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Essay/Term paper: A farewell to arms

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Cliff Notes

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A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, is somewhat of

a Romeo and Juliet love story, with a tragic ending. In this

novel, Romeo is Frederick Henry and Juliet is Catherine

Barkley. Their love affair must survive the everything that is

around them during World War I. The setting of this novel is

war-torn Italy. The love between Catherine and Frederick

must outlast long separations, life-threatening war situations,

and the uncertainty of each other's whereabouts or

condition. This is a love story of two people who need each

other in a period of chaos.

The book A Farewell to Arms is partly autobiographical.

Hemingway , like his hero, was a Red Cross ambulance

driver on the Italian Front in World War I. Not only was

Hemingway wounded in the war, but he also recuperated in

a hospital in Italy. During his recuperation, Hemingway had a

very romantic liaison with a nurse. The relationships between

the characters in the novel, including doctors, soldiers, etc.,

reflect the actual relationships Hemingway had during his

stay in Italy, and the plot of the story is historically as well as

geographically accurate. Before Ernest Hemingway wrote

the book A Farewell to Arms, he was already regarded as

a good literary writer, but after the publication of this book

he was considered a great one. A Farewell to Arms was

Hemingway"s first commercial success, selling over 80,000

copies in the first four months.

In this story there are only two main characters, Frederick

Henry and Catherine

Barkley. Frederick Henry acts as both the narrator and

central character in the novel. The reader is not told so much

about Catherine, only what is understood from Frederick"s

point of view. Catherine acts as a static character in the

novel. She has already known love and lost it so she

understands that she cannot build her whole life around

Frederick. Frederick, on the other hand, is a very dynamic

character, and he has to come to grips with many of the

principles of life and death that Catherine has already

learned. There are few other characters in the book of any

significance, but of some small importance are Rinaldi, who

is Frederick"s best friend on the fighting front, and also the

priest in Frederick"s company whom he befriends and with

whom he has long talks about life.

The plot structure of A Farewell to Arms starts out with an

introduction to the major characters and with the setting of

the war. Hemingway also introduces the various problems

each main character struggles with throughout the novel.

Catherine Barkley and Frederick Henry are introduced to

each other casually and the reader begins to wonder what

will come of the relationship between the two characters.

This seems to be the narrative hook in the novel. Following

this the reader is told about various scenes of war, and

further introduced to Frederick Henry"s character.

Frederick is then wounded in war and shipped back to the

hospital. In the hospital Frederick and Catherine are reunited

and the reader sees the development of love between the

two characters. After Frederick"s stay in the hospital he is

sent back to battle and has to leave Catherine. However,

after only a short time back at the front Frederick Henry,

seeing the lack of discipline and confusion in the army"s

retreat at Caporetto, deserts and returns to the stability of

his relationship with Catherine. The battle at Caporetto is the

climax in the war action part of the novel, but there is still

rising action in the love story. Frederick Henry makes a

successful escape to Switzerland with Catherine, and all

seems to go well for them for a time. A child had been

conceived during their affair but during the birth Catherine

begins hemorrhaging. She delivers the baby stillborn and

soon after dies. This scene is the climax of the novel. After

Catherine dies the book ends very abruptly, leaving very

little falling action.

In the novel there are two very prominent types of conflict.

One is man verses man, which is seen constantly in the

battles of the war, and the constant fighting that takes place

as a background in the story. The other type of conflict that

we see is man verses himself, which is shown in Frederick"s

constant struggle within himself. Since we are told of

Frederick"s thoughts we know constantly of the internal

struggle within himself over everything from his love for

Catherine to his thoughts during battle in the war. The

conflict that Frederick experiences within himself starts at the

beginning of the novel and is not resolved until Catherine"s


The theme that Hemingway seems to emphasize throughout

the novel is the search for order in a chaotic world.

Hemingway conveys this through Frederick's own personal

search during the chaos of World War I. Catherine has

found strength within herself to help lead her through life.

Frederick sees this in her and wants it also. Through his

involvement with Catherine, Frederick slowly begins to find

his own inner strength, and as a result his of his affair with

Catherine he leaves his previous wild life of prostitutes and

drink. He states in the novel that spending the night with

Catherine is better then spending the night in a house of

prostitution even though his feelings for her are not deep at

that time. He becomes aware of an element of stability in

their affair and realizes that the war that he is involved in is

too chaotic, so he deserts the Italian soldiers he has been

helping. He and Catherine make a life for themselves totally

isolated from everything and everyone else. Frederick

believes that his life is now completely in order and yet he

still seems discontented. He continuously has to convince

himself that he has "a fine life," and he has not yet reached

Catherine's emotional level that enables her to be perfectly

happy in their love and yet not dependent on it for all

comfort and support. He never reaches a place of internal

peace until the end of the book when Catherine dies and he

realizes that he can not be totally dependent on another for

happiness in this life.

A Farewell To Arms was a was a well written novel that

gives people a whole different perceptive about the people

and events of World War I in Italy. The book was not the

least bit confusing when it came to the text and was really an

enjoyable book to read. This book could be appreciated

both by the average high school student or an adult looking

for a great book. It had an interesting, moving plot that kept

the reader interested in the book, and has been appreciated

and read for many years by people of all ages. From reading

this book one learns much about Ernest Hemingway himself

plus the times and problems of World War I. This book was

a classic in 1929 and is still seems contemporary today. 

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