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A Farewell to Arms

Man’s life is filled with trials in this world. He has been gifted with a great power of expression. He talks about these trials in his interactions with his fellow humans. Humans share the experiences and their perceptions of life through literature. Great books of literature are the books that talk about and depict human problems with artistic beauty. Literary greatness is defined by realistic description of life and the artistic beauty. Thus, literature instructs and entertains us. We understand human life and human problems through literature. There are best sellers which sellers who sell best for only a limited period of time. But, there are books which remain best sellers for generations. Talking about human problems is one of the features of such universally famous books. Such books talk about problems faced by man all over the globe. A Farewell to Arms is such a book. It is a story of human struggle. It has been liked and loved by readers of English literature for more than 80 years. Ever since its publication in 1929, the novel has strengthened Hemingway’s stature as a modern American writer. Today, Hemingway is regarded a giant in American literature. The novel appeared first in an environment of war disillusionment after the First World War. One of the themes in the novel is the hopelessness of war. War is a problem faced by man all over the globe. It was written after the First World War but it is still relevant to modern readers because we are on the brink of the Third World War. In addition, it also focuses on the doomed love of the two central characters of the novel. In order to delineate the growth of love amidst sanguinary war, Hemingway populates his novel with the following characters. Before we further talk about the story of the novel let us discuss the important characters of the novel. The Characters of the Novel

He is a brave person who gives his youth and health to war. Frederic Henry. The story delineates the war experiences of Frederic Henry on the Italian front during the First World War. Thus. he is the most important character of the novel. he is a manly man who likes women and drink. She has lost her fiancé who got killed in the Battle of the Somme. Most of the characters in the story are described in relation to Henry. an Italian physician introduces Henry to Catherine Barkley. When the story begins Rinaldi. there is character of Major who is the commanding officer in Henry’s medical unit. Therefore.2 Frederic Henry is the protagonist of the novel. is narrator of the story. His relation with Henry is that he is a roommate to Henry. They begin to spend time together. In the story. most of the characters of the novel come from Henry’s unit. Catherine manages to strike a balance between her duties as a nurse and her passion and love for Henry. The Story of the Novel The novel spans over five books. Catherine Barkley is a British nurse. there are subordinates of Henry. For instance. When Henry returns to war. Helen Ferguson is Catherine’s colleague. Catherine and Henry fall in love. he kills a sergeant . a volunteer American ambulance lieutenant. Bonello and Piani are drivers under Henry’s command. He himself is a character in the story. Aymo. He passionately loves Catherine and she gets pregnant during his stay at the hospital. It highlights the tragic love story about an American ambulance lieutenant and an English nurse. She is a perfect woman. She is nurse who is conscious of her duties as a nurse. She is originally from Scotland. When Henry gets wounded by a mortar shell and is brought to a hospital in Milan. Then there is a priest in Henry’s unit who offers spiritual advice to Henry. She does not like the relationship between Henry and Catherine. Then. He is killed by a mortar. Then. there is Rinaldi who is an Italian surgeon. Passini is another driver under Henry’s command. an English Voluntary Aid Detachment Nurse. Helen Ferguson does not like Henry.

She adds value to his empty life. He begins to see a newer side of life when he meets Catherine. they begin to live a quiet life in the mountains of Switzerland. She dies after giving birth to a dead child. The novel ends with Henry left alone. He is arrested on the grounds of treachery. But. I wished I were in Milan with her. Their peaceful life in the beautiful lush green mountains gets shattered when Catherine gets into labor. Away from the war. In the beginning he is a young man who does not really know why he joined the war. But they can escape from the war but they cannot escape the trials of life. . His wound brings him out of the action. . It shows the down to the earth approach to life of its author. The Message of the Novel This is not a philosophical novel. I wish she were here now. 1997: 40). Fearing the execution by the interrogators. Their conjugal happiness does not last long. he escapes and flees to Switzerland with Catherine and bids farewell to arms of war. The story of the novel shows the development of the character of Frederic Henry. it is not without a message for the reader. It is a novel which depicts realism. The sun was going down and the day was cooling off.3 for insubordination. She stoically undergoes the ordeals of childbirth. It is the product of a soldier. It is not a reformative novel either. Henry’s day dreaming shows that he prefers love: I could go to Spain if there was no war. we would drink the Capri and the door locked and it hot and only a sheet and the whole night and we would both love each other all night in the hot night in Milan (Hemingway . After the supper I would go and see Catherine Barkely . Here the story takes a new turn. .

