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A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

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Chapter 17 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 453

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 duty. Henry sleeps in the daytime and writes notes to Catherine during his waking hours. Miss Ferguson acts as postman. Henry likes Miss Ferguson; he discovers that she has a brother in the Fifty-second Division and another in Mesopotamia. He invites her to his and Catherine’s wedding. She tells him that he will never get married, sure that they will either fight or die before that happens. She warns him not to get Catherine pregnant or else she’ll kill him. She doesn’t want Catherine to have a “war baby.”  She tells Henry that he should give Catherine a rest, that all these night duties are wearing her out. Henry claims it is her idea to always take that shift, but Miss Ferguson repeats her request. She says that she would be glad to do it, but Catherine always refuses.

Henry rings for Miss Gage. When she comes in, he says that Miss Barkley is getting too tired, that she needs to get off the night shift for a while. Miss Gage gives him a look, telling him that she is his friend and that he does not have to talk to her that way. She knows what has been going on. Henry offers her a glass of vermouth, which she accepts. Henry asks what Miss Van Campen has said about his sleeping late into the morning every day. Miss Gage says that Miss Van Campen calls Henry “our privileged patient.” Miss Gage says Miss Van Campen is just old and cranky and that she hasn’t liked him from the beginning. Miss Gage reiterates that she is Henry’s friend. She promises to get some mineral water to pour over his cast to relieve the itching.

Catherine takes three nights off from the late shift. When she returns, Henry feels it is as though they have met again after having been on a long journey.

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