Mrs. L. Kerseboom
“War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” (Bruce Springsteen) When people think of war, lots will think about man on the battlefield, dodging away for the flying bullets, throwing away enemy grenades and shooting the invaders of the holy fatherland. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, gives a critical view on this general thought. By using different techniques, Hemingway states multiple times that war is sad, horrible, meaningless and that the heroic image some people have is false.
During the book we can see many moments Hemingway expresses his thoughts on the war by using the main characters. He hates the war, and he hopes it is going to end soon. He does not give much value to courage and bravery. This becomes clear early on in the book when he picks up a wounded soldier, who admitted he threw away his truss (a support for a hernia) so he would not have to go back to the front again. The man was afraid he would be send to his commanding officers who were aware of the fact that the guy threw away his truss. He asked if Henry could take him anywhere else otherwise the officers would put him in front all the time. At first, Henry refuses, but the man with the hernia says: “You wouldn’t want to go in the line all the time, would you?” (Hemingway 34)Henry says he wouldn’t want that. The man goes on: ‘Jesus Christ, ain’t this a goddam war?’ (Hemingway 34)Henry decides that he is going to help the man and he brings him to another hospital. Heroic people, who think courage is very important, would see the man with the hernia as a coward. They wouldn’t help him. Henry felt sorry for the man, realizing that his life at the front, especially because he has a hernia, is horrible. Another example Hemingway refuses to consider abstract terms like courage and bravery, is when Henry shoots one of the engineers when the car gets stuck in the mud and the engineers try to run away instead of helping Henry to get the car out of the mud. He uses a writing style which is similar to the style journalists use. He tells the event with just facts, without any form of emotion. He refuses to give the audience a moral reason to explain why he shot the soldier. His fellow soldiers even support him by saying his actions were normal. This certain event in the book also showed clearly the opinion of Hemingway that war is meaningless. Nobody expects Henry to be so aggressive all of a sudden, and the reader can’t really understand why Henry did this. So basically, it was a meaningless action. Also, when Henry flees with Catherine, he leaves his men behind. Although he feels slightly bad to just leave his men behind and not care about them, he did take the step, which, in the eyes of patriotic men would be seen as behavior of a coward. He valued his own well-being and that of his lover above any form of courage or sacrifice. His lover Catherine does not like war either. This is mostly because her fiancé died in the war. When Henry meets Catherine, they play a game, they do not love each other, they just want to forget the war, get some distraction. That’s how horrible war was to Catherine, she needed a boyfriend to not feel completely depressed and lonely. Moreover, Catherine states multiple times that she hopes the war is going to end soon, so that they can always be together. Not only Henry and Catherine are important to shape the atmosphere of the book, also side characters have an important role in doing this.
Side characters are used by Hemingway to create an atmosphere in which everyone hates war. Because the book is semi-autobiographical, some characters really existed so their ideas are realistic. They experienced war themselves, so they can explain how people feel during a war. However some characters are made up and used to express the opinion of Hemingway on the war even more. Passini is an example of one of these less important characters that Hemmingway uses in that way....