky reply about joining the army suggests that he isn’t yet fully aware of what it means to take on the duties of a military officer in war. 3 Copyright © 2009 LitCharts. All rights reserved. The color-coded bars in Summary and Analysis make it easy to track the themes through the work.
Each color corresponds to one of the themes explained in the Themes section. For inindicates that all six themes apply to that part of the summary. stance, a bar of Book 1, Chapter 1 The narrator, Lieutenant Frederick Henry, an American medic volunteering in the Italian army during World War I, observes conditions where he is stationed near the front. Soldiers often march down the road carrying heavy burdens toward the fighting, while officers speed by in motor cars—any car going particularly fast is probably carrying the King of Italy, out to monitor the fighting.
The start of winter brings steady rain, resulting in a cholera epidemic in which “only” 7,000 soldiers die. The speeding cars imply that the roads are dangerous. Rain is associated with death throughout the novel. Henry’s use of the word “only” to describe 7,000 dead shows his stoicism and his need to escape the horrors of war by making light of them. It also communicates just how horrible World War 1 is. If 7,000 dead can be called “only,” then how many total must have died? Henry and Catherine’s agreement to not talk about the war is their attempt to create a world of their own, apart from the horrors of war.
This is the first of many times they will try to find fulfillment in each other instead of dwelling on the war. Henry was just out to have a fling with Catherine. But her prediction of their life together indicates that, even though they just met, she wants to treat their flirting as a serious relationship. Henry’s refusal to treat Catherine as just another conquest foreshadows the deeper feelings he will develop for her. Book 1, Chapter 2 Lieutenant Henry’s unit moves to the town of Gorizia, which the Italian army has captured from the Austrians as part of a string of victories.
The front line of the fighting is a mile away, in the mountains, and Gorizia is a peaceful place with cafes and whorehouses for the soldiers. One night in the mess hall, Henry sits with a group of fellow officers who are taunting the unit’s priest for being celibate. Henry, meanwhile, is about to go on winter leave from the army. The officers think he should visit big cities like Rome and Naples, while the priest tells him to visit the quiet countryside of Abruzzi. Henry is silent during the conversation, which ends when the officers leave for the local whorehouse.
Even though the war is still going on nearby, the relative calm of Gorizia allows Henry and the other soldiers to forget about the fighting and enjoy the pleasures of life. The officers think that not going to whorehouses, as they do, makes the priest less of a man. They distrust the religious conviction that allows him to remain celibate even in a stressful time of war. Henry’s silence indicates that he has not yet decided which side of this argument he is on. Book 1, Chapter 6 Henry can’t find time to visit Catherine for two days. When he does visit, Catherine tells him how much she has missed him and asks him to say that he loves her.
He does, though he knows it is a lie. He thinks that Catherine is probably somewhat crazy, but also that he prefers her to the women in the officers’ brothel. Although he has no intention of loving her, he decides he will try to learn the rules of her game and play it. After they kiss for a while, Catherine surprises Henry by acknowledging that they are playing “a rotten game. ” They continue to kiss, but she then suddenly stops, tells him he doesn’t have to say he loves her, at least not for a while, and sends him home. Catherine has an emotional need to replace her dead fiance. At this oint, Henry is merely physically attracted to her. Both of them have something to gain from pretending to have deep feelings for the other: Catherine’s loss will be easier to bear, and Henry will get to sleep with her. Catherine also understands that they are using each other, each to escape the war in their own way: he through womanizing, she by pretending to find a replacement for her lost love. Book 1, Chapter 3 Henry returns to Gorizia in the spring, after his leave is over. He greets his friend and roommate, Lieutenant Rinaldi, who wants to know all about Henry’s adventures throughout Italy, including who he slept with.
Rinaldi then informs Henry that a number of beautiful English nurses have arrived in Gorizia. Henry loans him fifty lire (Italian money) so that Rinaldi can impress one of them: Catherine Barkley. At dinner, the priest is hurt that Henry did not visit the priest’s family in Abruzzi. Henry, who is drunk, thinks about what it would have been like to go hunting in cold Abruzzi, and contrasts this with his memory of what it was like to go from city to city and sleep with a different woman every night.
The brotherly affection between Henry and Rinaldi is more important to them than any individual woman. In their world, friendship between soldiers is lasting, but women are only to be romanced and bragged about later. Love isn’t even on their radar. Henry is considering two alternate ways of being a man: going off on your own to engage with nature, or enjoying women and sex. Book 1, Chapter 7 The next day, while driving his ambulance, Henry encounters an American soldier who has a hernia and can’t walk. He gives the soldier a ride to the next mountain post.
The soldier confesses that he had taken the truss off his hernia so he wouldn’t have to go to the front lines (a truss is a device for treating a hernia), but worries that his officers will see through this ploy. Henry tells him to give himself a bump on his head so they will have to send him to the hospital. The soldier takes this advice. At dinner, Henry gets into a drinking contest with a major. Midway through a mug of wine, Henry remembers he was supposed to go see Catherine. By the time he gets there, she has gone to bed. He feels lonely and empty. The American soldier s overcome by the pressures and horrors of war. That Henry, an officer, helps the man to avoid the fighting shows that Henry feels very little loyalty to the general war effort or the Italian army. With his stoicism and irony, Henry doesn’t seem to feel much of a connection to anything. Book 1, Chapter 4 Henry is awoken by the “nuisance” of an Austrian gun battery firing in the distance. He goes to the garage where ambulances are being repaired and chats casually with a mechanic about the gun battery and about the day-to-day operations of fixing machines.
That afternoon, Rinaldi invites Henry to accompany him to the British hospital to meet Catherine Barkley. Catherine is beautiful, with long blonde hair, and she and Henry begin flirting as soon as they’re introduced. At one point, Henry comments on the riding crop Catherine carries. She tells him that it belonged to the man she was engaged to, who was killed in a battle in France. She asks Henry if he has ever loved anyone. He says no. On the walk home, Rinaldi comments that Catherine seems to like Henry more than him. Henry reacts to enemy fire with manly understatement, calling it a “nuisance. At the same time, it is possible to interpret Henry’s making light of the war as an effort to escape its horrors. Catherine has experienced both love and loss, while Henry has not. Before her fiance died, she had been innocent about what war and love really mean, as Henry is now. Yet Catherine seems to sense something in Henry that makes her trust him as someone she can confide in. All the officers play macho games to assert their manhood but also to escape the war. Henry thought he and Catherine were also playing a game, but his loneliness suggests otherwise.