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A Man Defined by War Essay

Similar to many authors during the early part of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway uses his first hand experience to write meticulous novels conveying his struggles. Hemingway’s efforts are recorded using new techniques not yet seen before. Hemingway, the author of the celebrated “A Farwell To Arms,” incorporates meaningful diction, imagery, and syntax in Book 1 to convey his detached tone towards the Great War.

Book 1 of “A Farewell To Arms” sets the groundwork for one of the most influential novels of all time. Lieutenant Frederick Henry, an American ambulance driver for the Italian army, seems stoic about his situation. Henry meets a British nurse, Catherine Barkley. After an evening with Catherine, he says to himself, “I had treated seeing Catherine very lightly, I had gotten somewhat drunk and had nearly forgotten to come but when I could not see her there I was feeling lonely and hollow.” (41).

This is the first time Henry fully recognizes that he loves Catherine. His body drained of guilt, Henry utter, “when I could not see her….I was feeling… hollow.” A lover without a clue, Henry lays his problems, the war, his love life, and his friends on the table. While away from Catherine, he feels he goes through the motions needed to live but can not actually be attached to the world. Catherine completes him. Just after the priest discusses God, Henry walks through Abruzzi. He thinks to himself,

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“…lovely was the fall to go hunting through the chestnut woods. The birds were all good because they fed on grapes and you never took a lunch because the peasants were always honored if you would eat with them at their houses.”(73).

Henry’s thoughts are obviously disconnected from his main problems. Pondering the birds, Henry detaches himself from the rest of the war. Hemingway’s personal issues regarding the war are exemplified in Henry’s speech.

Vibrant, vivid imagery became one of Hemingway’s favorite structural devices. In the early stages of the tale, Henry, still getting accustomed to his surroundings, finds time to observe the less important items of his experience. While viewing the scenery around him, Henry observes, “snow slanted across the wind, the bare ground was covered, the stumps of trees projected, there was snow on the guns and there was paths in the snow going back to the latrines behind trenches.” (6). His world completely changed, Henry resorts to crafting detached images for himself from his surroundings. Snow generates a sense of permanence, just as the war itself has produced. With the same disinterest as he has in the war, Henry continues to show a lack of concern on his job and sometimes with his friends. Hemingway wants the reader to reconsider their opinion of the Great War and contemplate the lesser things in the world such as nature.

While driving an ambulance to Pavla, Henry’s car is demolished by a trench mortar. A general without his authority, Henry struggled through this tragedy using his unbelievable willpower and audacity. Just before the attack, Henry, “ate the end of my piece of cheese and took a swallow of wine…then there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red and on and on in a rushing wind.” (54). The mortar blast that attacks Henry’s ambulance furthers his dismal attitude towards the war. Hemingway knows that innocent men such as Henry have been injured and killed throughout this war and he knows this is not fair. Above all, he further detaches Henry from the world and the war for the reader’s own thoughts to form about the evilness of guiltless casualties.

Syntactical devices are one of literature’s most important and practical modes to get a point across in an exciting and interesting manner. Authors utilize such tools to get deeper meanings across to the reader. A variety of syntax Hemingway utilizes is known as subject. Additionally, while he is illustrating one of those most impressing scenes of Book 1, Henry must deal with other feelings and sights. Henry observes, “The dead were off to one side. The doctors were working with their sleeves up to their shoulders and were red as butchers. There were not enough stretchers. Some of the wounded were noisy but most were quiet” (56-57).

To cope with his negative opinions towards the war, Henry draws up his inner strength to battle them. With the same resolve that drove him to the war, Henry eliminates feelings of sorrow and shows a lack of interest on the front. Another syntactical device utilizes repetition. To prepare the reader for the upcoming idea, Hemingway creates a brilliant structural masterpiece. During a mess hall scene in Book 1, Henry narrates, “Yes, father. That is true, father. Perhaps, father. No, father. Well, maybe yes, father. You know more about it than I do father.” (38). By repeating the same “father” over and over again, Hemmingway initiates a serious, monotonous tone to this excerpt.

The repetition alone is a cautious statement bending the limits of literature itself. Dr. Robert Lamb believes repetition is key to creating great literature, but the author must know how to apply it. He states, “…the most remarkable aspect of the passage is Hemingway’s…employment of repetition. The repetition of key words like want and perfectly…are used [to] keep the dialogues relevant.” (Hemingway and the Creation…17). Hemingway effectively displays repetition demonstrating Henry’s disinterest and detachment from the war and all of its horrors. The everlasting war establishes Henry’s dismal tone as he struggles to survive the war. Out of Henry’s struggles emerged his strengths.

In conclusion, Ernest Hemingway’s innovative techniques in the fields of diction, imagery, and syntax generate the protagonist’s detachment from World War I in Book 1. Deriving from his disinterest comes his affection for a young British nurse. Hemingway’s own conflicts in World War I blend with his views from that war and congregate in this masterpiece.

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