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Escape from Reality in A Farewell to Arms
In Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Fredric Henry gets involved with Catherine Barkley to escape the insanity of war. Frederic loves Catherine. Catherine loves Frederic. The extreme situation of war and fate allowed both of them to be thrown together and fall in love. This love for one another was an escape into another world for Frederic. It provided him emotionally with a private place, where he could go to separate and evade the horrible realities of war occurring in and around him. Under any other normal circumstances this love probably would have never happened, but the pitcher had the curve ball in for Frederic from the first throw. He wanted him out.
From the beginning, Frederic and Catherine's relationship started in a strange state. Frederic knew Catherine was a little cooky, but he still continued to pursue her. He did not even love her at first, but he still needed a way of escaping his present situation, so he decided what the hell, and went after her. Plus, he really didn't think he had anything to loose. There were no stakes named from the start. He didn't really care if he lost anyway.
"I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of
loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said
things instead of playing cards. Like bridge you had to
pretend you were playing for money or playing for some
stakes. Nobody had mentioned what the stakes were. It
was all right with me.
But this is where Frederic made his mistake. He kept his distance from right and wrong regarding war and love. He had separated himself from war and seemed to have no place in it at all, mentally or physically (for example when he is in the hospital in Book Two). But when Aymo is killed by his own army, Frederic discovers the reality that he is not really separated from this event at all. He is very much part of this war whether he likes it or not.
At this point, he seems to go a little crazy himself and gets scared. He needs a way to escape immediately and ends up separating himself again through love. Frederic had not been prepared for the stress and pressure of the reality he had faultily deluded himself from.
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Even when she is about to give birth (the ultimate consummation of their love for one another), he become nervous. Not only is the baby a product of their love for one another, but it will forever connect him to the reality of his present situation even when war is over. Here neither of them can handle this. Catherine shows this physically through her death and the child's death. Frederic shows this through his odd behavior, such as being afraid of numbers over two. That would leave him connected to something he wants to be totally separated from. He loves Catherine and his to be child, but he would rather sacrifice them to be totally separated from this war.
True, under any other normal circumstances this love probably would have never happened. But that is life, throwing everyone curve balls left and right. It started raining. The game got a little hectic. Confused, both Henry and Barkley walked up to the plate at the same time. It didn't matter who hit the ball, all they heard was the crack against the bat, and started running, ignoring the other players, as they sped from first to second to third. It was still raining.
Henry was relieved when he made it home, but Barkley twisted her ankle in a mud puddle. Her loyalties turned back and was tagged out between third and home. When he got back to the dug-out, it was still raining, and realized she wasn't there. He told the coach to mark down the run for Barkley. Give him credit, he just didn't know the stakes were going to be this high. He realized he would have to be the one counted out this time. He wanted to be counted out anyhow.
Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. London: Simon&Schuster, 1995.