But. Significance of the Title of the Novel One way of interpreting a piece of literature or a novel is to tally the content of the novel with its title. Meshram (2002) explains that ‘the title of the novel points not to the war-arms but to the loss of love-arms that Henry suffered. She is his life. It is this hope in love that helps him escape his own execution by the police. Does it bid farewell to war? Does it bid farewell to love? What is the meaning of ‘arms’: arms of Catherine or arms used in war? Tyler (2001) explains that ‘Hemingway took the novel’s title from a sixteenth-century poem by George Peele’ (59). when Catherine dies. one has to continue to live. This novel appears to end with an eternal message of patience. he does not go mad. Henry develops a stoic-like attitude to pain in life. His love for Catherine comes to the fore again when he is rowing to Switzerland. The . He During the journey. In his life Henry gains Catherine’s love. This story bids farewell to what. he takes care that she remains comfortable . When Catherine passes away leaving him alone in Switzerland. We have no way but to be patient despite all the sorrows and sacrifices that we have to make at different phases of life.4 These lines show how much passionately Henry loves Catherine. At the end of the novels. This is the Whole Truth of life and this is what the title of the story appears to point to. Critics have differed over the significance of the title of the novel. he comes to know that despite all the vicissitudes of life. He wishes that he could bid farewell to the arms of the war and go to Spain to live peacefully.

Does he bid farewell to the arms of Catherine willingly and out of his own choice. But he further explains that ‘the truth is that the title of A Farewell to Arms is a masterstroke of irony’. Catherine’s death is a death like the death of so many other people who die without their own will. The Novel as a Tragedy . Shakespeare says in one of his plays that ‘love’s logic is without logic’. At the end of the day. Death separates lovers only in literal sense. Henry says good bye to the arms of war and welcomes a world of love. Actually. It is a tragedy in its own way. Thus. the interpretations of most of the critics seem argue that the title of the novel seems to have stoic meanings and connotations. as already explained. we are left with no definite answer regarding the title of the novel. a kind of peace that is supposed to result from escape and that man has to learn to live with life and endure it. lovers continue to love each other even if one of them passes away. But.He never says farewell to her arms. It is in this sense that we have to appreciate the suggestiveness of the title of A Farewell to Arms’ (43). If we focus on the word ‘farewell’. He points out that it carries the suggestion that it is difficult for man ‘to have separate peace with life. we may argue that this word ‘farewell’ shows conscious and willing act of saying good-bye to somebody and something. Henry loves Catherine but he does not love war. learn to live with life and learn to tolerate it’ (110). One has to live loving people.5 novel finally suggests that one cannot escape the obligations created out. Shams (2002) explains that at a surface level the title seems to have to two senses: a farewell to the arms of war and a farewell to the arms of Catherine. Figuratively. by his own actions. signing a separate peace will not work and one cannot say farewell to arms. there has been much discussion on the significance of the title of the novel. Human have no choice with regard to death. Love teaches him how to patient even in case of the heaviest loss.

blunter Germanic and Anglo-Saxon words to smoother . This simple and clear style was in accordance with his own personality. longer Latinate words’. Walker (2009) argues that ‘he stripped bare the American style of the early 20the century . We have looked at various aspects of the novel. A farewell to Arms set new trends with regard to language of fiction. But it is not a pure tragedy. Since he shows real life. Niazi & Gautam (2010) argue that ‘Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is a novel that is replete with stylistic features. The Stylistic Features of the Novel Great masterpieces of art and literature set their own trends. The novel is a tragedy. story and the message. Let us have a look at its language. All these aspects of the novel are couched in the language of the novel.6 As already mentioned. This depiction of the Whole Truth of life gives a unique touch to the novel. He further points out that his writing is ‘tightly controlled’. he must follow the universal patterns and semiotic text of life and not the dictates of the great tragedians. We have looked at its characters. Dahiya (1992) observes that ‘even though A Farewell to Arms is modeled upon the structure of a tragedy. The novel too is written in characteristic simple and frank prose style of . Hemingway does not confine his book to the precincts of tragedy. When we explore the stylistic aspects of the novel . He writes in a clear style. the novel depicts realism and the Whole Truth. The lexis and syntactic structures and the way in which the tone of the events takes place lend itself to stylistic interpretation (17). it is not a pure tragedy. favoring rougher . Dahiya further explains that ‘in order that the Whole Truth may be accommodated along with the tragedy of Henry and Catherine Hemingway goes beyond tragedy and makes the plot –structure of his novel a more flexible instrument than is that of pure tragedy’(49). we come to k now that Hemingway writes in a different style.

