Farewell To Arms


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“You are all a lost generation” -Gertrude Stein

This quotation’s importance on author Earnest Hemmingway is reflected in his modern Romeo and Juliet novel entitled A Farewell to Arms. The recurring tone of the novel suggests that the only reality is the harsh truth which is anything but romantic and proves that in the end, all is futile. This generation in which Stein spoke of to Hemingway is the generation of romantic war times. This idea is symbolized in the character Catherine Barkley’s vision of her wartime love where she states
“ ‘ I remember having this silly idea he might come to the hospital where I was. With a sabre cut, I suppose, and a bandage around his head. Or shot through the shoulder. Something picturesque.’
‘This is the picturesque front,’ I said.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘People can’t realize what France is like. If they did, it couldn’t all go on. He didn’t have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits.’ (20)”
Catherine’s pathetic ideal of a “picturesque” rendezvous is also the majority mentality at the time. Her realization of the cruel truth is but a glimpse of the futile art of war and life. Yet, even though it appears that she, who ultimately represents all of society in this scene, realizes this truth, she in fact is ignorant to it many times throughout the novel.      
     The novel is terrorized by the overlaying tone of the harsh nihilism. Belief in nihilism is the melancholy view in which there is no point to life, and faith in nothing. This tone is best portrayed in the agony of Henry when questioned about his desires for the war by the priest.
“ ‘I had hoped for something .’
‘Defeat?’
‘No. Something more.’
‘There isn’t anything more. Except victory. It may be worse.’
‘I hoped for a long time for victory.’
‘Me too.’
‘Now I don’t know.’
‘It has to be one or the other.’
‘I don’t believe in victory any more.’
‘I don’t . But I don’t believe in defeat. Though it may be better.’
‘What do you believe in?’
‘In sleep,’ I said. He stood up.
‘I am very sorry to have stayed so long. But I like so to talk with you.’
‘It is very nice to talk again. I said that about sleeping, meaning nothing.’ (179)”
As the dismal priest describes his lack of faith on the side of victory, the irony of the passage is increased when Henry confronts his nihilistic ways with the priest who represents the opposite.

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His belief in “sleep” is more like his morbid belief in death as the only escape, while the priest sadly believes, but just not in victory.
     




Even the little ray of hope in the end is lost. One may think that there is something to keep going for, yet as this novel proves, that truly all, including love is futile. This is the Romeo and Juliet dynamo that has been analyzed by many critics, and even the author himself. The ignorant, yet lovable Catherine’s death is truly the breaking of the last string holding off the nihilistic darkness. As Henry says, “it was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain (332).” Sadly, her deceased corpse, reminds him of those marble bust which where so cold they reminded him of a ‘cemetery’. Henry’s true birth of total nihilism and fultilism is born when the one single light of hope and faith in his life is swept away to the ‘sleep’. The one thing that kept him going, the shimmering light of dear Catherine and the promise of a child and hope of a happy life together, all fades into the rain. The most ironically depressing part is that “this was the price you paid for sleeping together (320).” And that the death of Catherine was caused by the child, which in turn was caused by Henry.
Throughout the novel, the reoccurring theme of futile hope, all comes down to the same thing. It’s the “picturesque” war; it’s the realization of escape through “sleep”; it’s the vain love. They all point to one thing; nothing. It is the reinforcement of fatalism and nihilism through this tragedy which is the demise of a “lost generation”.

“You are all a lost generation” -Gertrude Stein

This quotation’s importance on author Earnest Hemmingway is reflected in his modern Romeo and Juliet novel entitled A Farewell to Arms. The recurring tone of the novel suggests that the only reality is the harsh truth which is anything but romantic and proves that in the end, all is futile. This generation in which Stein spoke of to Hemingway is the generation of romantic war times. This idea is symbolized in the character Catherine Barkley’s vision of her wartime love where she states
“ ‘ I remember having this silly idea he might come to the hospital where I was. With a sabre cut, I suppose, and a bandage around his head. Or shot through the shoulder. Something picturesque.’
‘This is the picturesque front,’ I said.
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘People can’t realize what France is like. If they did, it couldn’t all go on. He didn’t have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits.’ (20)”
Catherine’s pathetic ideal of a “picturesque” rendezvous is also the majority mentality at the time. Her realization of the cruel truth is but a glimpse of the futile art of war and life. Yet, even though it appears that she, who ultimately represents all of society in this scene, realizes this truth, she in fact is ignorant to it many times throughout the novel.      
     The novel is terrorized by the overlaying tone of the harsh nihilism. Belief in nihilism is the melancholy view in which there is no point to life, and faith in nothing. This tone is best portrayed in the agony of Henry when questioned about his desires for the war by the priest.
“ ‘I had hoped for something .’
‘Defeat?’
‘No. Something more.’
‘There isn’t anything more. Except victory. It may be worse.’
‘I hoped for a long time for victory.’
‘Me too.’
‘Now I don’t know.’
‘It has to be one or the other.’
‘I don’t believe in victory any more.’
‘I don’t . But I don’t believe in defeat. Though it may be better.’
‘What do you believe in?’
‘In sleep,’ I said. He stood up.
‘I am very sorry to have stayed so long. But I like so to talk with you.’
‘It is very nice to talk again. I said that about sleeping, meaning nothing.’ (179)”
As the dismal priest describes his lack of faith on the side of victory, the irony of the passage is increased when Henry confronts his nihilistic ways with the priest who represents the opposite. His belief in “sleep” is more like his morbid belief in death as the only escape, while the priest sadly believes, but just not in victory.
     




Even the little ray of hope in the end is lost. One may think that there is something to keep going for, yet as this novel proves, that truly all, including love is futile. This is the Romeo and Juliet dynamo that has been analyzed by many critics, and even the author himself. The ignorant, yet lovable Catherine’s death is truly the breaking of the last string holding off the nihilistic darkness. As Henry says, “it was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain (332).” Sadly, her deceased corpse, reminds him of those marble bust which where so cold they reminded him of a ‘cemetery’. Henry’s true birth of total nihilism and fultilism is born when the one single light of hope and faith in his life is swept away to the ‘sleep’. The one thing that kept him going, the shimmering light of dear Catherine and the promise of a child and hope of a happy life together, all fades into the rain. The most ironically depressing part is that “this was the price you paid for sleeping together (320).” And that the death of Catherine was caused by the child, which in turn was caused by Henry.
Throughout the novel, the reoccurring theme of futile hope, all comes down to the same thing. It’s the “picturesque” war; it’s the realization of escape through “sleep”; it’s the vain love. They all point to one thing; nothing. It is the reinforcement of fatalism and nihilism through this tragedy which is the demise of a “lost generation”.



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