What is the climax in a A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The climax, or high point of interest of suspense, in Hemingway's novel is the point at which Frederic Henry says his "farewell to arms" by deserting. Ironically, in Chapter XXIX, when the ambulances get stuck in mud, two soldiers who were riding with them refuse to put brush under the wheels and take off down the road. Henry shoots at one of the deserters, and the other escapes through the brush.  Henry, Piani, and Aymo, and Bonello head down the road. As they do so, they spot German soldiers, so they duck out of sight. However, Bonello becomes unnerved and is taken prisoner by the Germans. The other men tell Henry that they never believed in the war, anyway.

There is much confusion in the daylight as Piani and Henry makes their way to the bridge over the Tagliamento river. At the far end of the bridge there are officers and carabinieri standing on both sides. Henry tries to fight them, but the battle police grab him; because he speaks Italian with an accent, they assume he is German. Henry observes that these police shoot one man while they question another. He knows, too, that he is doomed.

The questioners had that beautiful detachment and devotion to stern justice of men dealing in death without being in any danger of it.

When he sees that no one is looking at him, Henry ducks and runs between two men; he dives into the river and grabs some floating timber and rides down river on the swift current. He is being shot at as he floats along. But, finally, he gets onto land and grabs on to the handles of one train car as it passes. In Chapter XXXIV, Henry says, "I feel like a criminal; I've deserted from the army."

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A Farewell to Arms

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