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Reading Log A Farewell To Arms English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 4539 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Lieutenant Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver working for the Italian army during WWI begins his story describing the seasons in the town. He then moves to a house in a nice town called Gorizia. At dinner one night the captain is making fun of the priest for not having girls while others denounce religion. They tell Henry that he should go on a leave and travel around Italy. When Henry returns to the town after his leave, his roommate Rinaldi tells him about an English nurse he is in love with. The next day, Rinaldi takes him to go meet the nurse, Catherine Barkley. Rinaldi talks to the other nurse, Helen Ferguson while Catherine and Henry talk about her fiancé who died. Rinaldi says that Catherine prefers Henry to him. Henry and Catherine's relationship build and although both realize that they would be leading strange lives together. While up in the river waiting for an attack, he gets bombed and wounded. He is taken to a field hospital where Rinaldi and the priest visit him. Days later, he goes to an American hospital in Milan.

Key quotations/passages and analysis:

"Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and the leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves" (3).

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Throughout the opening of the novel, there is a consistent motif of nature and leaves. Through the description of the leaves, the reader is taken through the different seasons of the year. The tone of the repetition used creates a mundane mood where over the passage of the seasons there no significant event takes place. This atmosphere contrasts with the usual stereotypes of a war zone to be relatively peaceful and static with the only indication of war being the soldiers marching. The usual war motifs of blood and violence are absent and this absence is offset with the discussion of nature with the trees that are described as dusty with the connotation of being not commonly passed by. The dust stirred by the passing by of the soldiers implies that the road is usually not used by the army which adds to the still atmosphere. This description of the soldiers passing and the stillness before and after the incident could be symbolic of the war as a whole, where battles are sandwiched by empty periods.

"I knew I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards. Like bridge you had to pretend you were playing for money or playing for some stakes. Nobody had mentioned what the stakes were. It was alright with me" (30-31).

The callous stereotype of soldiers is demonstrated in the straightforward statement about love. Like most of the other officers, Henry looks more for lust than for love. Rather than trying to maintain a relationship, they turn to whorehouses. Henry describes his meeting with Catherine mostly as admiring her for her beauty. Although he tries to develop some sort of relationship with her, it is mostly out of lust and he has no intention of marrying her. However, the metaphor of the game emphasizes that he is fully aware of the fact he does not love her and only wanted her for physical lust rather than emotional love. He states that he is not aware of what the stakes were but he does not deny that they are present and he didn't pay much attention to them. Because he was not serious of the relationship and because most of his experiences were relatively short term, he does not worry about the consequences of this fling. He may realize that Catherine is putting a lot more into their relationship than he wants but he is not overly concerned about hurting her feelings or anything else besides using her to fulfill his sexual desires which is why he consciously lies to her about loving her.

"'What you tell me about in the nights. That is not love. That is passion and lust. When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.' 'I do not love' 'You will. I know you will. Then you will be happy'" (72).

This quote was taken from a conversation between the priest and Henry. When talking about the priest's love for God, Henry mentions that he doesn't love much. The priest defines and differentiates love in simple but powerful language. The repetition in the sentence structure and diction of the short sentences put extra emphasis on the statements. Though Henry is stubborn in his belief that he does not love, the priest senses that Henry needs to love and confidently promises him that he will learn to love. This is also foreshadowing the rest of the story as Henry will learn to love Catherine and like the priest predicts, be happy. This quote also serves as a simplified metaphor for Henry's life. Beginning with lust, Henry eventually loves and is happy and is emotionally attached enough to wish to sacrifice for and ultimately be heartbroken. The theme of love is illustrated not only through Henry's relationship with Catherine but also with external and internal examination of the quality and characterization of love.

