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Essay/Term paper: The farewell to arms

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Cliff Notes

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A Farewell to Arms,

by Ernest Hemingway, is a typical love story. A Romeo and

his Juliet placed against the odds. In this novel, Romeo is

Frederick Henry and Juliet is Catherine Barkley. Their love

affair must survive the obstacles of World War I. The

background of war-torn Italy adds to the tragedy of the love

story. The war affects the emotions and values of each

character. The love between Catherine and Frederick must

outlast long separations, life-threatening war-time situations,

and the uncertainty of each other's whereabouts or

condition. This novel is a beautiful love story of two people

who need each other in a period of upheaval. Frederick

Henry is an American who serves as a lieutenant in the

Italian army to a group of ambulance drivers. Hemingway

portrays Frederick as a lost man searching for order and

value in his life. Frederick disagrees with the war he is

fighting. It is too chaotic and immoral for him to rationalize its

cause. He fights anyway, because the army puts some form

of discipline in his life. At the start of the novel, Frederick

drinks and travels from one house of prostitution to another

and yet he is discontent because his life is very unsettled. He

befriends a priest because he admires the fact that the priest

lives his life by a set of values that give him an orderly

lifestyle. Further into the novel, Frederick becomes involved

with Catherine Barkley. He slowly falls in love with her and,

in his love for her, he finds commitment. Their relationship

brings some order and value to his life. Compared to this

new form of order in his life, Frederick sees the losing Italian

army as total chaos and disorder where he had previously

seen discipline and control. He can no longer remain a part

of something that is so disorderly and so, he deserts the

Italian army. Frederick's desertion from the Italian army is

the turning point of the novel. This is the significance of the

title, A Farewell to Arms. When Frederick puts aside his

involvement in the war, he realizes that Catherine is the order

and value in his life and that he does not need anything else

to give meaning to his life. At the conclusion of this novel,

Frederick realizes that he cannot base his life on another

person or thing because, ultimately, they will leave or

disappoint him. He realizes that the order and values

necessary to face the world must come from within himself.

Catherine Barkley is an English volunteer nurse who serves

in Italy. She is considered very experienced when it comes

to love and loss since she has already been confronted with

the death of a loved one when her fiance was killed earlier in

the war. The reader is not as well acquainted with

Catherine's inner thoughts and feelings as we are with those

of Frederick. The story is told through Frederick's eyes and

the reader only meets Catherine through the dialogue

between her and Frederick or through his personal

interpretations of her actions. Catherine already possesses

the knowledge that her own life cannot be dependent on

another. She learned this lesson through the death of her

fiance. Her love for Frederick is what her life revolves

around, yet she knows not to rely on him to be the order in

her life. Had she been dependent on Frederick for the order

in her life, she would not have been able to allow him to

participate in the war for fear of losing her own stability with

his death. The theme that Hemingway emphasizes 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 lead her through life. This is

what Frederick must come to realize. Through his

involvement with Catherine, Frederick slowly finds his own

inner strength. Frederick's affair with Catherine prompts him

to leave his wild life of prostitutes and drink. He becomes

aware of an element of stability in their affair and realizes that

the war that he was involved in was too chaotic, so he

deserts the army. 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 that his values are in perspective, yet he still seems

discontented. He continuously has to convince himself that

he has "a fine life." He has not yet reached Catherine's level

that enables her to be perfectly happy in their love and yet

not dependent on it for all comfort and support. Frederick

still has to find that within himself. Until the conclusion of the

novel, Frederick still relies on Catherine as the source of

order in his life. With the end of their affair when Catherine

dies giving birth to their stillborn love-child, Frederick

realizes that he cannot depend on any one person, such as

Catherine, or any thing, such as religion, war, or frivolity, for

order and discipline. Hemingway describes Frederick's

enlightenment best in the final paragraph of the novel when

Frederick sees Catherine's corpse for the first and last time.

Frederick's reaction was that "it was like saying good-by to

a statue." Frederick realizes that Catherine was only a

symbol of the order and strength in his life. Strength to face

life must come from within him and only he will be able to get

himself through his own life. He will have to learn to depend

on himself. Frederick realizes this and is able to get on with

his life on his own. "After a while [he] went out and left the

hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain." He did not

mourn or feel like his own life had ended with her death,

rather he was able to continue on with his newfound inner

strength and face his world alone. This novel succeeds in

getting Hemingway's message across. Frederick's realization

causes the reader to reflect on his/her own life and on what

institutions they depend on in their own lives. I enjoyed this

novel because I learned along with Frederick that I must

face my life on my own. The strength to face my problems

cannot come from any other source because no other source

can ever be as permanent as the strength that I can find

within myself.  

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