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“A FAREWELL TO ARMS” Presents a pessimistic outlook

“A FAREWELL TO ARMS” Presents a pessimistic outlook

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Published by Kiran.A.K.L

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Published by: Kiran.A.K.L on Jun 03, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The World War I was a great catastrophe, in which 31 countries and 1.5 billionofficers and soldiers were involved, 8.5 million of them died, 22 million woundedand more than 12.6 million common people died in the war. That the war lastedfor 51 months led to more than 338 billion dollars economic cost . Writers allover the world condemned this injustice imperialism war.
 A farewell to Arms
, bylively and vivid image and terse and refined language, again showed up thatofficers and soldiers were tired of war. Therefore, this novel came to be one of representative works of the antiwar stream.
Hemingway, and indeed many of his existential peers, believed that the universeis unordered one. There is no God to watch over man, to dictate codes of morality, or to ensure justice. Instead, the universe is indifferent, sometimes evenhostile, to man’s plight. In the book, this indifference is best exemplified by thewar, an ultimately futile struggle of man against man. There are no winners in awar, and there is no reasoning behind the lives which are taken.What’s more, Hemingway thinks that the war destroys the human being’s most precious thing love. It led that those who wanted to love were impossible tolove. Although the war had been over, the results of the conflict still continued toaffect people’s soul and affection. This novel directly describes people and eventsin the war, and shows the damaging of war for mankind through the descriptionof Henry and Catherine especially.
There is obvious autobiographical origin in the novel. Like the hero, LieutenantHenry, Hemingway himself served in the Italian army and was badly wounded inthe legs. Having experienced personally the cruelty of the war, he returned homehopelessly. By and by he developed a pessimistic view towards life for a periodof time. He was very much disillusioned by the war. He saw the society, hereturned, to as one whose value seemed artificial and hollow.
To begin with, in A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway presents us a world of violence, despair and depression, a world of self-infliction and vanity, a world of chaos and inhumanity. Such a world produces a disillusioned society, a tragicworld. Thematically speaking, there are three cycles: the seasonal cycle of land,the seasonal cycle of the war, and the seasonal cycle of love. The developmentof the three cycles finally proves to end with nothing. The ending of the novel,with the death of the heroine and her baby in the hospital and the hero’s lonelyreturn to his hotel room, clearly gives a pessimistic outlook to the novel.Technically, most of the big events or scenes in the novel are playing symbolicfunction in the novel. Hemingway’s famous “ice-berg” theory is also very wellemployed in the novel.Besides, in A Farewell to Arms motifs are images, objects or situations that keepreoccurring throughout the story, and symbolism deals with metaphoricsubstitution. A Farewell to Arms is strongly saturated in images of nature, manyof which serve as recurring motifs throughout the work. Most of them can befound in the first chapter, where Hemingway opposes image of harvest and lifeagainst those of death, and this opposition reoccurs in many places throughout thenovel. Perhaps the two most impressive symbols in this work are rain and mud.It is raining outside almost every time something bad occurs, such as the army’s
retreat or Catherine’s death, and serves to mark these events as randomoccurrences, just like rain itself. Similarly, the mud serves as an obstacle to thearmy in both offensive and retreat, thus demonstrating nature’s hostility to man.Both of these are beneficial in creating an air of pessimism in this novel.
 But we were never lonely and never afraid when we were together. I knowthat the night is not the same as the day: that all things are different, that thethings of the night cannot be explained in the day, because they do not thenexist, and the night can be a dreadful time for lonely people once their loneliness has started. But with Catherine there was almost no difference in thenight except that it was an even better time. If people bring so much courage tothis 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 kill. It kills the very good and the very gentleand 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.
[ “ A Farewell To Arms ” Chapter # 34 ]He escapes from the battle, as himself says, however, he can not completelyescape from death; the end of this novel testifies this point. But Henry seems toknow the inevitableness of death and hardship, even before
death. Histhought distracts from satisfaction to pessimism, which seems to reflect the greatlove will be neutralized by the grim reality of life. Indeed, from this point on,
seem to escape from a force of death that will catch upwith them.
I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with themeat except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same

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