Thesis statement: Though war was the foremost thought in everyone’s mind love and passion between two confused, young people blossomed and flourished. The war was not a place to start a love affair, it took the lives of many not matter how much you begged. Just until this day the war became a shadow to transform to young boy into a man. He did this with a smile upon his face, a tear in his eye for each foot step he took he knew he had made the right decision about deserting it all for the two people he finally let his heart open up to.
In his novel A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway wrote about the war as if it breathed life and had its own soul. The Soldiers moved around the battlefield like pawns on a chess board ready for their next move. There was one Soldier, from the opposing side that consistently pursued a helpless and frail individual from the American side.
This was Lieutenant Henry Frederic, an American Soldier who was enlisted in the Italian Army as an ambulance driver. The novel unfolds with him meeting the broken hearted Catherine Barkley and from this encounter Henry’s whole life would shift and thought process will change about love and war.
War is a consistent issue throughout this novel, from the beginning it states, “In the late summer of that year we lived in the house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.
In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops loaded with packs as if they were pregnant, went by the house and down the road; and the dust they raised powered the leaves of the trees. (Hemingway 7) War was always the forethought in everyone’s mind during this time and era. Even when young Henry was growing up he had to deal with the tragedy of war and witness the after effects once the Soldiers were long gone.
When Henry was old enough he decided to join the Italian Army because he felt as though he could make a difference and he did not want to be around his father any longer and deal with the diplomatic politics. He never showed nor expressed emotion for anyone except his self and the ones he frequently scuttled about the clubs and brothels with. He once told his driver Gino to continue driving while a Soldier lied in the back of his ambulance continuing to bleed out. Lt Henry ignored everything around him as he usually did and slept until he made it to the hospital where he met his old friend Lieutenant Rinaldi. Though the war was cold, harsh, long and much unappreciated it helped to bring together two people who needed each other very much.
Some say love and war don’t make good bed fellows, but the way it is portrayed in this novel will prove so different. Catherine Barkley is far from being inexperienced to love, after losing her childhood sweetheart to the war she knows firsthand how it feels to have loved and lost. She was supposed to have married this young man after he returned from the war but a rocket took his life and he was blown to pieces and nothing was left of him; so Catherine was robbed of her privilege even to mourn his death. Frederic Henry on the other hand never had the opportunity of expressing love or showing affection towards the opposite sex. The women he spent his time with were just that, a quick fix for the night or evening or something to joke about. Frederic was never sure what love even meant as he said the following phrase to Catherine before he took the kiss he wanted even though she was hesitant, Catherine said, “You are sweet,” Henry immediately replies, “No, I’m not.” (Hemingway 26-27) This is because Henry’s thoughts and concerns were only on one thing, conquering Miss Barkley.
Frederic only later begins to understand what love is and how it feels when he is injured by a trench mortar and sent to the hospital where his love Catherine is at. After seeing her for the first time in many months he immediately falls in love with her as if that was the first time he had ever laid eyes on her. Catherine had always known that she loved Frederic from the day she meet him but she did not allow herself to become overly obsessed with him because she had a fear of losing him like she did your fiancé at the start of the war. Frederic is a symbol of new life and hope for Catherine. Like others use certain things to help them get through hard times a best friend, sister or a good luck charm this was exactly what Frederic was to her or they were to each other.
Love is what this novel and the characters in it are based off of. Frederic Henry made a diversity of changes in his life because of his feelings and his love for Catherine, Cat (as the pet name he calls her) and then for their unborn child once he knows she is pregnant. Frederic normally drowned everything in his life social, military and definitely personal with bourbon and scotch; afterwards it was over to the clubs or the brothels to pick the right one for the night. All this completely came to a stop once feelings of completeness filled Frederic Henry’s heart. It is true what has always been said, you never know what you have until you lose it or it’s gone for good. This is exactly how Frederic was feeling when he returned to the front after spending his entire convalescent leave with Catherine and then finding out she was pregnant, he had to settle down and make this relationship work.
Love helped to change the way he functioned as a Soldier doing his daily mission, driving the ambulance trucks and picking up the wounded. Frederic never paid attention to who he was hauling around, nor did he care about the injuries they had sustained. He would allow his ambulance drivers to drive as fast as they could and never slowed them down even if the patients complained in the back they were being thrown about. Catherine helped to change and heal Frederic from the inside out. Everyone questioned this change and they all thought he was sick especially his close friend Lieutenant Rinaldi. Somehow each of Frederic’s friends had started feeling like they were being shunned or abandoned but he reassured them they were not their Lieutenant Henry was finally growing up, falling in love and maturing.
