Hemingway sets the tone of the novel in the very first chapter. Hemingway’s style is direct and focuses mainly on concrete details and facts, which contributes to the overall tone of the novel. Hemingway does not glorify or romanticize war with dramatic descriptions and patriotic imagery. He also does not dramatize the horror of war. Instead, he presents the reader with the facts, which often speak for themselves. For example, the narrator tells us that “in the end only seven thousand died” of a cholera outbreak in the army. To him, this is a fact, and he is not shocked by it, hence the use of the word “only.” However, to the reader, this fact is horrifying and shocking. Hemingway’s writing style therefore prepares the reader for a novel that will be stark and sober in tone.
Additionally, Hemingway’s matter-of-fact style sets a tone of boredom from the beginning. One of Hemingway’s intentions in writing this novel was to show how boring and static war often was. When the men weren’t fighting on the front lines, they often had nothing to do and so did a lot of waiting around. This novel looks at what happens in the daily, often mundane, lives of soldiers. Much of the first chapter comprises of detailed, lengthy descriptions of the landscape. For example, in this passage, special attention is given on the pebbles in the river:
In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels.
If a reader came to this novel expecting an action-filled story about warfare and fighting, they would be disappointed. A Farewell To Arms is instead realistic, stark, and truthful.