Entry #2: Book Two

Pages 81 to 159

Brief summary:

Henry arrives in Milan and is sent to an American hospital. The next day, Catherine comes and Henry realizes that he loves her. He convinces her to have sex with him. The next day, doctors are discussing his condition and, wanting to be treated sooner. Henry talks to another surgeon who agrees to operate on him the next day. Throughout the summer, the couple enjoys life together. Henry wants to marry her, but Catherine believes that they practically are married and that official marriage would separate them. The war worsens but their relationship remains strong as they go to horse races and on dates. Henry receives notice that he has to go to the front soon and Catherine reveals that she is pregnant, but this does not ruin their relationship. Henry gets sick with jaundice but is accused by the nurse of it being self-inflicted. Henry leaves on a train after spending one last moment with Catherine in a hotel room.

Key quotations/passages and analysis:

"You'll die then. Fight or die. That's what people do. They don't marry." (108).

This quote speaks out for the state of mind people have of love during wartime. When Catherine and Henry mentioned marriage, Helen was not optimistic about the prospects. The contrasting motifs of war and love are characteristically incompatible and during war time Helen points out in a doubtful tone that for most people it was more likely that a couple fight and break up or die in the war than continue a successful relationship. The simplistic and straightforward way that Henry and Catherine approach love and marriage is put into prospective of the time period that the story is set in. The direct message discourages the hopeful and rather blind lovers who in their earnest passion forget to be practical.

"I'm afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it… And sometimes I see you dead in it" (126).

This quote was said by Catherine while talking on the balcony with Henry. She questions him on whether he would always love her despite the rain and says this quote as an explanation for her fears. She claims earlier in the passage that rain is "hard on love". Perhaps due to her prior experiences with wartime relationships, death haunts her happiness and love. This exposed confession creates a sense of depth in the character of Catherine who for the most part had been troubled but consistent in her willingness to love. She worked hard at loving but for the first time admitted her doubts and fears about having faith in love. In the rain she sees the death of their relationship whether it is if they are apart or if Henry dies from war. When she says that she sees herself dead in it, it could also be taken more figuratively where her faith in love is dead or her hope is dead or her motivation to live has died. Either way this quote demonstrates the fragility and rawness of the character Catherine and of love during war.

"He knew a great deal about cowards but nothing about the brave. The brave dies perhaps two thousand deaths if he's intelligent. He simply doesn't mention them" (140).

This quote was said by Catherine in response to Henry saying that a coward dies a thousand times but the brave only dies once. They are having a conversation about courage and cowardliness after Catherine reveals that she is pregnant. The quote mentioned by Henry is taken from the Shakespearean tragedy Julius Caesar. This allusion is foreboding because it is tinged with a note of death. In the tragedy, this quote is taken from near the end of the play before Caesar dies. However this ominous mood is somewhat taken away by Catherine's contrasting belief. She claims that this quote may have been said by a coward as he seems to know much about him. She also hints that the brave endure but never complain like a coward would, therefore even if they met two thousand deaths they wouldn't mention them. This optimistic response shows the naïve but strong courage Catherine has to love for all the consequences she meets.

"'I'm like a ball player that bats two hundred and thirty and knows he's no better.' 'What is a ball-player that bats two hundred and thirty? It's awfully impressive.' 'It's not. It means a mediocre hitter in baseball.' 'But still a hitter'" (140).

This is an excerpt from the same conversation about courage. Henry sees courage in Catherine but claims that he knows surely he is not, making the analogy to a mediocre baseball player. However, Catherine again shows her optimism in the distressing situation and encourages Henry that he is good enough for her and he is still better than average, continuing in the analogy. Through this interaction readers can also learn more about the personalities of the characters. Henry analyzes himself in a impartial manner and does not believe himself to be any more than he is. Catherine cheerfully makes the best of any situation, perhaps a result of her prior experiences, and she uses this optimism to encourage Henry, her character being associated with bright happiness and gentle love, which could symbolically be represented by a warm golden sun which is shown through her hair, which Henry loves. This portion of the book really develops the character of Catherine and reveals to readers the layers of strength and of doubt laying beneath her slightly crazy loveliness previously described by Henry.

