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The final chapter of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms functions as the concluding segment of the narrative (bringing the plot to a close) and as an exposition of the novel's themes.
The prose is often terse and direct, but the prose passages that appear in this chapter strike a tone that is highly emotional, bitter and almost maudlin.
In this chapter (Chapter 41), Catherine goes into labor. The child birth is prolonged and ultimately Catherine undergoes a c-section surgery to deliver the baby. The child is still-born and Catherine dies shortly after the birth. Henry witnesses Catherine's struggle during labor, receives the news that his child is dead and soon after is told that Catherine is dead as well.
The chapter features a great deal of dialog. The discussions occur mainly between Catherine and Henry and the medical staff at the hospital. The chapter also uses foreshadowing as Henry worries that Catherine will die in childbirth. Additionally, there are several reflective prose passages wherein the novel's themes are articulated.
In these passages, Henry reflects on the inevitability of suffering and the impossibility of escaping the drama and loss that characterize not only warfare but human life in general. (This is, at least, the philosophical tone taken by the text.)
In a passage just before Catherine dies, Henry realizes that the baby may have died before the birth. He had not felt the baby kick in the week before the birth.
"Maybe he was choked all the time. Poor little kid. I wished the hell I'd been choked like that. No I didn't. Still there would not be all this dying to go through. Now Catherine would die. That was what you did. You died. You did not know what it was about. You never had time to learn."
Coming as the closing comments on a narrative that depicted an earnest attempt to flee the suffering of war and to take shelter in a love affair, this passage and the others in the final chapter offer a rather fully developed expression of the novel's thematic center. While people can survive hardship and overcome mental illness, there is no way to stop being vulnerable.
No amount of love or confidence can remake the world, which A Farewell to Arms depicts as a place of friendship and loss, charm and horror.
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