A Farewell to Arms Summary

A Farewell to Arms summary

Frederic Henry drives an ambulance in Italy during WWI. He falls in love with Catherine, a British nurse. Frederic sustains severe injuries when a mortar shell explodes over his dugout. He's taken to an Army hospital, where Catherine stays with him as he recovers from his surgery. She is pregnant with his child and wants him to go on leave. Frederic is sent back to the front, where the Americans are soon forced to retreat from the combined German and Austrian onslaught. When he tries to find Catherine, he's captured by the Germans, but manages to escape. Once reunited, Frederic and Catherine flee to neutral Swiss territory on a rowboat. There, Catherine goes into labor, but their baby arrives stillborn. Catherine suffers a hemorrhage and dies with Frederic at her side.


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Frederic Henry, the protagonist in A Farewell to Arms, is a young American in Italy serving, as Hemingway did, as an ambulance driver during World War I. He meets Catherine Barkly, newly arrived with a group of British nurses who are to set up a hospital near the front. Frederic likes Catherine, whom he visits as often as he can between ambulance trips to evacuate the wounded.

Catherine, who has recently lost her fiancé in combat, is vulnerable. Probably she feels more emotion for Frederic than he feels for her. He is about to leave for the front, where an assault is being mounted. She gives him a Saint Anthony medal, but it does not assure him the protection she hopes it will. A mortar shell explodes above Frederic’s dugout, and he is wounded, much as Hemingway himself had been. He is evacuated to a hospital in Milan.

Frederic is not the perfect patient. He keeps wine under his bed and drinks as much of it as he can get away with. By the time Catherine comes to the hospital to see him, it is he who is vulnerable, and he finds that he is in love with her. She stays with him through the surgery that his wounds necessitate; he has a happy recuperation, which Catherine nurses him through. They find restaurants that are off Milan’s beaten path and take carriage rides into the surrounding countryside. Catherine often comes to Frederic’s hospital room at night. He already knows that she is pregnant from a hotel-room encounter before he left for the front.

Frederic recovers quickly, and by October, a few months after he was first injured, he is ready to go on convalescent leave with Catherine in tow. His plans are scuttled, however, when he develops jaundice, a condition the head nurse blames on his surreptitious drinking, accusing him of doing this to avoid further service at the front. When Frederic returns to his post, his unit is ordered to take its ambulances and equipment south to the Po Valley. The Allies, hard pressed by Austrian shelling and by the knowledge that German reinforcements are joining the Austrians, are pessimistic and disheartened. Hemingway shows the unglorious aspects of war in realistic detail.

Hard-pressed by the enemy, the Americans retreat, Frederic driving an ambulance south along roads cluttered with evacuees. Rain is falling, and the whole plain along which the retreat is driving becomes a quagmire. Frederic, with two Italian sergeants he has picked up, begins to drive across open country, hoping to reach Udine at the Austrian border by that route. When his ambulance becomes stuck in the mud, Frederic tries to get the Italians to help him extricate it, but they want to flee. Frederic shoots one of them, wounding him. An Italian corpsman finishes the sergeant off, putting a bullet into his head; life is cheap when people are under this sort of pressure.

When Frederic and his friends set out on foot for Udine, they see German motorcycles ahead of them. Chaos reigns as officers pull off their insignias and people try to flee in every direction. Those whom the Germans capture are given kangaroo trials and are summarily executed. Frederic is detained, and his fate seems sealed. Under cover of night, however, he escapes and jumps into a river, where he holds onto a log. He crosses the plain on foot until he can hop a freight train for Milan, where he tries to find Catherine. Learning that the contingent of British nurses has been sent to Stresa, he makes his way there, now dressed in civilian clothing. He and Catherine reunite. Learning that the authorities plan to arrest him for desertion, Frederic borrows a rowboat, and he and Catherine use it to row all night to neutral Switzerland, where they are arrested but soon released, their passports in order and Frederic’s pockets bulging with money.

They wait out the fall in Montreux in the Swiss mountains, living happily in a small inn as Catherine’s pregnancy advances. Their situation is idyllic. When it is finally time for Catherine to deliver the baby, she has a difficult time. The child is stillborn. Frederic, exhausted, goes out to get them something to eat; when he returns, he learns that Catherine has suffered a hemorrhage. He rushes to her and stays at her side, but she dies. He walks back to his hotel room in the rain.

In this novel, Hemingway has written a tragic love story, but beyond that he has written an antiwar book, one that shows the irrationality of the kind of fighting into which Frederic was drawn. The glamour and heroism of war tarnish quickly in the face of the realities that Frederic encounters in combat. That the enemy would annihilate him is not shocking; however, it is Frederic himself who is brutalized by the war. He shoots an ally who will not do his bidding.

