A Farewell to Arms – Book Summary

A Farewell to Arms – Book Summary

A. Book Data Title: A Farwell to Arms Author: Ernest Hemingway Publisher: Charles Scribner’s Sons; New York First published in: 1929 B. Summary ‘A Farewell to Arms’ is set in the Julian Alps on the front between the Austro-Hungarian empire and Italy during the First World War. The narrator of the story is Frederick Henry, a second lieutenant in the Italian Army, an American volunteer in the Ambulance Corps. We soon learn that Henry leads a voluptuous life, getting drunk in the evening and visiting brothels.

Yet we notice he has more decency than his fellow officers on one point: he does not chaff at the priest in the mess. One day Henry visits the hospital with his friend Rinaldi to meet some nurses. He meets Catherine Barkley, a tall blonde with long hair, who he thinks is very beautiful. They develop an affair. One day Henry and his ambulance crew get shelled while waiting at a field station in a dugout. Some die and Henry gets seriously wounded. He is evacuated with priority to an American hospital in Milan.

While he is in the hospital he is visited by Rinaldi and the priest, and learns he is to receive a silver medal for his bravery. This means little to him; his great moment of joy is when he learns that Catherine is to work at his hospital. There they make love for the first time, and after that she visits him in the evenings while on night duty. An excellent surgeon operates his knee and in short time he can walk on crutches, then with a cane. While his articulation recovers, he has a great time in Milan, going to horse races and relaxing in cafes most of the days.

He also learns that Catherine has become pregnant. Later bad luck has it that Henry gets jaundice, a liver disease. On top of that, the superintendent, who dislikes Henry, discovers empty bottles of brandy under his bed and accuses him of intentionally making himself get the disease in order to not have to leave to the front. As a result his convalescent leave is cut short and Henry hasn’t fully recovered when he returns to Gorizia. Back at the mess, he notices that the men are worn and tired, and that things are not going well for the Italians. Ambulances are being shelled.

One evening a great retreat is ordered. The retreat is soon chaos as the vast army causes traffic jams on the narrow roads. In the morning Henry, expecting Austrian planes to soon come bomb the column, decides to take side roads to his gathering point in Udine. The muddy roads cause one ambulance to get stuck. When two sergeants then make off refusing to help get the ambulance out, Henry shoots one of them. Efforts to free the ambulance prove to no avail, and later the remaining ambulances also get stuck and the four men are forced to retreat by foot.

On their way they see German bicycle soldiers and staff cars pass. Aymo, Henry’s friend, is shot on the way by his own countrymen, who are afraid of everything after having heard that Germans in Italian uniforms were infiltrating the army (a myth). As they continue, another man, Bonello, deserts. They come across Italian brigades who have thrown away their rifles and shout “Vive la Pace”. Finally they arrive at a bridge where carabinieri, or battle police, arrest all soldiers and officers who are not with their brigades and summarily execute them.

Henry’s accent causes them to believe he is a German infiltrator. In desperation Henry dives into the ice cold river, nearly drowning himself but at least escaping. The next day Henry manages to bypass some station guards and get on a train to Mestre, from where he continues to Stresa. Here he knows people and is helped by an American friend of his, Simmons, and dressed in civilian clothing. To his delight he hears that Catherine is in town and they are soon reunited. The couple has a great time until one evening Henry’s friend the bartender warns him of his imminent arrest that morning.

He supplies him with food and a boat and in the middle of the stormy night they are off on the Lago Maggiore to Switzerland. They arrive safely and are soon arrested and brought to the customs office. Since they have passports and money they are candidly received, and they decide to go to Montreux. Here they live an idyllic life in a mountain hut. When Catherine’s pregnancy is reaching its final stages, they move to a Lausanne in the plains near the hospital. One rainy night Catherine gets starts getting contractions. They quickly go to the hospital. She suffers agonizing pain and consistently needs laughing-gas.

The book ends tragically when Catherine delivers a dead baby boy and also unconsciously bleeds to death herself after a haemorrhage. C. 2. Character Development of Frederick Henry and Catherine Barkley Frederick Henry Frederick Henry is depicted in the beginning of the book as a disillusioned soldier. He wanders from brothel to brothel, engages in macho drinking contests and regularly gets drunk, but still doesn’t find any meaning of life in this sensuousness. He is a lonesome, confused and restless man. We see that he wants to lead a different life.

When he discusses in the mess where he should go during his leave, he is finally persuaded by the majority of the men to go to the big cities, to the ‘centres of culture’. He doesn’t follow the priest’s advice, who invited him to his family’s house in Abruzzi, the ‘cold, clear, dry country’ where one can lead a disciplined and orderly life. Finally he spends his leave in taverns and whore houses and afterwards he feels he has wasted his time. The Hemingway hero developed a code of life when he devoted himself to Catherine. When he first met her, his attraction to her was only physical.

