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War In 'A Farewell To Arms'

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2453 words Published: 11th May 2017

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Throughout the years, love has become a wide universal theme throughout literature. Many different authors portray their different views of love through different types of literature such as, Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, Tess, Wuthering Heights, and other different literary works. Ernest Hemingway portrays tragic love through his novel entitled A Farewell to Arms. The novel takes place during World War I. As the novel begins, Hemingway describes the situation in which the characters are on. An American, Frederic Henry, joins the Italian army as an ambulance driver, and falls in love with an English nurse named, Catherine Barkley. Their love is indescribable and full of destruction. Through Frederic and Catherine’s love, Hemingway is able establish the destruction caused by war and the relationship between love and pain.

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A Farewell to Arms, offers a drastic view of war. Whenever Hemingway started this novel, Frederic saw war as a normal situation in human society. He lived through it and had no problem with it. When he first met Catherine, he noticed her beauty, and felt a certain connection towards her. This connection did not represent love at first site. He saw her as a woman that would allow him to forget about the war that was taking place. Catherine saw him as the man that would help her forget her boyfriend that had passed away, but at the same time she felt an attraction towards him of love and passion.

“He was a very nice boy. He was going to marry me and he was killed in the Some.” (Hemingway, 18). Hemingway is describing the relationship of war and love. Through this novel, he is stating that war is destructive. According to Hemingway, love is destroyed through destruction and anger. Catherine has experienced a tragic love life:

“Oh darling, she said. You be good to me, wont you? What the hell, I thought. I stroked her hair and patted her shoulder. She was crying. You will, won’t you? She looked up at me. Because we’re going to have a strange life.” (Hemingway, 27).

It is understandable through this that Catherine is afraid to start a relationship. She has not been very lucky in life, and since her boyfriend died, she is scared and afraid of getting hurt once again. Catherine wants to let him know that it is important to take care of each other because of the type of life that they will live. Due to the war, their love will be full of obstacles and worries.

“Further, as the plot of A Farewell to Arms unfolds, Hemingway

produces a dichotomy where a sense of normalcy and structure is an illusion

and the reality is absurd and chaotic. Through Frederic Henry’s narration,

Hemingway illustrates the indistinct separation of what we may consider the

real as opposed to the illusory,” (Macdonald, 2). He is able to illustrate realism and illusion through the novel. Hemingway uses an incredible technique to attract the reader’s attention. Frederic is not freaked about the war, and does not see being in the war as a problem. He is not in the face of reality. Due to his unawareness that the war is chaotic and destructive, he is more affected at the end of the novel by the tragic death of his love Catherine. As the novel unfolds, Hemingway conveys that Frederic’s eyes open to the grim reality that war is destructive, and only causes chaos among each different human being.

According to Macdonald, As Robert Lewis asserts, “In Hemingway’s

fiction, one may act and strive and cope, but one is not fully human, an

authentic being, until one can see beyond appearance to essence.” (Macdonald, 2). Through this, it is being stated that one has to see beyond what is being shown and what is going on because things are not what they seem. Frederic was not aware of the dangers that a war is able to cause; he had never experienced the situation of losing a loved one before. Hemingway makes Fredric ignorant to the reality of war in order to use pragmatism.

Hemingway portrays the story through Frederic’s point of view. Through the use of pragmatism, Hemingway is able to convey the relationship between Frederic and Catherine. “Furthermore, pragmatism’s emphasis on utility also helps us to understand the bizarre moments of lying and role-playing that complicate the romance between Frederic and Catherine Barkley. Finally, while pragmatism illuminates A Farewell to Arms in particular, it is an important interpretive framework for Hemingway’s fiction in general.” (Murphy, 1).

Catherine’s relationship with Frederic is not like any other relationship. Hemingway illustrates the relationship between them as complicated and real. As they began their relationship, they knew that it was not going to be normal. Hemingway uses pragmatism to convey that their relationship is weird. They are not aware of the feelings that they feel towards each other. One thinks of the relationship differently from the other; one is more real than the other.

“There was a soldier standing with his girl in the shadow of one of the stone buttresses ahead of us and we passed them. They were standing tight up ahead of us and we passed them. They were standing tight against the stone and he had put his cape around her. “They’re like us,” I said. “Nobody is like us,” Catherine said.” (Hemingway, 147).

Even though both of the other persons of the couple are in the same situation of Frederic and Catherine, Catherine does not see it that way. She believes that their relationship is unique. Hemingway is portraying their relationship as idealized love. Through this quotation, Hemingway is able to demonstrate the characters emotions as they prepare to say their farewell. It portrays the dark and somber mood that Hemingway meant to convey through their separation. It is understandable that Catherine and Frederic have a complicated relationship, but still are able to demonstrate the love they have for each other. Whenever they walk into the hotel, Hemingway is able to prove that their love is unconditional. They try to spend the most time together before they go their separate ways. By Fredric asking a porter to save a seat for him in the train, the reader is able to see that Frederic has an indiscernible emotion towards Catherine Barkley.