The love story around which the book revolves has been compared with that of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (1595-1596), to which it bears the affinity of having an unhappy outcome that results not from any weakness within the characters themselves but from circumstances over which they have no control. They are pawns in a large chess game that they neither understand nor can control.

A Farewell to Arms Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Lieutenant Frederic Henry is a young American attached to an Italian ambulance unit on the Italian front. An offensive is soon to begin, and when Henry returns to the front from leave, he learns from his friend, Lieutenant Rinaldi, that a group of British nurses arrived in his absence to set up a British hospital unit. Rinaldi introduces him to Nurse Catherine Barkley. Between ambulance trips to evacuation posts at the front, Henry calls on Miss Barkley. He likes the frank young English girl in a casual sort of way, but he is not in love with her. Before he leaves for the front to stand by for an attack, she gives him a St. Anthony medal.

At the front, as Henry and some Italian ambulance drivers are eating in a dugout, an Austrian projectile explodes over them. Henry, badly wounded in the legs, is taken to a field hospital. Later, he is moved to a hospital in Milan. Before the doctor is able to see Henry in Milan, the nurse prohibits his drinking wine, but he bribes a porter to bring him a supply that he keeps hidden behind his bed. Catherine comes to the hospital, and Henry knows that he is in love with her. The doctors tell Henry that he will have to lie in bed six months before they can operate on his knee. Henry insists on seeing another doctor, who says that the operation can be performed the next day. Meanwhile, Catherine manages to be with Henry constantly.

After his operation, Henry convalesces in Milan with Catherine as his attendant. Together they dine in out-of-the-way restaurants, and together they ride about the countryside in a carriage. Henry is restless and lonely at nights and Catherine often comes to his hospital room. Summer passes into autumn. Henry’s wound heals, and he is due to take convalescent leave in October. He and Catherine plan to spend the leave together, but he comes down with jaundice before he can leave the hospital. The head nurse accuses him of bringing on the jaundice by drink, in order to avoid being sent back to the front. Before he leaves for the front, Henry and Catherine stay together in a hotel room; already she has disclosed to him that she is pregnant. Henry returns to the front with orders to load his three ambulances with hospital equipment and go south into the Po valley. Morale is at a low ebb. Rinaldi admires the job that has been done on the knee and observes that Henry acts like a married man. War weariness is all-pervasive. At the front, the Italians, learning that German divisions have reinforced the Austrians, begin their terrible retreat from Caporetto. Henry drives one of the ambulances loaded with hospital supplies. During the retreat south, the ambulance is held up several times by wagons, guns, and trucks, which extend in stalled lines for miles. Henry picks up two straggling Italian sergeants. During the night, the retreat is halted in the rain for hours.

At daybreak, Henry cuts out of the long line and drives across country in an attempt to reach Udine by side roads. The ambulance gets stuck in a muddy side road. The sergeants decide to leave, but Henry asks them to help dislodge the car from the mud. They refuse and run. Henry shoots and wounds one; the other escapes across the fields. An Italian ambulance corpsman with Henry shoots the wounded sergeant through the back of the head. Henry and his three comrades strike out on foot for Udine. On a bridge, Henry sees a German staff car with German bicycle troops crossing another bridge over the same stream. Within sight of Udine, one of Henry’s group is killed by an Italian sniper. The others hide in a barn until it seems safe to circle around Udine and join the mainstream of the retreat toward the Tagliamento River.

By that time, the Italian army is nothing but a frantic mob. Soldiers are throwing down their arms and officers are cutting insignia of rank from their sleeves. At the end of a long wooden bridge across the Tagliamento, military carabiniere are seizing all officers, giving them drumhead trials and executing them by the riverbank. Henry is detained, but in the dark of night he breaks free, plunges into the river, and escapes on a log. He crosses the Venetian plain on foot, then jumps aboard a freight train and rides to Milan, where he goes to the hospital in which he was a patient. There he learns that the English nurses went to Stresa.

During the retreat from Caporetto, Henry made his farewell to arms. He borrows civilian clothes from an American friend in Milan and goes by train to Stresa, where he meets Catherine, who is on leave. The bartender of the hotel in which Henry is staying warns Henry that authorities plan to arrest him for desertion the next morning; he offers his boat by means of which Henry and Catherine can escape to Switzerland. Henry rows all night. By morning, his hands are so raw that he can barely stand to touch the oars. Over his protests, Catherine takes a turn at the rowing. They reach Switzerland safely and are arrested. Henry tells the police that he is a sportsman who enjoys rowing and that he comes to Switzerland for the winter sports. The valid passports and the ample funds that Henry and Catherine possess save them from serious trouble with the authorities.

