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A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

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Chapter 21 Summary

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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 a long while. He sees a man cutting out silhouettes of two young girls. He stops and watches. The man offers to do Henry’s silhouette. When he finishes, Henry tries to pay him but the man presents it as a gift. He urges him to give it to his girl.

When Henry arrives at the hospital, the mail has arrived. Among the letters is a one from his grandfather with a bank draft for two hundred dollars. He also receives an official letter that states that he will have three months’ convalescent leave once he is released from the hospital (which should be in about three days).  After that he will return to the front. He undresses and goes to bed to read the newspapers, which are mostly about American baseball.

Catherine comes in at nine o’clock. He tells her about his leave. She asks him where he wants to go. He says that he wants to stay there, so that he can be with her. She says that she will arrange it so that she can go with him, wherever they can be away from people they know. Henry can tell she is upset about something. When he presses her, she refuses to tell what it is, saying that she is afraid that it will make him unhappy or will worry him. Finally, she tells him that she is three months’ pregnant. Henry is shaken but continues to act as if everything is all right. He confesses that he feels a little trapped, but not by Catherine. Catherine says that he is too brave, and nothing happens to the brave. Henry points out that the brave die. Catherine says that they only die once, quoting a line from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar: “The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one.” Henry offers Catherine a drink, but she refuses, saying that drink only makes her dizzy. She claims to be a “very old-fashioned wife.” She goes to make her rounds, and Henry says he will finish his papers.

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