The book takes us through Frederic's experiences in war and his love affair with Catherine Barkley, an American nurse in Italy. The book starts in the northern mountains of Italy at the beginning of World War I. Rinaldi, Frederic's roommate, takes him to visit a nurse he has taken a liking to. Catherine Barkley, the nurse Rinaldi speaks of, is instantly attracted to Frederic and likewise. At the front, Frederic is wounded in the legs and taken to an aid station and then to an army hospital. He is then transferred to an American hospital in Milan where he meets up with Catherine again.
Imagery in A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway Imagery placed strategically through the novel A Farewell to Arms shows how well Ernest Hemingway is able to prepare the reader for events to come. Catherine Barkley, the English nurse who falls in love with Fredric Henry, an American in the Italian army, states, "I'm afraid of the rain" (125), as they stay in Milan. She goes on to explain "I'm afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it. ... And sometimes I see you dead in it" (126). The foreshadowing this provides is very ominous and frighteningly accurate.
The love between Catherine and Frederick must outlast long separations, life-threatening war situations, and the uncertainty of each other's whereabouts or condition. This is a love story of two people who need each other in a period of chaos. The book A Farewell to Arms is partly autobiographical. Hemingway , like his hero, was a Red Cross ambulance driver on the Italian Front in World War I. Not only was Hemingway wounded in the war, but he also recuperated in a hospital in Italy.