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A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

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Chapter 4 Summary

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The next morning, Henry awakes to the sounds of the battery practicing in the garden below. He is grateful that they are no bigger. He goes down to the truck shed, where ten cars are lined up. Henry is in charge of keeping them in shape. Some of the mechanics are out working in the yard. Henry asks if the Austrians ever shell the battery, but it seems that they are protected by a small hill. Aside from the fact that one of the trucks is “no good,” all is going well. Henry is bothered by the fact that, evidently, it makes no difference if he is there to look after things or not. All has gone well in his long absence. He had thought that the cars would be dirty and not functioning from constant use. But since there has been no fighting, the trucks are clean and in good shape. Because there is nothing for him to do, Henry visits the posts up in the mountains, returning to town by late afternoon.

The fact that everything has gone well in his absence continues to bother him. In fact, it has seemed to run better without him there to oversee the work. He is confident that the offensive will start again soon, the troops planning to attack across the river and up into the mountains. Henry is in charge of the posts during the attack. He realizes this is not a significant assignment, and his dismisses it as one of those things that give a false feeling of soldiering.

Henry returns to the hospital and cleans up. Rinaldi asks him to go with him to see Miss Barkley. At first Henry refuses, but eventually agrees. After a couple of drinks of grappa (a type of brandy) to fortify them, the two men head off to the British hospital in a large villa. Miss Barkley is in the garden with another nurse, Helen Ferguson. Miss Barkley finds it odd that Henry, an American, has joined the Italian army. She is more confused when he confesses that he does not know the reason he joined. She opens up to him, telling that her fiancé was killed in the Somme last year. They had been engaged for eight years. Miss Barkley had refused to marry him before he joined up and went off to war, feeling that the separation would be hard on him. Now she feels guilty that she did not give him the satisfaction of being married before he died. If she had known that he would die, she says, she would have done anything he wanted. Miss Barkley and Henry observe Rinaldi talking to Miss Ferguson. Miss Barkley frets that it seems that the war will never end. She feels that the British will crack before the Germans. They join Rinaldi and Miss Ferguson, where the surgeon asks the nurse if she loves England. Miss Ferguson replies that, since she is Scotch, she has little love for England. As the evening ends, Rinaldi remarks to Henry that it is evident that Miss Barkley prefers Henry to himself. He, in the meantime, has turned his attention quickly to Miss Ferguson. When Henry asks Rinaldi if he likes her, he replies that he does not.

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