Michelle den Hartog
January 4, 2013
Religious aspects of the novel A Farewell to Arms
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway presents the nada and the nature of the universe. It also shows aspects of an anti-war novel. The protagonist of the book, Frederick Henry, betrays his love for nurse Catherine Barkley. This relationship represents Henry’s character as a typical Hemingway hero. He is an egoist and he is passive towards his wife Catherine. The character has recognized and accepted the reality of nada. Once you start comparing Henry’s behavior with reference to religion you can clearly see he is passive towards religion as well. Henry does understand the concept of religion, but he does not show much love for God. The novel portrays different aspects of religion during wartime.
Religion plays a significant role in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. The fact that there is a priest present in novel displays the importance of religion. The Italian priest is a close friend to Henry. However, the priest does not have such an excellent friendship with the other soldiers. Compared to the other soldiers, Henry shows great respect towards the priest. The other soldiers treat the priest like he’s a fool. ‘Priest not happy.’ Priest not happy without girls.’ ‘I am happy,’ said the priest. ‘Priest not happy. (Hemingway,13) It’s obvious that they don’t respect the priest and religion at all. More important, though, is for what he is ridiculed. An officer has pointed out in front of a group of soldiers the fact that the priest doesn’t want to have sexual intercourse with women. Nevertheless, the soldiers believe he is insane, because of the fact that he does not want to have sex and sticks to his faith. The priest takes the criticism as a joke and shows he is strong of his faith by not responding. The fact that he can take all kinds of filthy jokes without getting angry shows the strength of his faith and protect him against the disintegrating effects of war.
The presence of the priest shows that Hemingway believes religion is an important thing. The priest is a man of faith representing religious attitudes to life. He feels uncomfortable living in the big city, because he originally comes from the small town Abruzzi. When Henry is in the mess he discusses where he should go during his leave. Rinaldi and the major tell him to go to Rome and other big cities. But, the priest offers him a deal to go to Abruzzi, where it is cold, but clear and dry. ‘I would like you to go to Abruzzi,’ the priest said. ‘The others were shouting. ‘There is good hunting. You would like the people and though it is cold it is clear and dry.’ (8) Although Henry respects the offer he goes to a big city instead of going to the small town Abruzzi. The priest is disappointed of Henry. Later, Henry feels sorry too. ‘I myself felt as badly as he did and could not understand why I had not gone. (12) Henry’s apology shows that he feels terribly sorry. It also shows his respect towards the priest and that they have a strong friendship.
At the start of the novel the major from Henry’s mess declares his lack of faith in God, as he said: “He loves Franz Joseph. That’s where the money comes from. I am an atheist.’ (7) This means that the major isn’t very religious. By saying that he only likes Franz because of his money it clearly shows his lack of faith in God. This is a strange thing, while a major must be the one who represents religion. He is supposed to be the one who convinces people to believe in God and might be a hero for some human beings.
The attitudes that the characters of the novel have towards war and life are closely related with their views on religion. The conditions of war and daily life were obscure for the characters. Most of the characters aren’t religious, except for the priest and Henry. When Catherine arrives in the hospital a woman at the desk asks for her data. ‘She said...