Ernest Hemingway has been greatly criticized for a supposed hatred of women that some feel is evident in his writings. One of the primary books that critics believe shows this misogynistic attitude is A Farewell To Arms. It is counterproductive to interpret the book using such a narrow focus because the author is dealing with much more profound themes. Hemingway is not concerned with the theme of gender equality, but rather with the greater themes of the inherent struggle of life and the inevitability of death.
The first images of struggle and death are seen in chapter 9 when Frederic is wounded. Up to this point in the story Hemingway had portrayed a very serene, pastoral setting and existence for the characters. It is here, though, that this comes crashing down. Hemingway is showing the horrors of war. War is not a glorious and colorful event; it is a dirty and base thing. This is the first hint that the romantic notions Frederic clings to might prove false. There is suggestion here that human existence is fairly tragic.
Hemingway shows many deaths as a result of the war. Passini, Rinaldi (who it is inferred died of syphilis), nameless officers, a sergeant, Aymo, and many others are casualties of the insane war. Their deaths are shown as casual, random events in the life of Frederic. Throughout the entire book Frederic seems to be trying to escape this death that is all around him and retreat once more to the serene existence he enjoys at the beginning of the book. This sets up what I believe to be the theme of the book: struggle is inherent in life and death is inevitable.
Another representative of death is Count Greffi towards the e...
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...ainst Hemingway that charges he is a woman hater. Hemingway does not idealize Catherine out of some deep hatred of women. He does not subordinate her to show male dominance. In fact, I believe that Catherine is a minor factor in this book and is more of a tool used for thematic purposes. Hemingway uses her to show Frederic's inability to escape death. To use the ant metaphor (327-328), we are all ants on a log unknowingly running into the fire. And just when the log is tipped so we are away from the flames, just when we think that we are safe, someone tips us back in the fire and we die. Hemingway is showing that man's frantic struggles and his scurrying about are futile, we all die in the end. Also, as much as we may try, we cannot keep death out of our lives.
Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell To Arms. Scribner Paperback Fiction: NY, 1995.
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