Literature / A Farewell to Arms

Ernest Hemingway's second novel, written in first-person narration, published in 1929, and semi-autobiographical.

Frederic Henry, a volunteer American ambulance driver, serves in Italy during World War I. Whilst abroad, he meets British nurse Catherine Barkley and becomes attracted to her. He gets a chance to consummate his attraction to her after being wounded at the front and shipped back to hospital. By the end of the summer, Catherine is three months pregnant. Once healed, Frederic returns to the front just in time for it to collapse and the Austro-Hungarians to come pouring through; he, like the other officers, are rounded up by the "battle police" to be executed for the defeat. Frederic escapes through some quick badassery and reunites with Catherine, whereupon the two escape to Switzerland in a rowboat. There they maintain an isolated but idyllic existence until Catherine goes into labor. The baby is stillborn. Catherine hemorrhages and dies. The end.

Hemingway was not a happy man.

Besides many characters being based on people the author knew, this novel is useful to Hemingway scholars as it provides the first incarnations of the famed Hemingway "code hero". Main Characters in Hemingway novels would continue in this vein throughout most of his body of work.

The novel is considered one of the great classics of American fiction, and chances are that if you attended an American high school, you read it there. (This just highlights one of the downsides of Hemingway's "iceberg theory" of fiction: it relies on Subtext, which, depending on your age and/or maturity level, you might not get.)

The novel has been adapted for film and television several times. The 1932 version, directed by Frank Borzage and starring Gary Cooper, was nominated for Best Picture and won an Academy Award for cinematography.

Provides Examples Of:

  • The Alcoholic: Fredreric drinks a lot.
  • Arc Symbol: The frequent use of rain throughout the novel. Such as Catherine saying she's "afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it," and of course, it's a rainy day when the ending happens.
  • Book Ends: Rain and death
  • Broken Ace: Frederic Henry is probably one of the most straightforward examples of The Ace in Hemingway's bibliography, bordering on Testosterone Poisoning, yet he still can't find happiness after he leaves the war behind, as symbolized by the major Downer Ending of Catherine and his child's death.
  • Crapsack World
    The world breaks everyone 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.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Catherine falls for Frederic as she treats him.
  • Ho Yay: Rinaldi is always teasing him, so who knows, but he does ask Henry to kiss him more than once.
    Rinaldi: Kiss me once and tell me you're not serious.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Rinaldi
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Frederic and Catherine are pretty annoying.
    Catherine: Your temperature's always normal. You've such a lovely temperature.
    Frederic: You've got a lovely everything.
    Catherine: Oh, no. You have the lovely temperature. I'm awfully proud of your temperature.
    Frederic: Maybe all our children will have fine temperatures.
  • The Stoic: Frederic Henry is one, relates to the world in a largely physical manner, he has trouble not being a Jerk Ass sometimes, and his thoughts revolve around girls and drink.