A Farewell to Arms1

A Farewell to Arms1

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A Farewell to Arms1

Love is impossible to explain or fully understand; it is enfable and war is merely an outcome of disputes between ignorant aristocrats. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, is a novel about love and war. The narrator, Fredrick Henry is a war-time ambulance driver, and Catherine Barkley is an English nurse, who find themselves in a love affair which must maneuver itself around the restrictions of World War I.

The novel begins in Gorizia, Italy the center of operations for Fredrick’s troop, World War I. Fredrick is an American volunteer and in the Ambulance Corps for the Italian Army. He meets a English nurse Catherine named Barkley and does not truly fall in love with her until he gets badly wounded and is put in a hospital. They begin to have alove affair and Catherine becomes impregnated. With a baby on the way Fredrick feels a real sense of responsibility towards Catherine. When he finaly recovers from from his lengthy stay in the hospital he returns to front. When the two part it is very rainy, cloudy, and gloomy. Hemingway makes good use of weather in pursuit of verisimilitude. There is so much violence and death in the war Fredrick no longer wants to be a apart of it and deserts the army to return to Catherine. When they reunite the rain stops and there is light. They then escape to Switzerland by boat and begin to live happily. When Catherine goes into labor there is complications. The baby dies and later Catherine dies from hemorrhaging.

What is love? Love is difficult to explain but, it involves a deep affection for a person or thing. At the beginning of the novel, lieutenant Frederick Henry lacks a sense of value and order in his life. He chooses to intoxicate himself and make visits to prostitutes frequently. During this time of intense stress and pressure this lifestyle is common amongst his fellow comrades. It provides them with an escape from a hostile and undesirable reality of war. Lieutenant Rinaldi, Fredricks enthusiastic surgeon friend soon introduces him to an English nurse, Catherine Barkley. Their relationship brings some order and value into his life.

This new form of order which Fredrick discovers is love. He can no longer remain apart of something that is so disorderly and consequently deserts the Italian army out of love: “When you love you wish to do things for.

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You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.” This explains Fredrick’s love and devotion towards Catherine. Catherine is the order and value in his life and when Fredrick puts aside his involvement in the war he realizes that love is what gives his life meaning. Later in the novel Fredrick loses what he truly charishes and all his hopes for the future are lost. Love is a powerful emotion that can provide a sense of meaning in ones life but, one must not put too much trust into something because it can easily be taken away.

Another critical aspect of novel is war. World War I, “the great war” was fought primarily in Europe. It was prompted when Austria-Hungary laid blame on the Serbs for the assasination Frans Ferdinand which in turn gave them an excuse to invade Serbia. From that invasion it sparked a chain reaction of numerous countries to become involved. In the novel the countries that are fighting are Italy and Austria-Hungary. During a period of war opposing tension between enemy countries is high. A one point in the novel Fredrick goes in to the barbershop to get his haircut. The barber does not know Fredrick is on the Italians side and he will not accept a tip from him he said. “I will not. I am not at the front. But I am an Italian.” This displays the extreme nationalism and uncertainty people carry during war. Towards the end of the novel Italian forces have lost several key battles. The morale of the troops is sinking day by day and everyone is exhausted from the war. Surgeons, including Rinaldi is working around the clock. “This war is killing me,” Rinaldi tells Fre*censored*. “All summer and fall I’ve operated. I do everybody’s work.” Not only is Rinaldi overworking, he admits to having contracted syphilis. This once enthusiastic, young man is completely spent from the war proving that one way or another the war makes everyone ill. World War I claimed many lives was decided by ignorant aristocrats looking only for prestige amongst themselves. War is a barbaric and unnecessary means to the end of a problem.

Love is a powerful emotion that can drive one through a time of hardship, like war. In A Farewell to Arms, without Catherine and her love Fredrick would have been wondering aimlessly through the war.
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