A Farewell to Arms
Frederic Henry, an American lieutenant in the Italian ambulance service, and Catherine Barkley, an English nurse, fall in love while he is in the hospital recuperating from war wounds. The terrible waste of war has made Henry wary and sparing of his feelings, but the tough and bright Catherine appeals to his thoroughly unsentimental side. What he admires is what she does, not what she says; as he puts it, he likes the way she moves.
Behind Henry’s attraction to Catherine is his disgust with words--or with the great abstractions that President Wilson used when he proclaimed that America was fighting to save the world for democracy. For her part, Catherine is drawn to Henry’s steadiness and lack of cant. He does not deal with her deceptively and would not use a word such as love lightly.
The plot follows the development of their love in conversations that are remarkable examples of understatement. The crisp, economical dialogue is a brilliant counterpoint to the profligate expenditure of life in the war scenes--although even in the war episodes the author describes battles and landscapes with extraordinary lucidity and a thrifty use of language.
Without using the “big words,” Hemingway is able to make his characters’ love affair symbolic of an attitude, a philosophy of life. It is a bitter vision of existence; the novel ends with Catherine dying in childbirth and their baby, a son, stillborn. His desperate prayers...
(The entire section is 443 words.)
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