Entry #3:

Pages 163 to 233

Brief summary:

A discouraged Henry reluctantly returns to Gorizia where he is reunited with Rinaldi and the priest. He is dispirited by the war and being away from Catherine. The next day, Henry goes to the mountains. After a bombardment and a retreat of the Italian army, Henry and other drivers drive the wounded to a nearby hospital which is found deserted and they continue to Pordenone. Henry and three other drivers are stuck in traffic at a column during the rainy night and Henry decides to lead them to a side road. After continuing on side roads, an ambulance gets stuck in the mud. When two sergeants walk off refusing to help, Henry shoots them, but one escapes. They all go on one car but that car eventually gets stuck too so they continue on foot. They run into German officers who shoot and kill Aymo. Henry and Piani hide in a farmhouse, but Bonello leaves. The next day, Henry is interrogated and accused of being a German in Italian uniform, but he escapes death by jumping in a river. After getting back to shore, Henry jumps onto a train; there he contemplates his new situation.

Key quotations/passages and analysis:

"I killed him. I never killed anybody in this war, and all my life I've wanted to kill a sergeant." (207).

This quote is very ironic in that the one significant incident of a killing and death in this wartime novel is of a soldier on the same side and occurs during the retreat of the war. In the story, Henry is an ambulance driver rather than a soldier who has many confrontations with the bloodiness in killing and death. This quote was said by Bonello, a fellow ambulance driver after he finishes off the sergeant wounded by Henry. At a time of stress related to the war in an unconventional way, Henry shoots at two sergeants who defy his orders to help get the ambulance out of the mud. This rather decisive and spontaneous decision contrasts with the slow retreat and unexpected as the war was in decline. The overreaction could also represent anger, resentment and aggravated moods of the drivers let out. The blunt tone also emphasizes a lack of reason as well as a lack of regard and emotion usually attached to killing exchanged with enthusiasm and pride.

"[Anger was washed away in the river along with any obligation. Although that ceased when the carabiniere put his hands on my collar. I would like to have had the uniform off although I did not care much about the outward forms. I had taken off the stars, but that was for convenience. It was no point of honor. I was not against them. I was through. I wished them all the luck. There were the good ones, and the brave ones, and the calm ones and the sensible ones, and they deserved it.] But it was not my show any more and I wished this bloody train would get to Mestre and I would eat and stop thinking. I would have to stop." (232).

This quote was taken from when Henry was in the train thinking about his situation and contemplating his feelings. After being accused and almost executed for being an Austrian soldier in Italian uniform, Henry wants to separate himself as much as possible from the war regardless of any consequences he might face for leaving. Usually somewhat interested in the happenings of the war, he realizes that he no longer cares and recognizes that his part in the war and that chapter of his life is over. He clearly states that he still supports them, wishing them luck, but his personal participation is through and "it was not [his] show any more". This quote signifies a transition from a soldier of a war to an individual focusing on personal life. The aspects and achievements of life as an officer he symbolically washes away both through his time in the river and when he cuts off the stars on his uniform. He also mentions in the passage that he wishes there were other clothes he could change into. Voluntarily and consciously moving away from life in the army, Henry shifts to a new life with Catherine, beginning in Book 4.

"…you loved some one else whom now you knew was not even pretended to be there; you seeing now very clearly and coldly-not so coldly as emptily." (232).

For the most part being the stoic and stubborn soldier, Henry had insisted that he did not and would not love. However, upon seeing Catherine in the hospital after being wounded, Henry realized that he was in love although he was still unsure. By this time in the story it is clear and Henry knows that he is in love with Catherine and the words of the priest were true. Henry feels the aching pain of being separated from a loved one and describes this feeling with sharp and simple words. With this feeling of heartache comes the feeling of losing a part of him by being away from the war while missing a part of him by being away from Catherine. These two dominating aspects of his life being away from him, Henry feels empty and lost, on one end knowing that he must go to Catherine, on the other hand not knowing what to do to fill all the emptiness left by leaving the life he has lived for the past few years. This quote really verbalizes Henry's emotions at the time between his two lives one mainly of war and the other mainly of love.

