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A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

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Chapter 15 Summary

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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 movement of the knee, which is minimal. He seems to have trouble reading the X-rays and tells Henry that the projectiles must encyst before they can be removed. It will be six months before they can operate on Henry’s knee. In disbelief, Henry says he cannot lie in bed for six months. The doctor assures him that he will not be in bed but must take the “sun therapy,” lying in the sun as much as possible. He refuses Henry’s offer of a drink and leaves. When Henry sees that the doctor is only a captain, he does not believe him. He wants a second opinion.

Two hours later, another physician, Dr. Valentini, comes to examine Henry. He is a major and has a sense of humor. He speaks only Italian, so he asks Henry about Miss Barkley, who is the attending nurse. He wants to have dinner with her, but he promises Henry that he will not take her away from him. He tells him that she will make a beautiful boy for him, and he promises to do all their maternity work for free. Because she does not speak Italian, Catherine does not understand a word of this. Henry offers him a drink, and Dr. Valentini gladly accepts. Henry asks when the operation can be performed, and the doctor tells him the next day in the morning. He will leave instructions that Henry is not to have any food or drink prior to the operation, as his stomach must be empty. Henry leaves in high spirits, since this doctor is a major and more trustworthy.

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