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In A Farewell to Arms, did "the nature of love" help Frederic Henry survive at the end...

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fager | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted May 14, 2011 at 5:25 AM via web

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In A Farewell to Arms, did "the nature of love" help Frederic Henry survive at the end of the novel?

What I mean by the nature of love is his relationship with Catherine Barkley, the love she has given to him.

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

Posted May 14, 2011 at 7:06 AM (Answer #1)

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The novel's conclusion is truly heart wrenching. Frederic waits and watches helplessly as Catherine suffers in childbirth, and then he experiences the death of their baby and finally, Catherine's death. In his desperation and despair, he prays, but his prayers do not save her. Frederic stays with Catherine until she dies, and then demands time alone with her to say goodbye:

But after I had got them [two nurses] out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn't any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.

And with this passage the novel ends. It could be interpreted that love enables Frederic to stay by Catherine's side throughout her suffering and even after her death, even though doing so causes him the most intense emotional and spiritual anguish. He "survives" this experience in that he goes through it with her until it is over.

Whether her love will help him survive the days to come is a question left unanswered. The last we see of Frederic is his walking away in the rain, alone. It is a picture of utter loneliness. The novel, however, has developed themes of personal courage and endurance in the face of life's cruelty. We are left with the feeling that Frederic will endure the pain of Catherine's death and will live with her loss. Remembering the love they shared may bring him comfort, but it could also remind him of all he has lost. Most likely, it will do both.

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