Is there any symbolism in A Farewell to Arms?

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amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

YES!  Even though the novels structure and irony is in the forefront of most critical examination of this novel, it certainly contains symbolism.  Here are two:

Rain is a frequent symbol in literature and is often used to foreshadow some type of bad luck or even doom.  It rains when Henry travels, showing his journey through misfortune.  It rains during the cholera outbreak and it rains when his fiance and the baby die.  For Henry, rain is perpetual and symbolizes misfortune and death.

Stars are a symbol of achievement and status in the military.  They are physical representations of Henry's pride in himself and his confidence in those around him.  He is pleased and comforted that his surgeon has several stars on his uniform.  However, he removes his own stars from his own uniform when he deserts the military.  This removal represents his loss of pride and confidence in himself and in his own cause.

There are other examples of symbolism, but these two should get you started and give you direction as you continue to study the novel.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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