Farewell to Arms
332 pages Reprint
edition (June 1995)
As a youth of 18, Ernest Hemingway was eager to fight
in the Great War. Poor vision kept him out of the army, so
he joined the ambulance corps instead and was sent to France.
Then he transferred to Italy where he became the first American
wounded in that country during World War I. Hemingway came
out of the European battlefields with a medal for valor and
a wealth of experience that he would, 10 years later, spin
into literary gold with A Farewell to Arms. This is
the story of Lieutenant Henry, an American, and Catherine
Barkley, a British nurse. The two meet in Italy, and almost
immediately Hemingway sets up the central tension of the novel:
the tenuous nature of love in a time of war. During their
first encounter, Catherine tells Henry about her fiancé
of eight years who had been killed the year before in the
Somme. Explaining why she hadn't married him, she says she
was afraid marriage would be bad for him, then admits:
I wanted to do something for him. You see, I didn't
care about the other thing and he could have had it all. He
could have had anything he wanted if I would have known. I
would have married him or anything. I know all about it now.
But then he wanted to go to war and I didn't know.
The two begin an affair, with Henry quite convinced that he
"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." Soon enough, however, the game turns serious
for both of them and ultimately Henry ends up deserting to be
Hemingway was not known for either unbridled optimism or
happy endings, and A Farewell to Arms, like his other
Whom the Bell Tolls, The
Sun Also Rises, and To
Have and Have Not), offers neither. What it does
provide is an unblinking portrayal of men and women behaving
with grace under pressure, both physical and psychological,
and somehow finding the courage to go on in the face of certain
loss. --Alix Wilber
September 29, 1929
Love and War in the Pages of Mr. Hemingway
By PERCY HUTCHISON
As in "The Sun Also Rises," Ernest Hemingway lays the scene of
his new novel in Europe. But, unlike the earlier novel, he is not
concerned with the aftermath of the war, but with certain years
and phases of the war itself. Consequently, "A Farewell to Arms,"
if it is to be given classification, belongs to the rapidly crowding
shelf of war novels. Later literary historians will doubtless concern
themselves with these novels as a group; will view them as a group
phenomenon. They will dissect the several specimens, and point out
differences and similarities. It is too early for this, and even
if it could be of interest, it lies beyond the scope of contemporary
review. Suffice it to say, however, that Mr. Hemingway has concerned
himself with a phase of the war not yet much used, the collapse
of the Italian front in 1917, and that, in consequence, so far as
his novel is to be regarded solely as a war book, it has the freshness
of depiction in a new field. [read
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Influence on Hemingway's Writing