Farewell to Arms

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"You are all a lost generation" -Gertrude Stein

This quotation's importance on author Earnest Hemmingway is reflected in his modern Romeo and Juliet novel entitled A Farewell to Arms. The recurring tone of the novel suggests that the only reality is the harsh truth which is anything but romantic and proves that in the end, all is futile. This generation in which Stein spoke of to Hemingway is the generation of romantic war times. This idea is symbolized in the character Catherine Barkley's vision of her wartime love where she states " ‘ I remember having this silly idea he might come to the hospital where I was. With a sabre cut, I suppose, and a bandage around his head. Or shot through the shoulder. Something picturesque.' ‘This is the picturesque front,' I said.
‘Yes,' she said. ‘People can't realize what France is like. If they did, it couldn't all go on. He didn't have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits.' (20)" Catherine's pathetic ideal of a "picturesque" rendezvous is also the majority mentality at the time. Her realization of the cruel truth is but a glimpse of the futile art of war and life. Yet, even though it appears that she, who ultimately represents all of society in this scene, realizes this truth, she in fact is ignorant to it many times throughout the novel.

The novel is terrorized by the overlaying tone of the harsh nihilism. Belief in nihilism is the melancholy view in which there is no point to life, and faith in nothing. This tone is best portrayed in the agony of Henry when questioned about his desires for the war by the priest. " ‘I had hoped for something .'

‘Defeat?'
‘No. Something more.'
‘There isn't anything more. Except victory. It may be worse.' ‘I hoped for a long time for victory.'
‘Me too.'
‘Now I don't know.'
‘It has to be one or the other.'
‘I don't believe in victory any more.'
‘I don't . But I don't believe in defeat. Though it may be better.' ‘What do you believe in?'
‘In sleep,' I...
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