Abandonment was not only a fear of Catherine’s but it was also a fear of many of the Soldiers on the battle field, both Lieutenant’s Frederic, Rinaldi, Miss Catherine and her friend Miss Ferguson. Frederic and Catherine would not care if the war ended today because they would have each other to fall upon and spend the rest of their lives with, (Beegel/ Hemingway). As for the Soldiers they were unsure they would make it out of the war and back home to their families or their loved ones to greet them, give hugs and adore them with kisses or just to say I love you. Miss Ferguson was never happy with the arrangement between her best friend Catherine and the Lieutenant because she figured he would one day get her in trouble and she would have to leave.
That meant Miss Ferguson would be abandoned there by herself with no one to talk to. So she did whatever she could do to make him feel unwelcome when he came around to see her. Frederic Henry did not let this stop him because he was determined, stubborn and knew what he wanted and had to do to get it. So If that meant sucking up to Miss Ferguson that was exactly what he was going to do. He was not going to run and hide and give up on the one true thing in his life. He had to make a desperate decision about the war when his friend Rinaldi gave him no other choice after intercepting Frederic’s outgoing and incoming mail. Had it not been for Rinaldi’s selfish act of trying to keep the young Italian for him-self, or as he says; “he was trying to keep his mine focused, so he could fight in the war and not get hurt again.” Lt Henry may have gone to the completion of the war had he received good news in his letters from home.
This caused an emotion inside Frederic Henry which made him soon forget about the war, what he was fighting for, and his mission. He could only concentrate on getting back to Milan and finding out where Catherine and the baby were and how each of them was doing. This displaced feeling of abandonment caused Frederic to jump over a cliff into frigid waters, while the German’s was afoot and shooting round after rounds at him. He barely escapes with his life as he washes ashore near the edge of the plain an immediately jumps onto a train.
What could he have been thinking as he ran from the Germans and fled the war on foot, all over a woman he had just barely met? (LRC), He never would have done anything this insane in his life before because he was never this emotional or affection about one or anything. This is why he ran off to join the Italian army so he would not be responsible for anybody or anything except himself. These thoughts he had finally forgotten and he was ready to take on new responsibilities. Bigger and better ones with the woman he loved because he finally knew what it meant to be in love and care about another human being.
After everything the main characters went through Ernest Hemingway ended the novel with a coup de grace’ ( 1), two tragic death! The war had already claimed the lives of many even Frederic had to shot at two of his own Soldiers because they failed to obey his orders and they did not want to stay and assist him retrieving a vehicle from the mud. They were more afraid of being killed by the German’s. This is why in war death knows no names or faces when it calls out to you. It touches upon the innocent, the scared, and the ones who try to be very quiet hoping death won’t hear them. When it is your time to leave from this earth, then it is your time to go, say good bye with a smile try not to cry it makes it easier on the ones you leave behind.
Though it is not real conclusive as to why Hemingway (LRC), took the lives of both Catherine and the baby because this would be a hard lesson for anyone to bare especially being in love for the first time. Frederic gave up his whole life style, abandoned his career, and became a deserter from the military all in the hopes of spending the rest of his life with a nurse with an unmapped course for her life direction. He met her for the first time delivering wounded to a hospital in Stresa, now she is gone. Frederic Henry’s whole world as he knew it vanished with a “soft cord” and a deep “sigh,” what more does he have to look forward to.
Would this turn him back to drinking and sleeping with random woman or would he remember what this love felt like and use it to find another love interest? (Lewis/ Young) The last thing they said to each other that was the first thing they said before she died, Catherine asked him, “You won’t do our things with another girl, or say the same things, will you?” Henry replied, “Never.” Catherine said, “I want you to have girls, though.” Henry’s response was “I don’t want them.” Though she was dying this gave her a piece of mind and settled her thoughts that everything she and Frederic went through was not out of lust it was truly out of love.
“Farewell to Arms is an excellent novel and a terrific read, this novel can take you on an adventure to different countries, arouse your senses, and it can even make you feel as if you’re one of the characters in the novel itself”(Young). It does not use the war as the main or central clutch to destroy or bring lots of sadness; it only brings it forward when a specific action is needed from it to cast a different scenario around a character or the layout. A lot of people get the stigmatism that war destroys or tears down everything in its path but that is not always true. War helps to bring countries together, it helps to make allies out of foes and like it did with Frederic and Catherine it brought them together as a couple. This is why the title was chose for when Catherine and the child die, Lt. Henry who is so fond of the love he has for her and his unborn child would have abandoned anything to get to them to make them happy.