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A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

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Chapter 38 Summary

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Henry and Catherine are living in a small lodge up in the mountains above Montreux. The snow has come early, and they wish they could ski. They do not know anyone in Montreux, but are well taken care of by Mr. and Mrs. Guttingen, who run the lodge. Their son, who is a waiter in a hotel in Zurich, is coming home, and Henry hopes he will teach him to ski.

Catherine goes to the coiffeur’s (hairdresser’s) to get a permanent wave put in her hair. It is a time-consuming process, but Henry waits patiently. Afterward, Catherine suggests that they stop for a beer. Her doctor suggested this for keeping down the baby’s birth weight, a concern because of Catherine’s narrow pelvis. Catherine believes the baby will be a girl and refers to her as “young Catherine.” Catherine says that after the baby is born they should get married. When Henry suggests that they get married now, Catherine refuses. She doesn’t want to be married while she is so visibly pregnant. Catherine had lied to the hairdresser about her unmarried state and told her that they already had two boys and two girls. She promises Henry that they will get married as soon as she is thin again. In that way there will be no looks of reproach as there would be now. Catherine has another beer and tells Henry that the doctor said she could ski if she did not fall down (he was joking). She tells Henry that when she marries him she will be an American and their child will be legitimate. According to an almanac she had read, a baby was legitimate once the parents got married. Catherine talks about visiting America and the places she wants to see, such as Niagara Falls and the Golden Gate Bridge. Catherine drinks one more beer and they leave. They take the train up to the lodge. Henry is concerned that Catherine is tired, but she claims she is not.

Snow finally comes three days before Christmas. Catherine again says how much she wishes she could ski. Mr. Guttingen says his son will be home soon and he will teach Henry to ski. Catherine asks Henry if he wishes he could see other people instead of being stuck with her. She is afraid that, now that she is so big, she bores Henry. Henry tells her about Rinaldi’s fear of syphilis. Catherine asks if he ever had something like that, and he tells her that he had gonorrhea. Catherine suggests that he let his hair grow out and she would cut hers so that they could look alike. Then she asks him to grow a beard, and he says he will start that very instant. At night, Catherine says they should try to go to sleep at the very same moment. She goes to sleep but Henry cannot for a long time.

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