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A Call to Arms – Style and Tone Essay

“After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain” (332). This last line of the novel gives an understanding of Ernest Hemingway’s style and tone. The overall tone of the book is much different than that of The Sun Also Rises. The characters in the book are propelled by outside forces, in this case WWI, where the characters in The Sun Also Rises seemed to have no direction. Frederick’s actions are determined by his position until he deserts the army.

Floating down the river with barely a hold on a piece of wood his life, he abandons everything except Catherine and lets the river take him to a new life that becomes increasing difficult to understand. Nevertheless, Hemingway’s style and tone make A Farewell to Arms one of the great American novels. Critics usually describe Hemingway’s style as simple, spare, and journalistic. These are all good words they all apply. Perhaps because of his training as a newspaperman, Hemingway is a master of the declarative, subject-verb-object sentence.

His writing has been likened to a boxer’s punches-combinations of lefts and rights coming at us without pause. As illustrated on page 145 “She went down the hall. The porter carried the sack. He knew what was in it,” one can see that Hemingway’s style is to-the-point and easy to understand. The simplicity and the sensory richness flow directly from Hemingway’s and his characters’ beliefs. The punchy, vivid language has the immediacy of a news bulletin: these are facts, Hemingway is telling us, and they can’t be ignored.

And just as Frederic Henry comes to distrust abstractions like “patriotism,” so does Hemingway distrust them. Instead he seeks the concrete and the tangible. A simple “good” becomes higher praise than another writer’s string of decorative adjectives. Hemingway’s style changes, too, when it reflects his characters’ changing states of mind. Writing from Frederic Henry’s point of view, he sometimes uses a modified stream-of-consciousness technique, a method for spilling out on paper the inner thoughts of a character.

Usually Henry’s thoughts are choppy, staccato, but when he becomes drunk the language does too, as in the passage on page 13, “I had gone to no such place but to the smoke of cafes and nights when the room whirled and you needed to look at the wall to make it stop, nights in bed, drunk, when you knew that that was all there was, and the strange excitement of waking and not knowing who it was with you, and the world all unreal in the dark and so exciting that you must resume again¬†unknowing and not caring in the night, sure that this was all and all and all and not caring. “

The rhythm, the repetition, have us reeling with Henry. In general, Hemingway’s writing is descriptive yet effective in leaving much to the readers interpretation and allowing a different image to form in each readers mind. The simple sentences and incomplete descriptions frees your imagination and inspires each person to develop their own bitter love story.

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