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Essay/Term paper: A farewell to arms

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms

[If The Sun Also Rises was one of the best books I have ever read, then A
Farewell to Arms is Truth. I simply cannot believe that these books existed so
long without my knowledge of how grand they are. I consider myself to read
constantly, more than almost anyone I know, literature and simple, and here in
less than a month I read two books that are undoubtedly among the best I have
encountered. How many other good books exist that I have yet to read? Am I
really a reader? Will I ever finish them all? What will I do if I tire of
reading?]

When I finished FTA I was of course stunned by the death of Catherine and the
baby and Henry's sudden solitude. "What happens now?" I felt, as I so often do
when I finish a book that I want to go on forever. This is infinitely more
difficult with a book that has no conclusion, and FTA leaves a reader not only
emotionally exhausted but also just as alone as Henry and with nowhere to go.
The entire work was aware of where it was going and what was going to happen
next, and then to stop the way it did was unfair. Now, I've read enough essays
while deciding which would be the topic for my class presentation that I know
many people see that the unfairness of life and the insignificance of our free
will are apparently the most important themes in the book, but I don't agree. I
also don't agree that it is a war story or a love story. Exactly what it is,
though, is not clear to me. Can't art exist without being anything? "There isn't
always an explanation for everything."

War and love are obviously important themes in the book, and the relationship
between the two is explored by Hemingway and, somewhat, by Henry. In the first
two Books we are in the war and the war is overwhelming. In the last two Books
we are in love. And, just as the first two Books are peppered with love in the
time of war, the last two Books are tinged with war in the time of love. The
third Book is the bridge between the two 'stories' and it is not surprising that
it centers on the escape. It is during the escape that Henry resolves that he is
through with the war (a war in which he really has no place) and decides that
all he wants is to be with Catherine.

Until the third Book Henry doesn't seem to be agonizingly concerned with matters
of right or wrong in the war and it seems, in fact, separate from him. Even when
he is injured it doesn't appear that he is really a part of the war which
surrounds him. He maintains a distance from it and this distance isn't really
closed until Aymo is killed by his own army, he discovers that Bonello is only
staying with him out of respect, and he is almost killed as a spy. After this he
resolves to desert the army and be reunited with his love, Catherine. Henry is
no dummy and he could easily tell that everything was not all correct with Cat,
which leads to the question of his love for her. You must admit that Cat is a
bit...well... flaky when they first meet. She loses that persona soon enough,
although I couldn't help but distrust her integrity until somewhere in the
middle of the fourth Book. It is also difficult to believe wholeheartedly in his
love for her until much later in their relationship, and it leaves me wondering
if he is leaving his involvement in the war because of his unfailing love for
Cat or if Cat and any feelings he has for her are just excuses to escape the
insanity of the war he experiences in the third Book. When he is with Catherine,
they are in another place, untouched by the war, both symbolically (in the tent
of her hair) and literally (in Switzerland).

[It seems like I don't ever say anything earth-shattering, or even critical, in
these response papers, and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to do that. The line,
"The war seemed as far away as the football games of some one else's college,"
is beautiful.]

 

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