In the novel A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, the audience is granted a historical and geographical background of World War I. Throughout the novel, references are made to the people, places and the government that Hemingway assumes his audience will recognize. The novel is broken down into five books: exposing us to warfare and the turmoil left in its’ wake, love, hatred, betrayal and murder. Being a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States, I was able to relate to this book and I was able to understand the intended message behind it.
Overall, I was very impressed at how easy and simple the book was to read. The structure of this novel was arranged so even the weakest of readers would find this book appealing. Hemingway’s writing style was very easy to follow. By having this format, the author presents little to no confusion. It structure allows the readers to follow the story in its entirety. Throughout the story, Hemingway tells the truth about the war instead of glorifying it. He conveyed the story chronologically, in a strictly linear fashion, with no flashback scenes.
Never before have I enjoyed reading about warfare, but because the story progressed chronologically, the simplicity actually made me rethink my feelings about overrated war stories. Maybe if more books are written the way Hemingway wrote this novel, more veteran and even avid readers will be more inclined to read them. This method also allowed me to see how the main characters were impacted physically and emotionally by the war and while they were in hiding.
This method also helps me stay focused on what was going on at that particular time in the story, allowing me to follow the story from cover to cover. I was able to stay focused on the information being presented at the time. In the novel, the plot could be summarized as follows: boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl. The book is the story of a young American named Frederic Henry who volunteers for service with the Italian army in World War I and falls in love with his English nurse, whom he deserts from the retreating Italian front.
Having escaped to Switzerland, they live in harmony until the tragic end of her pregnancy, during which both she and the child die. One important fact is that the majority of the characters remain ambivalent about the war, resentful of the terrible destruction it causes, doubtful of the glory it supposedly brings. The novel offers descriptions of the conflict’s brutality and violent chaos, for example, the scene of the Italian army’s retreat remains. Henry’s shooting of the engineer for refusing to help free the car from the mud shocks the reader.
The violent outburst seems at odds with Henry’s coolly detached character. The incident occurs in a setting that changes the course of the novel for the reader. The murder of the engineer seems justifiable because it is an inevitable. One good point of this novel is the historical content. World War I was the most technologically advanced war because of the new inventions created specially for warfare. These included: machine guns, biological weapons and the improvement of current artillery.
This fact alone, paved the way for Americans to tackle warfare better, thus giving us an advantage over other countries. Another very good fact about this novel was that there were no subplots, in turn, I was not left wondering what happened or what was about to happen. Each chapter left my mind wanting more, I found myself switching places with the Fredric, as though I was on the front lines. The main theme of the novel was the heartache of warfare and the relationship between love and pain.
Courage, language, communication and drug and alcohol are also other themes explored throughout the novel. One bad point about this novel is the pointless introduction of numerous other characters. For example, the Major, Captain and Rocca played a very minor role. Indeed, so minor, I feel that the only characters in the book should have been Frederic and Catherine. The entire novel was about their trials and tribulations. Something I learned was that this book was actually an autobiography.
I had heard of this novel in my younger days, but I had no clue that it was based on Hemingway’s personal experiences during the war. Being a veteran, after reading the novel I understood where the passion within the text originated from. I found this novel to be very appropriate for this class. Although we are not technically ‘at war’, we are participating in warfare efforts so everyone in the class should have some knowledge of how warfare not only affects the service members and their families, but it also affects Americans as a whole.
In conclusion, this was a very heart felt novel. Due to the amount of tension and heartache concerning the majority of Americans opinion about our country’s current stand on warfare, this book offers everyone a glimpse into the lives of the thousands of service members who put their lives on the line for us everyday. I would personally recommend that everyone reads this book and maybe we can eventually agree on how to handle the problems the country is currently facing. Works Cited Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York, NY: Scribner, 1957.
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