During the rest of the fall and winter, the couple stay at an inn outside Montreux. They discuss marriage, but Catherine will not be married while she is pregnant. They hike, read, and talk about what they will do together after the war. When the time for Catherine’s confinement approaches, she and Henry go to Lausanne to be near a hospital. They plan to return to Montreux in the spring. At the hospital, Catherine’s pains cause the doctor to use an anesthetic on her. After hours of suffering, she delivers a dead baby. The nurse sends Henry out to get something to eat. When he gets back to the hospital, he learns that Catherine had a hemorrhage. He goes into the room and stays with her until she dies. There is nothing he can do, no one he can talk to, no place he can go. Catherine is dead. He leaves the hospital and walks back to his hotel in the dark. It is raining.

A Farewell to Arms Extended Summary

Hemingway once referred to A Farewell to Arms as his version of Romeo and Juliet. Like Shakespeare’s play, the novel is a tale of tragic romance between an American Lieutenant, Frederic Henry, and a British army nurse, Catherine Barkley, that unfolds along the Italian front during World War I. Although The Sun Also Rises is comprised of three “books” of unequal length, the division serves very little dramatic purpose. By contrast, Hemingway’s second masterpiece is divided into five books that are analogous to the five acts of Shakespearean tragedy.

A Farewell to Arms is told in retrospect by its main male character, Second Lieutenant...

(The entire section is 1222 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Book-by-Book Summary

From the 1932 film starring Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes. Published by Gale Cengage

Book One
A Farewell to Arms opens in Italy during the First World War. The novel’s main character,...

(The entire section is 1461 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter Summaries

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 1 Summary

Lieutenant Frederic Henry (as yet unnamed) is the first-person narrator describing his experiences in the First World War as an American volunteer in the ambulance corps in the Italian army. It is late summer, and Henry and the other volunteers are living in a house in a small village on the Italian border. Below is a small, dry riverbed. As the troops move by, they raise up clouds of dust that cover everything. When the troops have passed, all that’s left is the bare road and the fallen leaves covered white with the dust. The plains, however, are rich with crops, portraying the fruitfulness of the countryside. Above them are the mountains, the Italian Alps where the fighting is. They are bare and brown as autumn approaches. In...

(The entire section is 420 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 2 Summary

After another year of war, the Italian army is winning more battles. The troops have captured the mountain across the river, and Henry moves along with them to the town of Gorizia. The fighting is less than one mile away. It is August, and the small town goes on with its life as if the war were far away. Henry is grateful that the Austrians (the opposing army) evidently intend to preserve the town as much as possible so that they can come back to it later, after the war. Although the people keep up their daily existence, the signs of the fighting are all around—shell-marks on the iron bridge, a smashed tunnel by the river, and rubble from bombed-out houses. Yet there are trees around the square, and the king passes through in his...

(The entire section is 513 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 3 Summary

Henry spends the winter travelling around Italy. When he returns in the spring, he finds that the company still lives in the same town and in the same quarters. All is green now, and there are even some signs of green on the mangled mountain slopes. There are now more hospitals, along with more British men and women. Henry wanders the streets and finally comes back to the make-shift hospital where he and his comrades are housed. He goes to his room and finds his roommate, Lieutenant Rinaldi, asleep in bed. Rinaldi, a surgeon, greets Henry warmly when he awakens. He asks about Henry’s adventures. When Henry rattles off a list of towns he visited, Rinaldi complains that he sounds like a train schedule. Rinaldi asks where Henry met...

(The entire section is 458 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 4 Summary

The next morning, Henry awakes to the sounds of the battery practicing in the garden below. He is grateful that they are no bigger. He goes down to the truck shed, where ten cars are lined up. Henry is in charge of keeping them in shape. Some of the mechanics are out working in the yard. Henry asks if the Austrians ever shell the battery, but it seems that they are protected by a small hill. Aside from the fact that one of the trucks is “no good,” all is going well. Henry is bothered by the fact that, evidently, it makes no difference if he is there to look after things or not. All has gone well in his long absence. He had thought that the cars would be dirty and not functioning from constant use. But since there has been no...

(The entire section is 544 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 5 Summary

The following day, Lieutenant Henry goes to the British hospital to see Miss Barkley again, only to be told by the head nurse that she is working and cannot receive visitors. The head nurse asks Henry why he joined the Italian army instead of the British one. Henry's reason is that he was in Italy and spoke Italian. The head nurse says that she is trying to learn Italian but has not made much progress in two months, though Henry tells her it can be learned in two weeks. She tells him he may come back to see Miss Barkley after seven that evening but not to bring any Italians with him.

