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Essay/Term paper: A farewell to arms

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Papers

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All fiction is autobiographical, no matter how obscure from the author's
experience it may be, marks of their life can be detected in any of their
tales. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is based largely on Hemingway's
own personal experiences. The main character of the novel, Frederic Henry,
experiences many of the same situations that Hemingway lived. Some of these
similarities are exact, while some are less similar, and some events have a
completely different outcome.
Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899, in Oak Park, Illinois. Hemingway
worked as a reporter for the Kansas City Star after graduating from high
school in 1917. During World War I, he served as an ambulance driver in the
Italian infantry and was wounded just before his 19th birthday. Hospitalized,
Hemingway fell in love with an older nurse. Later, while working in Paris as
a correspondent for the Toronto Star, he became involved with the expatriate
literary and artistic circle surrounding Gertrude Stein. During the Spanish
Civil War, Hemingway served as a correspondent on the loyalist side. He fought
in World War II and then settled in Cuba in 1945. In 1954, Hemingway was
awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. After his expulsion from Cuba by the
Castro regime, he moved to Idaho. In his life, Hemingway married four times
and wrote numerous essays, short stories and novels. The effects of
Hemingway's lifelong depressions, illnesses and accidents caught up with him.
In July 1961, he committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho. What remains, are his
works, the product of a talented author.
A Farewell to Arms is the story of Frederic Henry, an American, driving an
ambulance for the Italian Army during World War I. The novel takes us through
Frederic's experiences in war and his love affair with Catherine Barkley, an
American nurse in Italy. The novel starts in the northern mountains of Italy
at the beginning of World War I. Rinaldi, Frederic's roommate, takes him to
visit a nurse he has taken a liking to. Catherine Barkley, the nurse Rinaldi
speaks of, is instantly attracted to Frederic and he is to her. Frederic
courts her for a brief time before he goes to the front.
At the front, Frederic is wounded in the legs and taken to an aid station and
then to an army hospital. He is then transferred to an American hospital in
Milan where he meets up with Catherine again. Their love flourishes. They
spend their nights together in Frederic's hospital bed and their days going to
restaurants, horse races and taking carriage rides.
Frederic returns to the war after his recovery. The war is going badly in
Italy. The German troops forced a full-scale retreat. Soon after Frederic's
return, he deserts the war in a daring escape. Frederic leaves and meets a
pregnant Catherine in Stresa.
The two go over to Switzerland where they spend an idyllic time waiting for
the birth of their baby. Catherine has a long and difficult labor. Their
baby is delivered dead. Catherine dies soon after from "one hemorrhage after
another." After Catherine dies, Frederic leaves and walks back to his hotel.
A Farewell to Arms is a story of love and pain and of loyalty and desertion
set in the tragic time of war.
There are many similarities in the experiences of Ernest Hemingway and his
character Frederic Henry, in A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway and Henry were
both involved in World War I, in a medical capacity, but neither of them were
regular army personnel. Like Hemingway, Henry was shot in his right knee
during a battle. Both men were Americans but were ambulance drivers for the
Italian Army. In real life, Hemingway met his love, Agnes, a nurse, in the
hospital after being shot; Henry met his love, Catherine Barkley, also a
nurse, before he was shot and hospitalized. In both cases, the relationships
with these women were strengthened while the men were hospitalized. Another
difference is that in A Farewell to Arms, Catherine and her child died while
she was giving birth, this was not the case with Agnes, who left Henry for
another Italian Army officer. Nevertheless, these differences are only
surface. These slight changes allowed Hemingway, an extremely private man, to
try and prove to the public that it was not himself and his own experiences
which he was writing about. On the contrary, In the book Modern Critical
Interpretations of A Farewell to Arms, Millicent Bell sees the novel as "not
the autobiography some readers have thought it" (Bloom 113). Instead, Bell
perceives the novel to be a "pseudoautobiography and a personal metaphor."
One can see that Bell ignored the deep psychological similarities that Henry
and Hemingway share. Their similar escapes, their morbid nature, their
avoidance of relationships, their obsession with war, and their similar views
on death.
There is great power in being an author; you can make things happen which do
not necessarily occur in real life. Hemingway felt throughout his life,
powerless, and so to escape this, he created alternative lives by writing
stories. Hemingway, who fell in love with Agnes, an American nurse, seven
years older than he, while wounded in Milan, was deeply hurt after she didn't
return his affections. While the beginning of A Farewell to Arms, up until
this point is similar, this is where the story changes. In the book, Frederic
and Catherine are both in love with each other. Hemingway continued his
affair with Agnes through Frederic and Catherine. He put his dreams of what
his faded love affair would have been like in the love scenes between
Catherine and Frederic:
"When I saw her I was in love with her. Everything turned over inside of me.
She looked toward the door, saw there was no one, then she sat on the side of
the bed and leaned over and kissed me. I pulled her down and kissed her and
felt her heart beating."

Writing about what could have been was one way that Hemingway escaped from
his life. Like Frederic Henry, Hemingway also acted out his feelings of
inadequacy among other problems by hunting, drinking, spending lots of money
and sleeping with many women. Escapism, which is a theme of the novel, is
largely by Frederic and Ernest to deal with their similar wounds,
psychological and physical.
Hemingway and Henry also have similar unhealthy obsessions and personality
flaws. Both men are eternally morbid, which shows itself in their obsessions
with war and death. Hemingway shows his melancholy belief that death is

inevitable through Frederic. Hemingway shows the reader that death ends life
before you have the chance to live it. This was undoubtedly one of the
reason's that Hemingway ended the book in Catherine Barkley's death and the
death of her child. Frederic says in response to the deaths:
"You died. You did not know what it was about. You never had time to learn.
They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you
off base they killed you^Å they killed you in the end. You could count on
that. Stay around and they would kill you."

Hemingway fought in more that one war and subsequently wrote more than one
novel about his experiences in them. Henry also could not leave the war for
even a moment, up until the end when he decides to desert. When Catherine
asks Frederic to stop talking about the war for awhile, he counters with,
"It's very hard, there's no place to drop it."
Essayist Wyndham Lewis in the book Twentieth Century Interpretations of A
Farewell to Arms says that the war years "were a democratic, a leveling
school" for Hemingway. Lewis feels that war was "a release" for Hemingway, an
"opportunity to show that he is a real man" (Gellens 76). The statement made
by Lewis is evidently true of Hemingway. One can see that he is obsessed with
war, much like Frederic Henry, because it is an outlet for him, or another
form of escape.
Another striking similarity between Hemingway and his character Henry, is
their isolationism. Edgar Johnson in Twentieth Century Interpretations of A
Farewell to Arms writes, "it is society as a whole that is rejected, social
responsibility, social concern." Henry, like Hemingway, leads a private life
as a detached, isolated individual. He socializes with the officers, talks
with the priest and visits the officer's brothel, but maintains only
superficial relationships. The only relationship that means anything to him
is Catherine, which is Hemingway's Agnes, both of which are isolated
relationships. Johnson says about Hemingway, "He will solve the problem of
dealing with the world by taking refuge in individualism and isolated personal
relationships and sensations" (Gellens 112-113). Happiness comes for
Hemingway and Henry only when they are in these relationships, away from the
pressures of society and their lives.
Ernest Hemingway once gave some advice to his fellow writer F. Scott
Fitzgerald. If something in life hurts you, you should use it in your
writing. In writing a Farewell to Arms, Hemingway followed his own advice.
In many ways, Frederic Henry was a psychological parallel to Hemingway. The
painful experiences of his own life, which were consciously and unconsciously
placed in this novel, helped make it a major literary achievement.


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