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Clearly, the theme of futility, as in so much of Hemmingway's fiction, dominates this excellent novel. It is important to realise how futility and the presentation of war are inextricably intertwined, as the war forms the backdrop against which the action in the novel occurs. War is depicted as showing the futility of life in the very real way in which its violence, chaos and anarchy are portrayed from the perspective of an ambulance driver. One of the most important scenes in the entire novel is of course the Italian retreat in which the disintegration of the tidy and ordered columns of men is paralleled by the loss of reason of the soldiers, as they realise the true futility of their lives and action. The novel, in a sense, is about characters struggling to find some sense of meaning in a universe that is shown again and again to be characterised by nothing more than chaos and violence. War in this novel is shown to be the inevitable by-product of a world that is without logic and just plain cruel. A world in which true love is not recognised or protected is therefore doomed to the kind of futility and violence displayed in this novel.
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