Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1069
1) “All thinking men are atheists.” Page 8
War is one of the major themes examined in A Farewell to Arms, as is religion. In this scene, early in the novel, Frederic Henry is in the mess when some of the officers begin teasing the priest. The major announces he is an atheist, and the priest tells Henry not to read a certain book. The major says then that “all thinking men are atheists,” illustrating the novel’s interpretation of God and religion, and the larger view of the world in general.
For Hemingway, God did not exist, and the universe is indifferent. The resulting world is hostile and muddled, and without God and faith, moral values are also meaningless. The war is an example of this. Although some fight for honor and glory, in fact it is simply a battle between men, without a higher purpose. The Hemingway code hero is able to create personal order without becoming disillusioned in an indifferent world. Hence, thinking men are atheists because they are able to realize that God doesn't exist and still find meaning and purpose in life. Catherine is the code hero of this novel.
2) “One side must stop fighting. Why don’t we stop fighting?” Pages 50-51
Disillusionment with war is another major theme in the war. These words are said by Passini, after Henry goes to Pavla, where a battle will take place. Henry is an American who has joined the Italians in World War I mostly for the excitement of fighting. He states that if the Italians stop fighting, then their homes and sisters would be taken away by the enemy. Passini disagrees. He says nothing is as bad as war, and that war never ends. The only way for it to end is for one side to stop fighting. In the ensuing battle, where Henry is wounded, Passini is killed.
War makes no sense, and throughout the novel, the soldiers comment on the absurdity, the motivations, and the pointlessness of war. Henry comes to realize this throughout the course of the novel, but he, unlike Passini, does not totally give up. Henry finds his own motivation in Catherine, but because Passini refuses to fight anymore, not just in war but in life, he is killed.
3) “You’re my religion.” Page 116
Catherine has already accepted the Hemingway code hero philosophy that God doesn’t exist. She never wavers from this throughout the novel. She was going to wait until marriage to sleep with her fiancé, but after he is killed, she changes this philosophy, deciding not to wait with Henry. Henry and Catherine are kindred spirits, both understanding the illusion they have created in their relationship. When Catherine asks Henry if he loves her, he lies, and he lies about loving any other girls, and she accepts these lies. Her reluctance to get married is another aspect of her philosophy. They are discussing marriage, and Catherine states they are already married in all aspects already.
By stating that Henry is her religion, Catherine is revealing that she loves and honors him, and that she is not ashamed of their relationship. But it also reveals again the code hero philosophy that a person must define their own morality, not by the higher standards set by religion, but by what makes them happy and proud. This is why Catherine is a code hero; unlike Henry, Passini, and Rinaldi, Catherine doesn’t struggle with emptiness or disillusionment in the face of a Godless universe. She simply finds something earth-bound to worship.
4) “Life isn’t hard to manage when you’ve nothing to lose.” Page 137
This is another statement by Catherine illustrating the code hero. It also reveals a lot about Catherine’s personality, which is not well defined in the novel. She has obviously suffered loss and heartache, and easily falls in love with Henry, seeming to want someone to take care of her. At this point, she knows she’s pregnant, because she tells Henry a few lines later, and Henry has just told her he gets three weeks leave before returning to the front, and Catherine decides to go with him. However, she is “upset and taut,” and Henry finally gets her to tell him why. After this, they have a disagreement, but soon return to their illusion of harmony.
Obstacles are part of the code hero’s code. A Hemingway code hero must deal with obstacles with honor and courage. In her discussion with Henry, Catherine states “how small obstacles seemed that once were so big.” Her pregnancy has given her new worries, and a new perspective, about her own life and her relationship with Henry. By stating she has nothing to lose she is acknowledging the dramatic shift and that she now has an even greater obstacle to overcome, one that she fears will result in her death.
5) “The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” Page 249
At this point, Henry is fed up with the war. He’s obtained civilian clothes and is looking to escape into Switzerland. He meets up with Catherine, and while they’re alone in the hotel, Hemingway writes the passage that includes this quote. The passage itself contains long, rambling sentences, echoing the excitement Henry and Catherine feel at being reunited and being together. Henry discusses his relationship with Catherine, saying they were never afraid or lonely while together. But then he states that someone with courage like that won’t be broken, so the world kills them.
Structurally, this passage foreshadows Catherine’s death. Henry is broken, and strong at the broken places. He is dramatically changed from the beginning of the novel, not even caring when others look at his civilian clothes with scorn. Catherine, however, will not break. Catherine makes Henry’s nights bearable, and he says the world will have to kill anyone who has that much courage. This echoes one of the themes of The Old Man and the Sea, in that men can be killed but not defeated. It places men in a hostile world, where even though they have courage, the world will win.
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