Roller-coaster of Emotions Essay
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“The plain was rich with crops; there were many orchards of fruit trees and beyond the plain the mountains were brown and bare” (3) Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms. To the innocence of children fruit trees and plains is all they are aware of but in fact, what is beyond is what makes Ernest Hemingway want to explain, that beyond those plains there has been chaos and terrible deaths. After a scanning the entire landscape, the eyes can come across the true reality of the war, which made fruitless trees, beat up grounds, chaos, but also soldiers that have learned the true meaning of what war really is.
Frederic Henry, the protagonist in Hemingway’s literary war novel, comes across the reality what life has to offer and overcomes many obstacles that changes him to become the person he ends up being towards the end of the novel. In his novel, A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway demonstrates that the destructiveness of war turns him from the naive solider, to the being in love, and finally to Henry the person that sees the world as a bad place that destroys a family.
To begin with, Henry has no personal control with his temptations towards women, drinks excessively and simply has carelessness revolving him. The way that Henry enjoys obliterating war is being with women and drinking alcohol which lets him get away for a while. Henry has come across a person that cares for him and wants him to be on the right path, that person is the priest. Trying to get Henry out of his disastrous life, his friend the priest, recommends that Henry visits Abruzzi because it will let Henry become a better person. The priest comes across Henry and wants him to prosper and offers Henry “to see Abruzzi and visit my [the priests] family at Capracotta” (8), but instead the captain wins over Henry by saying, ” come one… We go whorehouse before it shuts” (9). Henry leaves that night with a simple good-night towards the priest and wonders off with the rest of the men.
The reality of Henry’s decision was that he wants to do what is right, but can never manage to do the prudent thing. Henry could have stayed home with the priest but instead his temptations leads him to the wron path. Later on that night Rinaldi asks Henry how the night went. Just like men talk Henry starts going on about how he had a beautiful time every where he went and Rinaldi is there to cheer him on. Rinaldi is almost the exact mirror image as Henry as they perceive women, Rinaldi confirms to Henry that “in this town we have beautiful English girls. I am now in love with Miss Barkley” (12). Henry’s main goal is to get pleasures that are easy and fast, he calls those “strange excitement” which shows that he has little or no ability to feel satisfied.
Frederic Henry has not been able to find his inner self, he only knows what men in war like to do best; Henry drinks alcohol visits the whorehouses to substitute not being able to figure himself out. To come to a conclusion that the people that want to help him, Henry ignores them and shows this when he “sat next to the priest and he was disappointed and suddenly hurt that I [Frederic] had not gone to Abruzzi. He had written to his father that I [Frederic] was coming and they had made preparations” (13). This is significant because it shows that the help his close friend offers means nothing to him, he confesses that while going out it lets him get a grip of his emotions; something which he cannot do while sober. The way Henry sees things is that people settle for a small amount of pleasure instead of going the extra mile in order to get what they really want.
When Henry starts changing is when he meets Catherine Barkley and his love towards her becomes a role in his transformation in his personality. Catherine at first is just someone that attracted Henry to her, her tawny skin and petite body was a reason why she caught his eye. He has found himself fallen for someone and is constantly wanting to be with her. He searches for her, but “she was not in the garden and I [Frederic] went to the door of the villa where the ambulances drove up. Inside he saw the head nurse, who said Miss Barkley was on duty–“there’s a war going on, you know (22). Henry clearly knew that a nurse in war has a stressful duty and has hardly any time to spend time with their loved ones. Henry wants to be with her and no longer is going around with other women, he wants to be with Miss Barkley and he wants to go the extra mile to go in search for her, just to sound some time together.
He is so eager to be with her that he goes the next evening to the hospital to see her but has to wait until she came down. While he sits down waits for her he sees every detail inside the hospital, something he never did before, ” there were many marble busts on painted wooden pillars along the walls of the room they used for an office…they had complete marble quality of all looking alike” (28). He is patiently waiting for Catherine, meanwhile he is staring at his surroundings. He has changed into a different man than what he was before he met Miss Barkley. They see each other and she asks if he loves her, he replies with a “yes” but seems unsure of it. While they converse one thing leads to another and they begin kissing, Frederic sees that both her eyes are shit and thinks to himself, “I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her.
This was a game, like a bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards. Like a bridge you had to pretend you were playing for money or playing for some stakes. Nobody had told me what the stakes were. It was all right with me” (30-31). At this point he just wants someone to play around with instead of learning the true meaning behind what love really is. Then becoming injured in war awakens Henry and love has put him to the test. “I went out the door and suddenly I felt lonely and empty…when I could not see her there I was feeling lonely and hallow” (41). His real emotions towards her start rising out when he sees that she can really take care of him by which he was injured terribly. Henry suddenly begins to be more aware of other people rather than just himself and it leads towards a step forward in his persona.
The termination of Henry’s transformation leads into the last words of the novel, he has come to love his Catherine but sees the world as someone that kills with no question. Everything Henry does now revolves around Catherine. His love for her grows as when he is away at the front lines. His uniform is now star-less because he wants nothing to do with war, the faded part of his uniform showed the stars had been removed. He then comes across charming people that not only offer him shelter, but also clothing. “There’s a closet. Take anything you want. My dear fellow, you don’t want to buy clothes” (242) but Henry responds that he would much rather pay for the clothes. Henry’s actions are now more powerful and also shows us that he has more responsibility in him, something that he really did not know how to do at the starting point of the novel.
Being away from Catherine improves his ability to take action and make him into a better person that he can be. But later his dreams of Catherine being near him are coming true and has her near. While they are together in the hotel room Henry explains to Catherine that “if people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.
If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry” (249). He tries to convince himself that he will be all right since he has escaped the war, little did he know that he was not able to escape freely, but to find out that Catherine had died with the baby they had made together. Ever since then Henry is not able to become the person he had been wanting to be. He ends up being a lonely man, with no family, that sees the world and everyone in it, against him, and nobody there to guide him any longer. Catherine’s fast death concluded his idea on having that there is life left that war took from him.
In conclusion, Ernest Hemingway shows us how war can basically destroy not only a family but also a person that is left without it. Hemingway has Frederic Henry’s character to demonstrate that there is always a need to escape from the destructiveness of war in order to keep sanity in one’s self. With Frederic Henry as Hemingway’s model, shows us that you cannot have a rainbow without a little bit of rain, which means that even though Henry was put into awful situations like death, he was able to find the person he was destined to become.