English II Honors
In “A Farewell to Arms”, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, and “The Sun Also Rises”, Ernest Hemingway uses damaged characters to show the unglamorous and futile nature of war and the effects it has on people. Hemingway wants readers to know that war is not what people make it out to be; it is unspectacular and not heroic. Hemingway also feels that war is futile by nature and that most goals in war have almost no point. He also shows readers that military conflict often causes people to have thin values and to hide their pain for their own protection. Most people talk of war in heroic circumstances, with the soldier being brave and able to face any challenge that is set in front of him, when this is not always true. Hemingway shows this through his characters. In A Farewell to Arms Rinaldi glorifies Lieutenant Henry’s injured knee. He insists that Henry is a hero despite Henry getting hit by an artillery strike while eating cheese and pasta. Rinaldi talks Henry up, saying that his actions during the course of his injury warrant the Silver Star and an English medal. In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Robert Jordan shares this heroic feeling, and feels that his actions can be important in the war, though he is unclear why. He calls his act of blowing up a bridge a turning point for both the Spanish Civil War and the human race. He thinks only of his valor and tells himself to stop worrying whenever another thought crosses his mind. “Robert Jordan pays… in order to assure the success of a Loyalist offensive, although he already knows that the offensive will be a failure” (Cowley 89). Hemingway shows that soldiers actually live much more mundane lives than people outside of war know. They do not experience the heroism that others around them, outside of the combat area, describe. Hemingway reinforces his message that people and the media do not talk about war accurately by having his characters never discuss the worst parts of war. In A Farewell to Arms, Catherine and Henry talk about every subject besides the war. They discuss the most trivial matter to occupy their minds and keep them off the war. The only time they do mention the war is to talk about the front they are serving on and they describe it as silly and picturesque. Hemingway further shows this when in The Sun Also Rises, Jacob Barnes and Georgette skim over talking about the war. They bring it up briefly and only describe it as dirty. They go into no detail and it prompts no further discussion. “Their standards are the very simple standards of those at war. The virtues they admire are generosity, courage, a certain resignation, and also the ability to hold one’s liquor” (Cowley 74). People who are actually in dire situations use avoidance techniques to deal with the gravity of them. This is where their modest and somewhat shallow values come from. Hemingway is not anti-war, but wants his audience to know what war involves, believing that people should know the truth. The true nature of war is shown in A Farewell to Arms when Lieutenant Henry experiences the physical damage that it causes. An artillery strike destroys Henry’s knee. This injury follows him throughout the rest of the story and he is never fully rid of it. By the end of the novel, he also loses Catherine, his primary distraction from the war. He is alone and scarred. The major talks about how bad it has been. He talks about the loss of soldiers all around him and how bad the front has been since Henry was injured. The major goes as far to say that he is very tired of the war and if he had the chance to get away from it, that he would not return. The gruesome truth also appears in For Whom the Bell Tolls through a vivid description of Pablo shooting guards in the back of the head. The sight of the dead guards covered in blood makes Robert Jordan feel weak in the stomach. Hemingway also shows the physical effects of war on the people involved or...