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A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

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Chapter 12 Summary

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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 United States has now declared war against Germany. Henry thinks it is inevitable that they will also declare war on Austria. The Italians are exuberant about the American entry into the war. They ask Henry if he thinks President Wilson will also declare on the other countries, such as Turkey and Bulgaria. They hope to return to the old splendor of Rome, but Henry says he despises Rome—it is hot and full of fleas. Henry and Rinaldi talk of all there is to do in Rome. Henry states that he can draw a bank draft on his grandfather.

Rinaldi informs Henry that Miss Barkley is also being transferred to the American hospital in Milan. Though the Americans are now in the war, they have not sent over enough American nurses to staff the hospitals, so they are drawing on the English hospitals that are overstaffed. Rinaldi and Henry get drunk, and Rinaldi bids Henry good-bye.

The next morning Henry and the other American patients leave for Milan. It takes two days of difficult travel. At one stop, Henry gives money to a boy to get him a bottle of cognac, but the child can get only grappa. Henry gets drunk and becomes sick on the floor. However, other patients have vomited on the floor as well. Later Henry’s thirst becomes overpowering. A soldier outside the train gives him some water, which he offers to another nauseated patient. The soldier gives Henry an orange, but will not take the penny that Henry offers him. At last the train continues its journey to Milan.

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