Farewell to Arms

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People often find meaning in their lives by devoting themselves to a certain passion or conviction. In Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, individuals struggle to find meaning and order in an otherwise chaotic and war-torn world. For example, Frederic Henry, who has little sense of direction or purpose from his demoralization from war, seems to find solace in love, which serves as the conviction Frederic needs to obtain peace and stability. Although his attempts to find order fail and lead to great suffering for him, Frederic ends up maturing greatly, with a better understanding of life. Hemingway uses Frederic’s conflict between his duty as a soldier and his love for Catherine to demonstrate that maturity and true solace come from following a conviction and gracefully accepting the hardships that may follow.

Frederic begins the war as a naïve and detached young man seeking for a purpose in life to guide him through life’s troubles. He lacks the conviction needed for him to direct his decisions and live a meaningful life; he thus tries to find structure by enrolling in the war. However, since he is an American with little connection to Italy, Frederic does not have a viable reason to feel committed to the Italian army, evident when he says: “Well, I knew I would not be killed. Not in this war. It did not have anything to do with me” (37). Even the promise of honor and the duties of patriotism mean little to Henry. Frederic voices his opinion of the irrationality of the war rhetoric by saying: “I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it” (185). Despite the romanticized ideals about the war, Frederic feels that countless people were dying, not in dignity but in futility, and were rewarded with a disregard that is comparable to animals getting slaughtered in stockyards only to be buried right after. Frederic is unwilling to...
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