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A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

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Chapter 5 Summary

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The following day, Lieutenant Henry goes to the British hospital to see Miss Barkley again, only to be told by the head nurse that she is working and cannot receive visitors. The head nurse asks Henry why he joined the Italian army instead of the British one. Henry's reason is that he was in Italy and spoke Italian. The head nurse says that she is trying to learn Italian but has not made much progress in two months, though Henry tells her it can be learned in two weeks. She tells him he may come back to see Miss Barkley after seven that evening but not to bring any Italians with him.

Henry makes the rounds of posts along the battle front. Beginning at the bridgehead at Plava, where the offensive is soon to begin, he examines places of concern for getting ambulances in and out of the war zone in the future. A few shells fall near where he is. He drives back to town and goes to the British hospital to see Miss Barkley.

At the villa where the British have set up their medical center, Henry runs across Miss Barkley with Miss Ferguson, who soon leaves the other two alone. Henry asks Miss Barkley if she is a nurse, but she is simply a Volunteer Air Detachment (V.A.D.), which is a short cut to being a nurse on the war front. She explains that the Italians did not want women so near the front, so they are all required to be on their very best behavior. Henry requests that they drop the topic of war, but Miss Barkley says that there is no place to drop it. Henry takes her arm and tries to draw her closer. She resists. When Henry tries to kiss her, she slaps him on the nose. Although he is angry at this rebuff, he insists that she did the right thing. She apologizes and then lets him kiss her. She still resists a deeper kiss, but Henry is forceful. She begs him to be nice to her because they are going to have a strange life.

Henry returns to his own hospital. Rinaldi, who is reading in bed by candlelight, asks if he is making progress with Miss Barkley. Henry replies that they are friends. He avoids further conversation on the topic, knocks over Rinaldi’s candle, and goes to bed. Rinaldi relights his candle and goes back to reading.

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