Entry #4:

Pages 237 to 285

Brief summary:

Getting off of the train at Milan, Henry eats meets with an acquaintance Simmons who gives him regular clothing and tells him how to get to Switzerland. He rides a train to Stresa where he settles in at a hotel and talks to the bartender, Emilio, who he is acquainted with before going to another hotel to find Catherine and Helen. Catherine and Henry spend the night together. The next day, Henry goes fishing with the bartender, eats lunch with Catherine and Helen and then plays billiards with Count Greffi. At night Henry wakes up to knocking. Emilio is at the door telling Henry to escape to Switzerland with his boat. Catherine and Henry pack and they row away into the storm. Henry rows in the dark and they are careful avoiding police. By daytime, they reach Switzerland and eat breakfast. However, they are arrested after breakfast. Henry lies about them being cousins studying in Italy who came by boat as a sport, and once the police realizes how much money they have on them, sends them to Locarno where they obtain provisional visas and an official recommended they go to Montreux, and they go to a hotel there.

Key quotations/passages and analysis:

"I had the paper but I did not read it because I did not want to read about the war. I was going to forget the war. I had made a separate peace." (243)

This quote recalls Henry's personal retreat from the war. In the chapters before, especially when in the hospital, Henry always wanted information about the war, paying the porter to bring him the paper. Now, he transitions into a new chapter of his life outside of the war and he emphasizes the permanence of this decision by vowing to forget about the war. He says that he has "made a separate peace". This statement also illustrates the dynamic character of Henry where he moves from wanting to be a part of the war and being stereotypically motivated by warfare to being more calm, wanting to be away from the war and being peaceful. The motifs of peace and war provide contrasting aspects of the story and overall define the two major parts of his life told in the story.

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"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).

In this quote, Henry is spending his first night with Catherine in a hotel in Stresa. This quote voices his new attitude toward life after going away from the war and finally being reunited with Catherine. Taking a rather pessimistic view on life, Henry contemplates that no matter how good or bad you are, everyone ends up with the same fate. He ponders that the better you are the faster you meet that fate. Perhaps this view of the world is a result of the difficulties Henry has faced in his own life and because he is not religious. Taken out of context, this quote can be seen as a universal theme which characterizes wartime emotions. Henry talks about courage as not a good thing, but a catalyst for self destruction and courage shields one from being broken by hardships but nothing can shield them from death. When people learn to be strong after meeting hardships, also usually having a positive connotation, Henry says are also met with death. The weak and cowardly, usually met with bad endings in stories, he acknowledges their death too, but gives them a more positive outcome than the brave.

"'I had always expected to become very devout. All my family died devout. But somehow it does not come' 'It's too early' 'Maybe it is too late. Perhaps I have outlived my religious feeling' 'My own comes only at night' 'Then too you are in love. Do not forget that is a religious feeling.'" (263).

This is a selection from the passage where Henry is talking to Count Greffi after they play billiards. Count Greffi, who is very old, asks Henry to pray for him once he dies if he ever becomes religious. The count mentions that people usually become more devout as they grow older and how he has never met that. Throughout this book, there has been a substantial lack in religious fervor and rather, besides the priest, most of the characters in the story were openly unreligious. The only "religious feeling" Henry experiences is love, which he only began to experience recently. The idea that love is a religious feeling could mean that love, like religion, involves believing in someone other than oneself and devoting yourself to someone. This quote also relates back to the priests words of wisdom on love back when Henry asked the priest if he loves God. This repetition emphasizes a different Henry, one that loves, and love being a religious feeling, a more religious Henry almost seen as a foreshadowing of Henry becoming devout later in his life as the Count had talked about.