Henry makes the rounds of posts along the battle front. Beginning at the bridgehead at Plava, where the offensive is soon to begin, he...

(The entire section is 410 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 6 Summary

Lieutenant Henry has been visiting the military posts along the front for two days. Since it is late when he returns to Gorizia, he does not visit Catherine Barkley until the next evening. He does not find her in the garden, so he asks the orderly to call her down. While he waits, Henry looks around the elaborate villa. The marble busts remind him of a cemetery. He is uncomfortable in his chair because of the pistol he is required to wear. He has tried firing it, but he has found that it has a powerful kick back that prevents him from actually hitting anything. He is content to carry it simply to fulfill the law.

When Miss Barkley comes down, Henry suggests that they go out into the garden, ostensibly because it is...

(The entire section is 482 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 7 Summary

Lieutenant Henry makes a visit to the first mountain post, where the wounded are sorted by nationality and sent to their respective hospitals. He sees a regiment go by, hot and sweating, obviously fatigued from the march. The common soldiers are not as well outfitted as the officers are. There are stragglers who cannot keep up with their platoons. Henry approaches one soldier, whom he thinks has a wounded leg. Instead, the soldier has a hernia and says that he lost his truss. Henry offers to take him back to his regiment for medical attention, but the soldier states that the officers will say he lost his truss on purpose. Henry learns that the soldier has been in the United States, in Pittsburgh. He now thinks the war is...

(The entire section is 498 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 8 Summary

The next day Henry hears that there is to be an attack up the river. He is to take four cars up there in anticipation of wounded to be transported down to the hospitals in town. As they pass the villa where the British hospital is housed, Henry asks the driver to stop. He goes in and asks to see Catherine Barkley. Informed that she is on duty, he asks if he may see her for just a minute. An orderly goes to get her. When she arrives, Henry asks if she is better, since she was unwell then night before when he tried to visit her. She tells him that she must have been stricken by the heat but has improved now.

Henry tells Catherine that he has to leave, as there is to be a show up above Plava. He discounts the seriousness...

(The entire section is 403 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 9 Summary

As the convoy comes down the mountain, they drive through a matting-covered tunnel to protect them from the sight of the Austrians across the river. They go to a brickyard where they will wait for incoming wounded soldiers. In the dugout there, Henry meets a major and other officers who predict that they will suffer a barrage of shells. Henry goes in search of some food for the ambulance drivers because they will not have a chance to eat once the fighting starts. He talks with some of the mechanics, who speak of how they hate the war. There is no victory in winning a war, they say, and they tell Henry of some of the atrocities. They feel guilty talking negatively to the American, but they feel they can trust Henry.


(The entire section is 466 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 10 Summary

Henry is taken to a field hospital. It is hot and infested with flies. His legs itch, and he is unable to scratch them. The orderly pours mineral water over his dressings to cool him off. In the morning he is taken into another room to have his dressings renewed and his bed clothes changed.

Rinaldi comes to visit Henry; he is still wearing surgical gloves. He is very solicitous and brings Henry a bottle of cognac. He tells Henry that he will most likely be awarded a medal, at least a bronze one. If he can prove that he did something heroic, it will be increased to a silver medal. Rinaldi asks him if he did anything heroic to get wounded. Henry says he did not, that he was blown up while he was eating cheese. Rinaldi...

(The entire section is 498 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 11 Summary

That evening the priest from Henry’s mess comes to visit. He brings some presents for Henry: a mosquito net, a bottle of vermouth, and some English newspapers. Henry invites the priest to share some of the vermouth with him. The priest breaks off the cork on trying to open it and must push the cork down into the bottle. He sees this as a personal disappointment.

Henry feels awkward talking with the priest at this point, though he had enjoyed their conversations back at the mess. He notices that the priest looks very tired, which bothers him. The priest admits that he feels very low. Henry says that it must be disgust from the war. The priest admits that he is disgusted by the war, but it is not that. Henry tells him...

(The entire section is 460 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 12 Summary

Henry describes the room in the hospital where he has been kept. He faces a long row of windows that overlook the garden cemetery below. There is a door leading to the dressing room where the patients’ bandages are changed. If a patient is dying, a screen is placed around his bed, a priest comes to give him the last rites, and eventually male nurses carry the dead soldier out.

The major in charge of the ward asks Henry if he feels up to being moved the next day, as it is better to move him before the weather gets too hot. Henry says he feels well enough, so arrangements are made to ship him out the next morning. Henry is being moved to the American hospital in Milan. Rinaldi comes to visit him to tell him the news....