There is another aspect to it. ‘the style fits the theme: that life after war is a dour. Early critics of the novel stressed its pragmatic picture of war. this style reflects the theme of the novel as Walker explains that ‘in a Farewell to Arms . dark . later critics appreciated its realistic writing. However. and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. It is a simple language that draws picture of war. his descriptions and dialogues were couched sometimes in vulgar but realistic language. stirred by the breeze. we may begin to understand the importance of vulgar language in the story if we see the overall scheme of things in the story. He can make his character utter the words the way in which they would not in their daily life. But the stylistic beauty of Hemingway’s writing does not stop here. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders. Critics have been squeamish about the frank language regarding sexual descriptions. Thus. falling and the soldiers marching and after-ward the road bare and the white except for the leaves (9). 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.143). irony and narrative structure. dry and white in the sun. Rao (2007) observes that being a realistic writer. ‘he did not want to romanticize the rougher aspects of life. difficult struggle (13). landscape and love. The very first page of the novel starts with imagery: In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. symbolism. Since the subject included army life. Berridge (1984) explains that Hemingway’s style varies from character to character and person to person in the . There was a time when it was banned in Boston for this reason. the way people really speak’ (p.7 Hemingway. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. In fact.

Hemingway was out there to portray life. were either housekeepers. Western society of 1929 may have been different from the Western society of 1970s when feminist movement gained momentum. Hemingway seemed to many feminist critics as the macho-male whose women . a method for spilling out on paper the inner thoughts of a character’ (20). This is what Hemingway appears to have done in A Farewell to Arms. They objected to Hemingway’s biased treatment of the character of Catherine. He did not rigidly confine his novels to the specifications of tragedy and similarly he did not write his novel with a view to comply with feminist point of view. In real life. According to these critics Catherine has been shown as a projection of male needs. cooks and button-sewers. Moreover. Writing from Frederic Henry’s point of view. Her death shows that she is a brave woman. but never thinking and feeling individuals in their own right’(145). the occasional vulgar language in the novel brings it closer to life.8 novel. Talking about these days. . He argues that ‘Hemingway’s style changes too when it reflects his characters’ changing states of mind .Therefore . Feminists have their own way of looking at things. the novel was written long before the feminist movement gained momentum. he sometime uses a modified stream of consciousness technique . Feminists’ Criticism In the early 1970s. Rao (2007) argues that ‘in the early days of feminist movement of the 1970s. she slaps Henry. Catherine is not completely submissive. This shows that she is not completely submissive. She comforts Henry even when she is dying. in life as well as in writing . feminist critics denigrated the male bias in the novel. or sexual objects. there are submissive women and there are aggressive women. Universal writers and poets rise above timely movements and focus on eternal themes. In chapter 5.

1997. wartime problems and deaths of loved ones. E. . Though it is the bleakest of all Hemingway’s novels. Ernest Hemingway's a Farewell to Arms. Hemingway. Hemingway shares his own understanding of life and we begin to see that we must not take life granted. Woodbury. Despite all the criticism of feminists and moralists. H R.9 Conclusion To conclude we can say that A Farewell to Arms is a great statement about the horrors of war. Delhi: Academic Foundation.Y: Barron's. It depicts the development of the protagonist. Print. Through the character of Henry. A man without a clear vision comes to have a vision of love in life and at the end of the novel develops stoical attitude to life. Print. it does not end with a pessimistic message. Hemingway's a Farewell to Arms: A Critical Study. N. A Farewell to Arms. It shows the stoic heroism of Henry and Catherine. Dahiya. the book continues to be a great book of literature enjoyed and appreciated by readers of English and American literature all over the world. Bhim S. New York: Scribner. 1992. Thus the book instructs and entertains us. It does not show that the world is going to the dogs. After undergoing all the hardships. it appears to be as relevant today as it was after the First World War. Since it deals with universal themes of love and war. 1984.Print. Works Cited Berridge. It is a tale of human endurance and fortitude. We should appreciate all its moments of sorrow and happiness. he comes to appreciate every moment of life.

Elsternwick. Rama. Print . 2001. New Delhi: PHI Learning Prvate Ltd. Ernest Hemingway's a Farewell to Arms: Insight Text Guide. The Novels of Ernest Hemingway: A Critical Study. & Gautam. Conn: Greenwood Press. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. G. Print. Vic: Insight Publications. Ernest Hemingway's a Farewell to Arms. N G. 2010. Print. 2007.10 Meshram. . Westport. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors. Student Companion to Ernest Hemingway. Shams. 2002. Rao P. Ross. 2002. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors. Niazi. Ishteyaque. The Fiction of Ernest Hemingway.Print. Print. 2009. Lisa.R. Tyler. How to study literature: stylistic and pragmatic approaches . Internet resource. Walker.N.