Free Essays - Characterization in A Farewell to Arms


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Characterization in a Passage from A Farewell to Arms

 

 

Anger was washed away in the river along with any obligation. Although that ceased when the carabiniere put his hands on my collar. I would like to have had the uniform off although I did not care much about the outward forms. I had taken off the stars, but that was for convenience. It was no point of honor. I was not against them. I was through. I wished them all the luck. There were the good ones, and the brave ones, and the calm ones and the sensible ones, and they deserved it. But it was not my show anymore and I wished this bloody train would get to Mestre and I would eat and stop thinking. I would have to stop. (Hemingway 232)

 

This previous is an excellent example of how one passage in the book can relate many of the feelings demonstrated throughout the entire novel. The events and feelings of this passage determine the outcome. A few examples of symbolism are clearly presented and those symbols can also help the reader gain a better understanding of the character's situation. The passage also illustrates how the character has evolved and developed since the beginning of the story. The passage is also a big event because it is the first major pivotal point that occurs throughout the novel. By closely analyzing this passage we can form many predictions that Hemingway was foreshadowing, and relating to the end, with use of symbols and development of character.

 

The two symbols best noticeable in the passage are the river and the stars on Frederic's uniform. The river as in many stories represents a change or baptismal. In this case, the river was representing the removal of Frederic from the war front. On one side of the river he's still an ambulance driver for the Italian army during World War I; on the other side, however, he is a civilian in the middle of a war that is now foreign to him. The stars also serve as a symbol but represent the same thing the river does. When he removes them he is simply calling it quits and removing himself from the war.

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Frederic becomes a civilian in the uniform of a soldier at this point. The uniform is not mentioned directly in the passage but it also has a definite representation. While he can remove the stars from the uniform, he cannot take it off. That shows that while Frederic can take himself out of the war, it will never completely leave him. Even when he dresses in civilian clothes, he mentions how he feels strange and misses his old clothes. "In civilian clothes I felt a masquerader. I had been in uniform a long time and I missed the feeling of being held by your clothes" (Hemmingway 243). The scenes of battle will stay with him forever and he will never be completely normal again.

 

The passage also demonstrates how much Frederic has changed from the beginning of the novel. His view towards honor is completely different. Frederic has come to the conclusion that there is no honor in the war as once believed but he does not ridicule those who continue to fight. He wishes them luck but for Frederic, it is no longer what he wants to be doing. Is this noble or cowardly? I would tend to believe that it is more cowardly than noble, because he is not really doing the killing but helping out those who have been injured; he has made a commitment to help and is running away from it. However, it could be considered noble because he is looking for peace by refusing to support either side. This all brings the reader to the fact of how much Frederic has changed since the beginning. He is no longer seeking the action and glory that was commonly associated with the war but running to the arms of his love. Also he is making the transition from "Hemingway hero" to "Code hero" because is bring up the fact that he has to stop and eat and fulfill his needs.

 

This passage illustrates to the reader that a huge turning point has just occurred. The Italian army is despairing the retreat and losing faith in their own men and executing without much logical reason. The army, which has never been on the offensive, has been able to maintain their defensive position up until now. They are retreating for the first time and the situation is growing more complicated. The Italians are hoping for the Americans to arrive but are more discouraged than ever. The main idea of this point is that Frederic will no longer be focusing his attention to the war. The war is an abstract memory now, still present, but nowhere as important. Frederic doesn't have anything to stand in the way of his love for Catherine anymore.

 

The passage relates to the end of the book when he says, ."..I would eat and stop thinking" (Hemingway 232). At the end of the novel where do we find Frederic? He is in the café outside the hospital eating; he is here three times. And finally when Catherine passes, he is forced to stop; he must now stop thinking of her, stop loving her, and stop being the Hemmingway hero and start being a code hero. He leaves the hospital and the reader does not know what he is thinking, is he thinking anything at all or has he stopped thinking completely? The passage also relates to the mood of despair and hopelessness that is the dominant emotion through out the book. ."..attempt to sustain perfectly a single emotion: they begin with it and end with it, and any scenes, characters, thoughts, or stylistic elements that might tend to weaken the dominant emotion are ruthlessly rejected" (Schneider 283). At first you tend to believe that Frederic is only talking about stopping his journey and getting off the train, but after reading the rest of the novel, it gives a new meaning to the passage. Catherine's death could be related to this passage, ."..but the reader does not know, any more than do Catherine and Frederic, whose death it is to be" (West, Ray. B, Jr.)

 

The passage above clearly depicted many of the tools an author can use to create an interesting story. The use of symbols in the river, the stars and his uniform are all there to make the reader realize the differences in the character. The passage also shows how much Frederic has changed and how his character has developed and is continuing to developing. The first major pivotal point can be seen if you look closely at what Frederic is saying; "But it was not my show anymore" (Hemingway 232). This passage relates to feelings of despair presented throughout the book and what the Italians must be feeling during the retreat. Finally the passage ties in with the end of the book and gives it a completely different meaning after you've read the end.

 

 


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