(The entire section is 404 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 13 Summary

The train pulls into Milan in the morning. The patients are unloaded in the freight yard, where the ambulance picks them up to take them to the appropriate hospitals. At the American facility, the porters discover that the stretcher bearing Henry will not fit into the elevator. They decide to pick him up off the stretcher, bending his legs. This causes him intense pain, and he swears at the porters. When they reach the fourth floor, no one is there. They ring the bell and a nurse, Mrs. Walker, arrives. She is old and clearly flustered at Henry’s arrival. She says that no patient was expected, and they cannot put him into just any room. Henry becomes frustrated and tells the porters to put him into any room because they are all...

(The entire section is 451 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 14 Summary

When Henry wakes up, he thinks he is back at the front for a while. He rings the bell, summoning Miss Gage, whom he decides is not as young or as pretty in the daylight as she seemed the evening before. He asks for a barber, but Miss Gage turns the conversation to the nearly empty bottle of vermouth she found in bed with him. She states that she put the other bottle from under his bed in the armoire. She asks why he didn’t ask her to bring him a glass. It isn’t good for him to drink alone, she says. She also tells him that Miss Barkley has arrived and that she doesn’t like her. She then cleans Henry up, and he again asks for a barber.

When the barber arrives, he does not speak. When Henry asks for news of the war,...

(The entire section is 426 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 15 Summary

The doctor returns from Lake Como that afternoon. He takes out some steel splinters from Henry’s thighs and tells him that he must have X-rays. Probing the wound tells him nothing. Henry is transported to another hospital. The doctor there notes that some of the metal fragments in Henry’s leg are brutal. He asks Henry how many Austrians he had killed. Though Henry had not killed any, he lies and says that he killed plenty, just to make the doctor happy. Miss Gage had come with him and is subject to the flirtations of the doctor.

Henry and Miss Gage return to the small hospital where he had originally been taken. The X-ray plates come over later to be examined by the doctor. On examining the plates, the doctor tests...

(The entire section is 402 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 16 Summary

Catherine is on night duty, which she spends in Henry’s bed. They watch a bat enter the room, hovering over but not bothering them as they lie still. They see a searchlight move across the sky and hear the anti-aircraft gunners talk on the roof next to the hospital. Henry worries about one of the other nurses coming up and discovering them, but Catherine tells him that they are all asleep.

Henry wakes up in the night to find Catherine gone, but she has only left to check that Miss Van Campen (the supervisor) is still asleep. She returns with crackers to eat with their vermouth. Catherine warns Henry that this will all have to be gotten out of him in the morning in preparation for his operation. She wishes they could...

(The entire section is 423 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 17 Summary

Henry wakes up from the operation extremely ill. He feels that anesthesia is a chemical choking. He sees the sandbags at the end of the bed that are attached to pipes coming out of his cast. Miss Gage comes in to check on him, stating that the doctor did a wonderful job on his knee. Henry asks how long the operation took and is told that it lasted for two and a half hours. He asks if he said anything silly, but Miss Gage assures him that he said nothing.

There are three other American patients now in the hospital, none for injuries sustained in battle: two with malaria and one with injuries from unscrewing a fuse cap on an explosive shell. Catherine is greatly liked by the other nurses because she always takes night...

(The entire section is 453 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 18 Summary

During the summer, Henry and Catherine spend as much time together as they can. They go for carriage rides, and when Henry can use crutches they go out to dinner. After trying several different restaurants, they settle on the Gran Italia, where the waiter, George, becomes a special friend of theirs. Because of the war, there is no wine waiter to guide them on the wine choices. When Henry requests fresa, George tells them that it is from the country where they think it tastes like strawberries. This appeals to Catherine, and so Henry agrees, but George says it does not taste at all like strawberries and he is proved right. One time, George even lends money to Henry when he finds himself short.

After dinner, Henry and...

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A Farewell to Arms Chapter 19 Summary

Henry’s legs quickly heal. He is not long on crutches before he can get rid of them and use only a cane. He goes to the Ospedale Maggiore frequently for physical therapy. Afterward, he goes to the cafe for a drink and to read the newspapers. He then goes straight back to the hospital to see Catherine. During the day and when she is sleeping they cannot be together, so he has time alone. He goes to the races frequently; often he goes to the Anglo-American Club. He cannot go out alone anymore with Catherine because it is unseemly for a nurse to be with a patient who does not obviously need assistance. Sometimes they go out with Miss Ferguson. Miss Van Campen turns a blind eye because she likes Catherine for her hard work and she...

