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A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

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Chapter 16 Summary

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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 go for a walk, with Henry in a wheelchair. Henry doubts he could get into a wheelchair himself or that Catherine could put him in herself.

In the morning, Henry begs Catherine to stay with him. She tells him that after his operation he will not want to have anything to do with her. He denies this, but she points out that he has never had an operation, so he cannot know what it will be like. As Catherine gives Henry an enema (to get him clean “inside and out”), she worries that there are too many nurses for so few patients. She hopes that there will be more patients soon, or she may be sent away. Henry vows he will go with her wherever she is sent, but she points out the impossibility of this. Catherine warns Henry not to think about her when he goes under the anesthesia because people have a tendency to babble, and she is worried that he may say something that will give them away. Henry says he knows he won’t talk, but she chides him for bragging. She suggests that he think about family or even some other girl. This leads her to ask if there is any other girl, which he denies. She asks if he has ever loved another girl or even told another girl that he loved her. He lies and says he never has. Catherine promises that she will say whatever he wants and do whatever he wants. He tells her to come back to bed, and she does. She again asks him if he wants any other girls, and he says he does not. Catherine points out how good she is, that she does whatever he wants.

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