He thought it would be a good thing to sleep with her instead of some prostitute for a change. The first time they kiss is therefore not romantic: he is ‘scoring’ her, and she initially resists by slapping him in the face and crying. Later on, however, when she goes out of her way to become a nurse at the American hospital in Milan in order to see him, they develop a true love affair. They begin to feel quite lonely without each other. Having discovered his love for Catherine he prematurely returns to the front and sees the Italian army in total disorder and confusion.

When during the retreat the small group of ambulance drivers he is loyal to is dispersed and he sees the Italian army trying and executing their own soldiers on trumped-up charges of desertion, Frederick Henry decides to desert also. In fact, he has never had a feeling of loyalty to abstract things like ‘Italy’ or ‘the cause’ of winning the war. While he is living a seemingly idyllic life in Switzerland, however, we see that he is still not content. He feels like a traitor and a criminal in having deserted, and lacks the circumstances to test himself as a man.

These ideas are embedded in many small symbols throughout the work. For example, since Frederick Henry is no longer in an encounter with men where he can assert his manhood, he feels the need to grow a beard and box regularly. Ultimately when Catherine dies, Hemingway does not describe the change in Henry’s thinking, letting us imagine. I believe he would have followed up on his promise to Catherine and never love another woman like he loved her. Catherine Barkley When Henry first met her, she was ‘a little crazy’ after her fiance had died in the Somme.

She mentioned she had wanted to cut off her hair the moment she heard the terrible news. In fact, when they first kiss and say they love each other, she’s actually pretending that Henry is her late fiance. As their relationship develops, however, she is content to devote herself fully and unselfishly to Henry. It almost becomes an obsession, and she says things like “Stop talking about you and me. I am you. ”, or suggests that Henry should let his hair grow and she should cut hers short so they could look alike. This truly remarkable woman is also very liberal and unpretentious.

She doesn’t want to be married, even though Henry has suggested it. At one level, this is because if they were married they would be separated. But on another this expresses her realization that marriage is just another empty form, like medals. She also can’t stand braggers like Henry’s Italian American friend Ettore. When she dies, her death is brave and stoic. She does not panic or get emotional; her last statement is: “It’s just a dirty trick”. She knows that death is the end of all things, and she realizes that with death she is losing all the pleasures she has looked forward to in life.

Thus she dies as she had lived, with honesty, with discipline, and with courage. C. Do I advise ‘A Farewell to Arms’ to my classmates? Definitely. ‘A Farewell to Arms’ is a great war story and a great love story. The reader identifies himself with Henry very much. It is thrilling to read about his war adventures and touching to read about his love affair with Catherine. Hemingway is a master at imagery, at setting the scene. His descriptions of the landscapes are simple and yet very telling. He doesn’t waste time thoroughly describing the characters, though.

For example, he says of Catherine only that she has long, blonde hair. The rest we are left to imagine. He never describes his fiery friend Rinaldi, yet we gather that he is dark and handsome. Not only at physical descriptions does Hemingway’s talent shine. He also can sketch accurately emotional surroundings and attitudes by simple passing remarks. For example, the sheer scale of loss of life in World War I becomes clear when Henry in the first chapter says: “At the start of the winter came the permanent rain and with the rain came the cholera.

But it was checked and in the end only seven thousand died of it in the army. ” The uselessness of the fighting is also illustrated: when Henry is asked whether America would also declare war on Austria (it had till now only declared war on Germany) he says yes; then he thinks in himself that he doesn’t know what his country had against the Austrians but it should seem logical to declare war on them since they were Germany’s ally. One of the strongest emotional aspects of ‘A Farewell to Arms’ is the way the reader’s opinion of the different characters is steered.

I will never forget the loathing feeling I had towards the carabinieri who were executing every lone soldier who crossed the bridge. They were all young men who had never been at the front who worked justice with the detached and scrupulous manner of those who were in no danger in doing so. Once again I’d definitely recommend this great book to anyone who enjoys good literature. Setting A great part of the story takes place in the hospital in Milan, where Henry recovers from his injuries. The final chapter are set in Switzerland where Henry has fled after his desertion from the army.

The whole book plays in the First World War. In the first chapter, it is almost autumn of an unknown year in the war, and at the end, it is almost one and a half-year later, the baby is born in March. This novel is a war novel based on Hemingway’s personal experiences on the Italian-Austrian front during the First World War and about his experiences in a war hospital in Milan, where he recovered from severe injuries. The final chapters are set in Switzerland where Henry has fled after his desertion from the army. Although based on autobiographical facts, the novel is not entirely autobiographical.

Style The language used in this novel was a normal language, although sometimes I had the feeling some words were missing in a sentence. In the book there is a little bit more monologue then that there is dialogue. The monologue is always about the events that take place in Frederic Henry’s live and the things he thinks about. The dialogue is between Frederic Henry and one of his friends. Most liked parts by me The best part of the book was the running away part. Running to Switzerland away from the Italian police and army.

