In A Farewell to Arms, what is Lt. Henry's job in the Italian army and how does he treat the men under his command?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Frederic Henry serves as an officer in the Italian army, stationed near the Italian front in World War I. He is in charge of a fleet of ten ambulances that pick up the wounded, remove them from the battlefield, and bring them to a field hospital. As part of his duties, he supervises the mechanics who keep the ambulances in good running condition. Frederic is diligent and very professional in carrying out his responsibilities as an officer. He makes sure his men have what they need to keep the ambulances running, and he plans ahead when he knows his ambulance unit will be going to the front. In Chapter V, Frederic visits the site of an imminent battle to make sure his ambulances will be able to remove the wounded, and while there, he locates "a place where the cars would be sheltered."

In relation to his men, Frederic Henry looks after them with just as much diligence. A short while before he is wounded, Frederic leaves the safety of a dugout to find food for them; after he obtains some cheese and pasta, he exposes himself to enemy shelling to take them back to his men. The scene in which Frederic returns with the food illustrates the mutual respect and personal regard that exist between Frederic and his men. When one of his men tells Frederic to eat first, Frederic declines. He says to put the bowl of macaroni on the floor and they will all eat. Even after the bowl is placed on the floor, however, Frederic's men wait for him to eat first.

The conversation between Frederic and his men during this scene shows the easy, familiar relationship that exists between them. When he first hands over the food, Frederic banters, "Here, you patriots." When one of his men asks if he had been "scared" [when he left the dugout], Frederic replies, "You're damned right." Frederic does not pull rank with the men who serve under his command.


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