Heroes and Cowards in A Farewell To Arms, by Ernest Hemingway


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War creates only two types of men: heroes and cowards.  In the book, A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway, Mr. Frederic Henry was an American Lieutenant ambulance driver in the Italian Army. "The army was staying in Gorizia, a little town that had been captured by the Italian army" (5). The town looked across a river and the plains to the mountains. There was fighting going on in those mountains, only a mile away. One evening when Frederic came in the house after doing some work on his ambulance, his friend Rinaldi took him to a hospital to meet a nurse who was a friend of Rinaldi's. Frederic thought that Miss Barkley was very pretty and good looking. Frederic started seeing Miss Catherine Barkley on a regular basis.

"Frederic got orders to take two ambulances and three other drivers and go to the war front, up the river in Plava" (54). They were to pick up as many of the wounded as they could and deliver them to the hospitals where their papers said to take them. When he got up to Plava late in the evening, Frederic found out that there was a plan for a military strike that night. They were ordered to stay there and wait for the strike to take place before they left, so they wouldn't get hit by the bombardment.

All of the drivers were to stay in a dugout in the riverbank while the strike was going on.

There was all kinds of gun fire and bomb shells being shot back and forth. "The drivers were all in the dugout eating noodles and cheese while drinking wine" (55), when a bomb shell hit the dugout, killing one of the drivers and wounding Mr. Henry as well as one of the other drivers.

Frederic was hit in the legs by the objects that were in the bomb, one of his knees was blown down around his shin. One of the drivers took him to the medical tents to get bandages put on his legs until they could get him back to a hospital. "The army sent Frederic to an American hospital in Milan" (77). This hospital had just been built and they needed nurses there. The hospital in Gorizia transferred Miss Barkley to the hospital in Milan. She was one of the nurses looking after Frederic while he was in the hospital.

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After Mr. Henry had been in Milan for two days, he had two doctors look at his knee. One told him that they should wait for six months before they operated on it and the other one said that he could be operated on the next morning. Frederic took the second doctor's opinion and had his knee operated on that next morning. "The operation took two and a half hours to get all the little fragments out of his leg and knee" (108). Mr. Henry spent most of that next summer in the hospital recovering from the injury. He would help Catherine on her night duties, she would spend the nights in Frederic's room with him.

In the fall after Mr. Henry had fully recovered, they sent him back to the war front. Before he left, he found out that Catherine was pregnant with his child. Later that fall, Italy was making an attack on the Austrians up in Bainsizza, above the place where Frederic had been wounded. They couldn't hold their position and had to retreat. Mr. Henry was ordered to take the three ambulances and drivers to the hospitals that were along the retreat route. They were to load as much of the equipment as they could and head for Pordenone. During their trip to Pordenone, they got stuck in a line of troops and other military equipment that was moving very slowly. They decided to try and get there by taking side roads. "They got the lead ambulance stuck in a ditch when they were turning around from a dead-end road and they ended up leaving it behind" (205). They were forced to try to drive out across a muddy field to a road just on the other side. They got the other two ambulances stuck in the field and had to leave them there and start walking.

After a day of walking, they found an abandoned farm house, where they spent the night. In the morning, they found that one of the drivers had run off. The other three kept on walking through the fields and trees. They ran into some Germans. The Germans shot at Mr. Henry and the other two drivers, killing one of them. Frederic and the other driver started across a crowded bridge. When they got to the far end of the bridge, there were officers and carabiniere (battle police) who were picking people out of the crowd and taking them down over the bank to the river. "Mr. Henry got picked out and taken down over the bank, where other officers were asking the people questions and then shooting them" (224). Mr. Henry made a dash to the river and swam down stream, then he got out and started to go on to Pordenone.

Frederic climbed aboard a train that took him to Stresa, where he found Catherine. After he found Catherine, he didn't go on to Pordenone.

"Late one night the man from the bar came up to the room where Mr. Henry and Catherine were staying and told him that the army was going to arrest him in the morning for not carrying out his orders" (267). Frederic bought the bar man's boat. They got their bags packed and headed out for Switzerland. They left at eleven that night and had to row their boat 35 kilometers to make it safely into Switzerland. There they were going to start their family. When it was time for Catherine to have her baby, they stayed in a motel near the hospital. Doctors had to take the baby by Caesarean section. "The child was dead when it was born" (326). The child was a little boy. Catherine had complications and didn't live long after the baby was born.

War creates only two types of men: heroes and cowards.  Because of the war, Mr. Henry lost his girlfriend, his son and was wanted by the Italian army. He left the hospital to go back to the hotel in the rain, and to think of what other bad things could happen. Henry now had to decide what type of man he would be.

Work Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms . New York: Scribner Classics, 1997. Print.

 


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