Entry #5:

Pages 289 to 332

Brief summary:

Henry and Catherine stay in a lodge on a mountain near Montreux and enjoy spending time alone with each other. Henry wants to get married but Catherine doesn't want to while she is pregnant. They live a quiet life through the winter. As the due date comes near, they move to a hotel near a hospital in Lausanne. When Catherine gets contractions, they go to the hospital and Henry waits by her side until Catherine tells him to go get breakfast as she goes through labor. Catherine believes that she can be brave and go through the delivery smoothly and safely. Henry does not like the idea of having a third party in his life but accepts it, worrying about Catherine's safety as she is still in labor in the afternoon. Catherine has a C-section and when Henry visits her in the operation room, she looks like she is almost dead. The nurse tells him that the baby boy was strangled by the umbilical cord. Henry eats dinner and then returns to find that Catherine has a dangerous hemorrhage threatening her life. Henry stays with her until she dies and then walks back to the hotel in the rain.

Key quotations/passages and analysis:

"When there was a good day we had a splendid time and we never had a bad time. We knew the baby was very close now and it gave us both a feeling as though something were hurrying us and we could not lose any time together." (311).

This quote ironically foreshadows the ending of the book. The feeling of not wanting to lose their time together due to having a baby brought into their lives is ironic because in the end of the story, their time together has ended but due to death. Rather than an addition in the family, Catherine dies in childbirth and the child is born dead. If he were religious, looking back at this part of his life, Henry might think that God was telling them to make the most of their lives and cherish what time they spend together.

"And this was the price you paid for sleeping together. This was the end of the trap. This was what people got for loving each other. Thank God for gas, anyway. What must it have been like before there were anesthetics? Once it started, they were in the mill-race…She was not awfully uncomfortable until toward the last. So now they got her in the end. You never got away with anything. Get away hell!" (320).

Again in this quote, readers can sense the repetitive pessimism seen the quote from Book 4 about how the world kills you. The bitter tone and rambling diction creates a sense of instability and desperation. Henry antagonizes the situation and the world who he blames by making his part seem overly innocent: all they did was love each other. The ruthlessness of the world and inevitability of the end contrasted with the relatively calm happiness they had experienced during Catherine's pregnancy when they lived in the mountains. Along with all the happiness that came with his realization of love comes an inevitable and cruel reality. When he accepted love he also accepted hurt. Throughout the novel, the presence of the motif of love was always counteracted with the motif of death. The two outwardly simple and raw feelings are discovered to be complex themes which contrast with the simply structured language Hemingway writes in. This quote also shows the imperfection of the character Henry while at the same time making him more accessible and more easily related to by readers.

"Now Catherine would die. That was what you did. You died. You did not know what it was about. You never had time to learn. They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base they killed you. Or they killed you gratuitously like Aymo. Or gave you the syphilis like Rinaldi. But they killed you in the end. You could count on that. Stay around and they would kill you." (327).

This quote also has the same tone. The short sentences and repetition of the word kill shows the curt frustration of Henry when thinking about the unfairness of life. The severity and aggravation in this excerpt contributes to the mood of the passage. The merciless way the world is depicted in Henry's eyes antagonizes the collective pronoun "they". It is not clear who Henry blames for the death. "They" seems to refer to an unknown force which is unidentified rather than specifying the world or God. Again the only stable and consistent thing in Henry's life, and if interpreted as a theme, in life in general is death.

"But after I got them to leave and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn't any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain." (332).

These are the last three sentences of the book. It marks the end of this chapter of his life. Just as Henry had transitioned to a new part of his life when he jumped into the river during the retreat of the war, Henry again washes away a chapter of his life this time with the rain. The rain also contributes to the gloomy and hopeless mood of the end of the story. Henry seems numb rather than grieved. The only thing that has been in his life for the past few months was just taken away from him and he says "It was like saying good-by to a statue" both meaning that there was no response and perhaps there was little emotion attached to it since he is still in shock. The anger and insistence in being left alone with Catherine melts to a melancholy numbness that doesn't help the situation. Henry walks off back to the hotel but at the same time toward an unknown future, as the two aspects of his life throughout the novel, Catherine and the war, has been taken out of his life.

Word count: 4803

Work Cited

Hemingway, Ernest, A Farewell to Arms, New York: Scribner, 1957.


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