Throughout the semi-autobiographical novel, A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, the main character faces the horror of World War I. Frederic Henry is an American ambulance driver assigned to the Italian army. While out with his Italian comrade, Rinaldi, Henry meets Miss Catherine Barkley, an English nurse who just recently lost her fiancé in the war. She becomes drawn to Henry - and Henry to her. Soon after their meeting, Henry must go back to the chaos of war. While back on the battle field, an attack is planned on his post and Henry is wounded in the hit. He wishes for his fellow men to help the others wounded, but his request is ignored and he is taken to safety.
After his examinations of his wounds, he is sent to a hospital far away from the chaos, and far from Miss Barkley. During his painful journey to the hospital he begins his healing process. Later, Miss Barkley arrives to assist the hospital due to staff issues and her interest in Henry. They continue their love affair and become as close as ever. He parades around like an ordinary civilian, doing what normal people of his time do without worrying about the chaos that continues miles away. When the time comes for Henry to announce that he must return to his duties and to the war, Miss Barkley tells him that she is three months pregnant. Worried about the responsibilities of war and parenthood, Miss Barkley tells him to go and that she will be waiting on his return.
When he returns to the war, Henry finds out that the enemy had broken throught the front and Henry’s unit must retreat. During the retreat, his fellow officers tell him to stay behind and gather everyone and everything that they possibly could need and to head safety. He agrees to the leadership role which, he is assigned, though not ready to take. The unit continues their journey to safety after gathering all that they could. Though not taken seriously by a few of the men, Henry is forced to take control and kill a deserter who sought safety from the never-ending war. Later, while traveling, he is captured by the military police and is due to be executed. After hearing the name and rank of a fellow officer and the charges against him, he runs away and escapes by jumping into a river below.
After finding safety, he returns to his precious Miss Catherine Barkley. The couple flees to Switzerland and proceeds to lead common, normal lives as they await for their baby’s arrival. Miss Barkley goes into labor. After a long and painful process, they find that their son was stillborn and with the hours that passed, the life of Miss Barkley went with it. She dies of hemorrhaging and Henry is left alone. He returns to the hospital without his lover or his child… he loses everything.
Why read A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway?...
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is a great book to read because it gives the readers some insight on a war that we only study in a classroom. It allows you to gain a perspective from a man who actually lived the war itself, due to Hemingway’s firsthand experience in the ‘war to end all wars.’ Hemingway, too, was an American ambulance driver assigned to an Italian army and fell in love with an English nurse. The novel is full of drama, humor and realities that leaves the reader wanting more.
Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. & Row, 1929.