I didn’t like the ending of this novel, they want to marry but instead Catherine dies during childbirth along with her baby-boy. Major Characters Frederic Henry: Frederic Henry is the protagonist of the tale. He is an American serving as a Lieutenant in the Italian Army. Hemingway leaves no clue as to why Fred was in Italy at the beginning of the war or how long he has been serving. He commands a group of ambulances. After returning from a leave, he is immediately smitten with Miss Catherine Barkley. Their love affair is passionate and long-lasting.

He is seriously wounded in the legs and spends several months recovering in a hospital. When he returns to the front, Italian troops are retreating and he is eventually forced to desert the Army. He flees with Catherine to Switzerland where they spend their last few months together. Lieutenant Rinaldi: Rinaldi is Fred’s companion who introduces him to Miss Barkley. In the beginning of the story, it is Rinaldi who is in love with Catherine, not Fred. Rinaldi is always Fred’s close friend. He tries hard to entertain him when he comes back from his prolonged medical leave, but things are different.

Rinaldi’s last appearance in the novel is that of a manic and possibly depressed drunk. Rinaldi is a surgeon who spends most of his time operating. Priest: The priest, who is given no other name, is a moral and philosophical force in Fred’s life. Although he appears only a handful of times, these appearances usually end up in long philosophical conversations about war and love. The priest visits Fred when he is wounded and speaks with him when he comes back from his leave. The priest comes from a rural Italian community and is opposed to the war. Miss Barkley: Miss Catherine Barkley is Frederic Henry’s love interest in his novel. She is English and serving as an assistant nurse for the British hospitals in Italy. She originally joined because she was following her fiancee to war. He died a year before in France. Catherine loves Fred deeply and nearly worships him at different moments in the story. She is supportive when he leaves the Army and flees with him to Switzerland, carrying their unborn child. Minor Characters Captain: This is one of the captains at Gorizia. He is the chief taunter of the priest and disappears by the end of the novel. Major: This officer is Fred’s commanding officer at Gorizia.

He is lively and joins the taunting of the priest early on in the novel, but by the retreat from Gorizia, he has become more serious. He defends the priest and is fond of Fred. Miss Ferguson: She is almost always with Miss Barkley from the beginning of the story until they are separated in Stresa. She is from Scotland and very critical of Fred. She is more serious about Catherine’s pregnancy than Catherine, and often criticizes both Catherine and Fred. Rocca: A soldier who jokes about the priest. Manera: Fred’s driver who is killed in the explosion that wounds Fred.

Passini: One of Fred’s drivers before he is wounded. Passini is very much against the war and thinks that everyone should stop fighting. Miss Gage: Miss Gage is one of the first nurses at the American hospital in Milan. When Fred first sees her, he thinks she is pretty, but he later changes his mind. She often has drinks with Fred and tries to help him hide his drinking from Miss Van Campen. Miss Walker: The second nurse Fred sees during his stay at Milan. Miss Walker is an older nurse. Miss Van Campen: The head nurse at the hospital in Milan. She is easily offended and has a great dislike for Fred.

She tries to be nice to him when he first arrives in Milan but she gets steadily more frustrated. Dr. Valentini: The doctor who ends up operating on Fred in Milan. Dr. Valentini operates the next day, rather than six months later as the other doctors had promised. Old Meyers: An old criminal who is released from prison because of age. He gives Fred gambling advice and appears when they go to the racetrack. Ettore Moretti: An Italian captain Fred knows and talks to in a bar. He is a genuine hero who has won many medals, but Catherine doesn’t like him because he brags. Fred admires him to a certain extent.

Ettore makes fun of the American singers, especially Simons. Simmons: The American studying singing in Italy. He is not a very successful singer in this book. When Fred arrives in Milan after having deserted the army, Simmons gives him clothing and advice. Crowell Rodgers: A man who accompanies Miss Ferguson with Fred and Catherine when they go to the horse races. Gino: He is an Italian soldier who Fred relieves when he arrives at Bainsizza. Bonello: Bonello is another one of Fred’s drivers in the retreat from Gorizia. He finishes off one of the engineers, who in an attempt to desert, is shot by Fred.

After the death of Aymo, he leaves Fred and Piani to be captured because he thinks he is more likely to survive this way. Piani: Another of Fred’s drivers in the retreat from Gorizia. He is the driver who stays with Fred until he jumps into the river. Aymo: Aymo is one of Fred’s drivers during the retreat from Gorizia. He is the one who picks up the two sisters. His truck is the first to get stuck. As they try and cross a river, and just before he is killed, Aymo admits to Fred that they are all Socialist. Bartender (Emilio): The bartender, named Emilio, is their friend in Stresa.

It is from Emilio that Fred learns where to find Catherine. Fred goes fishing with Emilio. Emilio warns Fred that he is going to be arrested in the morning and he helps them escape, giving them his boat to use to get to Switzerland. Count Greffi: The count appears in the hotel at Stresa to play billiards with Fred. They talk about politics, war, and love. It is apparent that the pair have played together before. The count is much better than Fred. Mrs. Guttingen: The woman from whom Catherine and Fred rent a place to stay in Montreux over the winter.


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