Catherine Barkley: Code Hero

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Catherine Barkley is V.A.D. in the British Army, stationed in Italy, during World War 1 in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. She begins the novel as the code hero, which is unusual for Hemingway, given his experience with women throughout his life. During the novel, Catherine conducts herself with grace while living her life with love, loyalty, and respect as guiding ideals. By the end of the novel, her hero status is transferred to Frederic Henry, her lover, when she dies after childbirth. Catherine is almost obsessed with the ideal that women were put on this earth to serve their men. She is childlike with her persistent questioning, “Is there anything I do you don’t like? Can I do anything to please you?” (137) Even before Catherine tells Frederic she is pregnant, she worries about what he will think. She does not want to make him unhappy or to worry him. She seems so scared and timid, as though she is afraid of generating feelings from Frederic that are not filled with contentedness towards her. Personifying what is today referred to as an old-fashioned wife, she refuses to drink brandy when it is offered, and is uncomfortable with the atmosphere at the horse races (132, 141). She has been raised with the idea that women should be seen and not heard, and she cannot bring herself to step outside of her little box of being perfect for her man. Catherine lives her life with love as one of the primary guiding influences. After he fiancé dies, she is hesitant to love, but once time allows her to recover she realizes that her life is empty without it. She craves love like small children crave candy, and she repeatedly asks Frederic if he loves her. Catherine is still wary, as her loss is somewhat fresh in her mind, and wants t... ... middle of paper ... ... Frederic describes the labor pains like this, “When the pains were bad she called them good ones. When they started to fall off she was disappointed and ashamed.” (314) Before the intense pains set in, she repeatedly tells Frederic to go eat and come back later because she doesn’t want to become a burden. Even as Catherine is lying on her death bed, she remains cool and positive. She assures Frederic that she was not afraid and it was all a dirty trick (331). She uses her last breath to tell Frederic that everything was going to be alright. She shows bravery in her actions as well as her words. Catherine transforms over the course of the novel, and though she no longer holds the code hero status, she still exemplifies the characteristics of a hero. Her actions hold pure grace, and she holds true to all her beliefs. Her life is full of love, loyalty, and respect.
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