As A Farewell to Arms unfolds, it is clear that Hemingway uses not just literary techniques, but also poetry:

“But at my back I always hear

Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” These lines of poetry are by Marvell. (Hemingway, 154)

By using poetry Hemingway is stating the difficulty of Frederic and Catherine’s relationship. Even though the poem is about a girl who can’t live with a man, it resembles their relationship. They are not able to have a stable life thanks to the war that is taking place. Both of them are not able to stay away from each other, but are forced to because of the war. Their love has grown from the beginning of the novel; Hemingway made their love flourish as he unfolded the plot. Through these conditions, Frederic and Catherine are determined to remain in contact trying to not feel too separated from each other. Catherine is now pregnant, but the child will not be raised under the proper conditions. The baby will be born under war times, thus foreshadowing that there will be a tragic situation. War only brings destruction. “It has been bad, the major said. You couldn’t believe how bad it’s been. I’ve often thought you were lucky to be hit when you were.” (Hemingway, 165). During these times, it is very lucky to only have been wounded because most people injured usually have a tragic death. This quote demonstrates the view that war is indeed destructive.

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“A Farewell to Arms persistently echoes Wuthering Heights in its theme and symbols, sometime even in its minutest details. The sheer number of such allusions, and the obviousness of many, suggest that they constitute deliberate signals to the reader of the underlying thrust of the book.” (Tyler, 2). Some themes of A Farewell to Arms involve the relationship of love and pain. Motifs are the masculinity of man, love versus abandonment. Symbols are rain, and Catherine’s hair. Wuthering Heights did too portray the theme of the relationship between love and pain. Heathcliff and Catherine were both in love with each other, but their love caused them suffering throughout the novel. The main characters of both novels suffered because of love. Love and pain have an extremely close relationship with each other. Hemingway makes this clear, as he describes the love that Catherine and Frederic shared. The motifs are the same as well because in both novels there was abandonment and the males were very masculine among the woman. In A Farewell to Arms, Catherine abandoned Frederic when she dies after their child had a tragic death.

The symbols of A Farewell to Arms play an important role in this novel. Hemingway illustrated Catherine’s hair as a symbol throughout the novel. It symbolized her beauty, and their isolation from the world. The hair represented some sort of wall that isolated them from the entire war. Even though the hair is so delicate, it protected them, but it also represented that they were not able to stay away from the war for too long. It represents that love can be quite delicate. “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,” (Hemingway, 311). This quotation demonstrates that the love between Catherine and Frederic was at its peak. They felt that they were going to be separated and that they were going to under a stressful situation. This foreshadowing allows the reader to understand that their love is delicate like hair. With this metaphor, the author is able to convey the true meaning of their relationship. Another symbol of this novel was the rain weather that occurred throughout the novel. Rain was prevalent as each chapter unfolded. Whenever a chapter began, Hemingway would describe the weather, and every time he described it there was always rain involved. In this novel, Hemingway portrayed rain as a symbol for destruction. Rain is the cause of most chaotic circumstances that take place. Whenever Hemingway utilizes rain, he is demonstrating that rain is able to dissolve the happiness of people. “That night there was a storm and I woke to hear the rain lashing the window panes. It was coming in the open window.” “I looked around. The room was dark. I saw the water on the floor from the window.” (Hemingway, 264). This represents the way that rain symbolizes the destruction of happiness. Through this quote, it is understood the mood that rain brings about. It brings a dark mood to the story.

“You won’t do our things with another girl, or say the same things, will you?”

“Never “

“I want you to have girls, though.”

“I don’t want them.” (Hemingway, 331).

This conversation between both of the characters represented their true feelings towards each other. Catherine showed that she truly loved him by telling him to have other girls, and Frederic was showing his love for her by responding that he only wanted her. Rain dooms both of these characters. They are not able to stay together, thus Hemingway utilizes rain to symbolize the darkness and the destruction of their love. When Catherine dies, rain is involved during the scene. “After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.” (Hemingway, 332). The rain in this scene allowed the reader to understand that the rain represented doom for both of the characters. He was in despair that he had lost his love one, thus portraying the tone as somber and tragic.

Death is the prime factor of the characters separation. This is where the destruction caused by war comes in. War is known for its destruction, and chaos. Whenever used in this novel, the author foreshadows that there will be a tragedy. The tragedy occurs whenever Frederic loses his loved one and his child. “Don’t let her die. Oh, God, please don’t let her die. I’ll do anything you say if you won’t let her die. Please, please, please don’t let her die. God please make her not die. I’ll do anything you say if you don’t let her die. You took the baby but don’t let her die. That was all but don’t let her die. Please, please, dear God, don’t let her die.” (Hemingway, 330). Hemingway illustrates the desperate feeling that Frederic was having at the moment. This quote demonstrates the emotions that Frederic was feeling at the time. He was desperate, sad, full of anxiety, and would do whatever he could to save his loved one. Death was the only thing that could separate these two lovers. Their love was strong because the war was not able to keep them apart, but separated for only a short amount of time. His love shown throughout the novel for Catherine is confirmed at this very scene. It is understandable that Frederic was deeply in love with her. Hemingway used the technique of repetition throughout this entire quote. He used the words in order to convey his emotional situation. This repetition allowed the readers to understand that Frederic was under an indescribable situation. Words were not able to describe the emotions going on in his heart.

Through her death, Hemingway was able to write an incredible tragic love story. Catherine’s death symbolized that no matter how much love one felt towards the other, was is not strong enough to survive. Hemingway is trying to demonstrate that it is worth fighting for love, but at the same time love is delicate. He is able to demonstrate that war can only bring destruction, and is the cause of the destruction of happiness. According to this novel, the relationship between love and pain is extremely close. The novel portrays that love does not only bring happiness, but is able to cause suffering and pain as well. He portrays that there is no such thing as eternal happiness. Ernest Hemingway portrayed a tragic love story that demonstrated the many characteristics of a relationship such as, love, despair, pain, and happiness through the novel entitled A Farewell to Arms.


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