(The entire section is 439 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 20 Summary

One afternoon Henry and Catherine go to the horse races with Miss Ferguson and Crowell Rodgers (the patient whose eyes were damaged by the exploding shell nose-cap). Crowell says the horses are not the best, but they are all that are available to race during the war. Mr. Meyers does not like to give tips about which horses to bet on. He does not even tell his wife which one he is betting on, so she inevitably loses. However, he will willingly give Crowell tips. Like Crowell, Mr. Meyers’ eyes are not well, so they have a personal connection. They drive out to the race track in an open carriage. The group is allowed in without cards because they are in uniform.

As the horses are led around the track for the spectators...

(The entire section is 397 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 21 Summary

As September arrives, the days and nights cool off—as does the war. The fighting along the front is not going well; it is becoming a stalemate. Ettore goes back to the front, and Crowell goes back to the States. There are riots against the war in the streets of Milan and Turin. The Italians have lost 150,000 men in the area. In Flanders (in northern Europe along the English Channel), things are going badly as well. A British major tells Henry that the Allies will be “cooked” in another year. But then, he says, they are all cooked. Victory will come only when the last nation realizes it is cooked.

On his way back to the hospital, Henry stops at a barber shop for a shave. His leg is as well as it is going to be for...

(The entire section is 481 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 22 Summary

The night following Catherine’s announcement of her pregnancy, the weather turns cold and rainy. Henry feels sick in the night and becomes nauseated the next morning following breakfast. The house surgeon examines him and has him look in a mirror to see that the whites of his eyes are yellow. He has jaundice and is ill for two weeks. Because of his illness, he and Catherine do not get to spend his convalescent leave as they had planned in Pallanza on Lago Maggiore.

One day as Henry is bed-ridden with jaundice, Miss Van Campen marches into his room, opens the armoire door, and finds Henry’s stash of empty liquor bottles. She is particularly incensed by a bear-shaped bottle. She demands to know how long Henry has had...

(The entire section is 453 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 23 Summary

The day arrives on which Henry is to return to the front. His train leaves at midnight so he sends the porter down to the station to hold a seat for him. It is dark, cold, and misty. He goes to a wine shop and waits inside. He sees Catherine wearing a long cape and felt hat. They walk down to the cathedral square, where they see a soldier and woman huddled together with a cape wrapped around them. Henry makes note that they are just like Catherine and him, but Catherine disagrees, stating that no one is like them. She does not say this happily. They walk around the square, stopping by a leather goods shop and looking at ski gear. They talk of going skiing some time.

Henry stops at an armourer’s shop to buy a pistol to...

(The entire section is 491 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 24 Summary

Instead of taking the elevator, Henry and Catherine go down the stairs to the hotel lobby, where the waiter is waiting for them. The manager, who is a friend of Henry’s, had refused payment in advance but positioned the waiter by the exit just in case Henry decided to leave without paying. Evidently his “friends” had stiffed him previously. Friends are easy to make in wartime but do not always prove trustworthy.

After paying, Henry asks the waiter to get them a carriage. He takes Catherine’s package (her nightgown) and goes out to the street. It is raining, so Henry and Catherine wait inside. Henry asks Catherine how she feels. She tells him she feels sleepy. Henry feels hollow and hungry. Catherine asks if he...

(The entire section is 438 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 25 Summary

It is fall when Henry returns to Gorizia. He sees the landscape desolated from the season and from the war. Several more houses have suffered from the bombs. He passes a British ambulance driven by a man he does not recognize. He returns to the hospital where he is greeted by the major, who tells him that it has been a bad summer. The major asks Henry if he received the decorations. Henry shows him the two ribbons, but the boxes with the medals have not yet arrived. Henry asks what the major wants him to do. The cars (ambulances) are all away, but Henry can get the four cars that are on the Bainsizza. They have lost three of the cars at the front.

Henry asks after Rinaldi, and the major tells him that he has been busy...

(The entire section is 415 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 26 Summary

As Henry looks out the door, he notices the rain has been replaced by a mist. He suggests to the priest that they continue their conversation up in his room. The priest asks Henry how he really feels. Henry insists that he is all right, only tired. The priest confesses that he is also tired, but from no cause.

Henry asks the priest his opinion of the progress of the war. The priest says that he thinks it will be over soon. He has no evidence to base this on, but it is just a feeling. He sees that people, like the major, are becoming “gentle.” The summer has been terrible, as Henry knows from personal experience. Many people have “realized” the war this summer. They are aware of the true nature of the war. The...

(The entire section is 459 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 27 Summary

Henry wakes when Rinaldi comes in but does not speak to him, and Rinaldi does not wake the next morning when Henry leaves. Henry is headed to the Bainsizza, a region he has not seen before; it has been controlled by the Austrians until recently. The road he travels ends in a wrecked village, beyond which the razor-wire lines are in place. Although the buildings are destroyed, things seem to be well organized as a military encampment. Henry finds Gino, another ambulance driver, and goes with him to visit the different posts along the front. The British ambulance corps is working closer to the front. Gino has great admiration for the British.

