Modern Features of "A Farewell to Arms" Viewed Trhrough the Main Characters of the Novel.

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A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is considered one of the great novels of World War I. It introduces the theme of love, while war occupies all of Europe. It is a complex novel with many characteristic aspects of modernism. After looking into Hemingway's biography, the reader can tell that he included details from his personal life in his novel. He based the main character Frederic Henry upon his own experience as an ambulance driver during World War I. He made him a hero who develops and changes throughout the novel. Henry's relationship with British nurse Catherine Berkeley is based on Hemingway's faded love affair with the beautiful American nurse he met while recovering from his wounds at a Milan hospital just like his main character Henry.

One of the modern features demonstrated by A Farewell to Arms is the style used by Hemingway. His modern style forces the reader to look for hidden truth while reading the text which contains some unclear and very long passages. The author tries to master the chaos of two worlds: a world of war and a world of love by creating his own, self-sufficient, and symbolic work. When one theme moves into the foreground, the other one recedes into the background. The sequence of action runs parallel in both themes, so the reader gets the feeling of reading a single main theme rather than two. He leaves for the reader the freedom of judging and deciding what is right or wrong. Hemingway does not spend a lot of time directly dealing with the emotions or thoughts of characters. He tells the story in many long uninterrupted dialogues and actions using this dry sort of tone. He omits describing facial gestures and emotions in his text. That gives the sense of boredom and monot...

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...plies Henry's despair and emptiness. He says farewell to "Arms" as weapons and also, to Catherine's "arms." He loses everything but he lives.

The rich and complex characters of Hemingway's novel, Henry and Catherine very well illustrate Hemingway's modernist views. The pressures of war tear away the initial impressions the reader had of those two and transform them into completely different characters. Their love story involves the rejection of all social formalities: duty, marriage, and religion. "Marriage" becomes a value of love rather than legal formality; religion becomes a form of personal devotion rather than a social ritual. Catherine and Henry struggle to survive but they both lose the battle; they are both taken apart into pieces.


Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell to Arms. 1929

Reprint: New York; Scribner; Edition 2003.

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