Critical Analysis of " a Farewell to Arms" by Earnest Hemingway

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Frederic Henry, in Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell To Arms,” undergoes a self-awakening into the ideas of existentialism. In the beginning of the novel, Henry is a drifter unconsciously searching for a meaning in life. As Henry is slowly discovers the trivialities and horrors of life, he becomes “authentic.” Which means discovering the existential idea that life has no meaning and learning to deal with it. Religion, patriotism, love, and several other outward forms pose as temptations that Henry must conquer in his quest to become authentic.

Henry’s first temptation is that of religion and what it means. Henry flirts with the idea of religion with a series of doubts and questions. What appeals to Henry and religious followers is that religion gives man a set guideline on how to live and hope. Henry is a drifter unconsciously looking for fulfillment. Henry’s first temptation with religion was the Priest’s home town of Abruzzi. The priest persuades Henry with the idea of going to his hometown. The Priest explains to Henry, “There is good hunting. You will like the people and though it is cold it is clear and dry.” Abruzzi is more than a town in that it represents religion. Henry throughout the novel really wants to give religion a chance but is held back by reasons beyond his control “I had not gone. It was what I had wanted to do and I tried to explain how one thing had led to another and finally he saw it and understood that I had really wanted to go and it was almost all right.” Critic Ray West Jr. explains that Henry’s lack of acceptance towards faith as “A parable of twentieth-century man’s disgust and disillusionment at the failure of civilization to achieve the ideals it had been promising throughout the nineteenth century.” Author Hemingway’s character Frederic Henry represents twentieth-century man. Twentieth-century man rejects religion in that religion does not keep its promises. After centuries of unchallenged doctrines of religion mankind slowly discovers that what was once sacred is now nothing. In the nineteenth century religion was controlled with a iron fist in that people had to follow a certain set of guidelines or there was no reward in heaven. People began to ignore the ideas of religion and still lead happy peaceful lives. Man acknowledges that life can exist without God. Henry makes evident critic Ray West Jr.’s twentieth- century man theory in that he says, “ In defeat we become Christians”. Hemingway is concluding that religion is the realization of hope and guidance beyond means other than yourself. Defeat in that instead of looking for answers elsewhere, the answers should come from within. Henry goes on to say, “I had gone to no such place but to the smoke of cafes and nights when the room whirled and you needed to look at the wall to make it stop, nights in bed, drunk, when you knew that that was all there was, and the strange excitement of waking and not knowing who it was with you, and the world all unreal in the dark.” The vices or reality of Henry’s world cannot accept the “though it is cold it is clear and dry” town of Abruzzi. As with religion Henry doesn’t accept the idea of God or Christian doctrines. Christian guidelines certainly would not conform to Henry’s lifestyle Henry after explaining to the priest that “He had not had it but he understood that I had really wanted to go to the Abruzzi but had not gone and we were still friends, with many tastes alike, but with the difference between us.” Henry realizes that without religion men can still function in harmony. The priest has his set values and rules defined by Christian doctrines and rules. As in Henry has his own values and rules defined by himself the individual. Henry confides unconsciously to the priest of his fading faith. When at the hospital in Milan talking about the status of the war Henry unaware at the time sums up his view on religion: “I had hoped for something more.”...
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