The rains have started, so more ill soldiers are expected. The Austrians are...

(The entire section is 511 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 28 Summary

As the retreat continues, more trucks, troops, and artillery gather on the road. It becomes glutted with vehicles, both motorized and horse-drawn. Henry gets out to see what is holding up the line. The block is further ahead than he can see. As the column of vehicles does not move, he and Piani (another ambulance driver) sleep. After several hours, Henry hears the truck ahead of him start its engine. He wakes Piani, and they move forward a few yards before traffic stops again. It continues to rain throughout the night. The trucks stop and start several times without making much progress.

Henry gets out to check on another of their ambulances. He finds two passengers, sergeants of engineers, who got separated from their...

(The entire section is 427 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 29 Summary

In the middle of the day, the caravan of ambulances is stuck in a muddy road about ten kilometers from Udine. The rain has stopped, and sounds of airplanes can be heard overhead, bombing the main highway. Taking many deserted secondary roads, Henry has led the ambulances closer to Udine. Aymo’s car, however, has become trapped in the mud. The men put brush under the wheels but are unable to drive it out. The two sergeants who hitched a ride get out and look at the wheels, then start walking away down the road. When Henry commands them to come and cut brush to put under the wheels, they say that they have to go. When Henry repeats his order, they tell him that he is not their officer and cannot order them to do anything. They...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 30 Summary

Henry and the ambulance drivers are on a road leading to a river. When they come to a bridge, they discover that it had been bombed, making crossing there impossible. They spot a railway bridge nearby and decide to try to cross there. Henry goes across first, checking for booby traps, and then they all cross the bridge on foot. Once across, Henry looks upriver and sees a larger bridge that has not been blown up. German officers crossing the bridge in a car. The men fear that they are cut off. They see German soldiers riding across the stone bridge on bicycles. Henry does not understand why the Germans blew up the little bridge but left the larger one intact.

Henry and the others walk along the railroad track, ducking...

(The entire section is 461 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 31 Summary

Henry continues to float down the river, afraid that camps would prevent his getting ashore. He considers taking off his clothes and boots but decides against it. He will need footwear when he reaches the shore, since he must walk to Mestre.

At last the timber he is floating with takes him near the shore. He climbs up and rests under the bushes. He manages to get to his feet and begins walking. He knows there is no bridge across the river nearby. Finding a concealed ditch, he takes off his clothes and dries off as much as he can. He has sufficient money for the time being, but he hopes he does not become ill from wearing damp clothes. It is still raining, and he has no cape. His pistol is also gone; he hides his holster...

(The entire section is 410 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 32 Summary

Henry tries to get comfortable on the floor of the flat car. His clothes are wet and cold, and he is hungry. He thinks about his reconstructed knee and how little trouble it has given him. He no long considers it to be his knee but the doctor’s. His (empty) stomach and his head are his alone. His head, however, cannot be used to think, only to remember—but not too much. He thinks of Catherine, but realizes that if he thinks about her too much he will go crazy. He fantasizes about lying with her on the floor of the flat car, under the canvas covering. He is overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness.

He thinks about the progression and regression of the war, one side winning, then the other side winning. He thinks of...

(The entire section is 467 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 33 Summary

Henry gets off the train in Milan, where he had been hospitalized and fell in love with Catherine. He goes into a wine shop and gets some coffee. Two soldiers who are visibly drunk are at a table nearby. The proprietor asks Henry if he would like a glass of grappa, which Henry turns down. The proprietor asks what is happening at the front, but Henry says he does not know, pretending that he is not involved in the war. However, the proprietor says he saw Henry come down from the wall; he knows Henry came off the train that just arrived. Henry tells him that there is a big retreat.

The proprietor gives Henry a glass of grappa and tells him that he will help if he is in trouble. Henry denies being in trouble, but the...

(The entire section is 432 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 34 Summary

Henry feels odd in his civilian clothes. Although the clothes that Simmons gives him are adequate, he cannot wear his old hat. He buys a new one and boards the train to Stresa. He sees some aviators staring at him with contempt because a man of his age should still be a civilian rather than a soldier. Henry does not feel insulted. He has a paper but does not want to read any news about the war.

At the train station in Stresa, Henry notices that there are no porters. The tourist season is now over, so he asks a station agent if there are any hotels open. The agent gives him a couple of suggestions. Henry gets a carriage and goes to one of the bigger hotels. There he tells the concierge that he is waiting for his wife, so...

(The entire section is 420 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 35 Summary

Catherine leaves Henry to visit with Helen Ferguson down by the lake. Henry sits in the bar and reads the newspapers. He is at last ready to learn about the progress of the war. He recognizes some of the places mentioned in the articles.

The barman tells Henry that Count Greffi has asked to see him. Greffi is a ninety-four-year-old man Henry had met on a previous visit. The focus of their relationship was billiards, and the Count wants to play once again with Henry. In the meantime, Henry asks the barman, who has nothing to do at the moment, to go fishing with him. The barman agrees, and they row out into the lake. Not catching any fish, they decide to get a drink at a café on an island. The barman offers to row back...

(The entire section is 508 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 36 Summary

During the night, it begins to storm, and rain comes through the open window. Henry is awakened by a knock on the door. It is Emilio, the barman, who tells Henry that he overheard talk in town that Henry will be arrested in the morning. Henry asks innocent questions, such as why they are arresting him, though he knows it is for desertion. The barman says that since the retreat they are arresting everyone who happens to be out of uniform.

The barman suggests that Henry go to Switzerland to escape arrest. He offers his own boat, but Henry protests that it is storming. The barman says that the storm is over, but the lake is still rough. Henry wakes Catherine and tells her of the barman’s news. She agrees to leave...

(The entire section is 423 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 37 Summary

In the night, Henry and Catherine row across the lake. Catherine regrets that Helen Ferguson will wake to find them gone. The wind continues to blow all night. Catherine suggests holding up the umbrella as a sail. Henry tries this, and it works very well until the umbrella is blown inside out. Catherine laughs because he looked funny. Keeping warm with the brandy and drinking water out of the lake, Henry continues rowing through the night. Catherine takes a short turn while Henry rests. Close to the break of morning, they hear a motor boat approaching. They row close to the shore while it passes. It is border patrol, but it passes without noticing them.

In the morning, with the rain falling, they realize that they are...

(The entire section is 401 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 38 Summary

Henry and Catherine are living in a small lodge up in the mountains above Montreux. The snow has come early, and they wish they could ski. They do not know anyone in Montreux, but are well taken care of by Mr. and Mrs. Guttingen, who run the lodge. Their son, who is a waiter in a hotel in Zurich, is coming home, and Henry hopes he will teach him to ski.

Catherine goes to the coiffeur’s (hairdresser’s) to get a permanent wave put in her hair. It is a time-consuming process, but Henry waits patiently. Afterward, Catherine suggests that they stop for a beer. Her doctor suggested this for keeping down the baby’s birth weight, a concern because of Catherine’s narrow pelvis. Catherine believes the baby will be a girl...

(The entire section is 489 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 39 Summary

It is January, and Henry’s beard is longer. The air is cold enough that the snowy roads are packed hard and walking on them is easy. The snow reaches almost all the way down the mountain to the village of Montreux. On their walks, Catherine wears hobnailed boots and carries a pike to keep from slipping. They stop at an inn that caters mostly to the woodcutters; they warm up with spiced red wine. On the road home the snow is churned up with mud into an orange color until they get off the wood-hauling track, where it is pure white again. They see foxes along the roadside.

Catherine tells Henry that she is impressed with his beard. She asks him if he noticed the man with tiny gold earrings. Henry tells her that he is a...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 40 Summary

The months go by and the winter begins to fade. Henry and Catherine are very happy up in the mountains, however, and do not mind the cold spells interrupted by short thaws. As the snow changes to rain, Henry wonders whether they should move down to Montreux. It is about a month until the baby is due, so Catherine suggests going to Lausanne where the hospital is. Henry worries that it is too big a town for them, but Catherine says they can be alone in a big town as easily as a small one. The snow is rapidly disappearing under the constant rain. Mr. Guttingen says he understands that they must leave at short notice. He extracts a promise from Henry that they will come back to visit them after the baby is born. The Guttingens take...

(The entire section is 456 words.)

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 41 Summary

At three o’clock one morning, Catherine awakens Henry to tell him that she is having labor pains. They take a taxi to the hospital where Catherine is checked in. When she is settled in her room, Catherine tells Henry that it will be a long wait and so he’d better go get some breakfast. The nurse agrees, but he decides to stay. Later, Catherine again urges him to go, so Henry goes to a café nearby and has breakfast. When he goes back to the hospital, Henry notices a dog sniffing around the trash cans. He looks inside the cans to see if there is anything for the dog, but there is nothing.

When Henry returns to the hospital, he finds Catherine’s room empty. The nurse explains that she has been taken to the delivery...

(The entire section is 527 words.)