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Ernest Hemmingway's 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms is a wartime romance set during World War I in Italy. It is equally a powerful story of young men in war who continue bravely fighting even when they believe that war is wrong, or useless in solving the problems of the world. The story centers on Lieutenant Frederic Henry, a nanve, self-centered American who is fighting with the Italian Army as an ambulance driver before the United States entered World War I. During the course of the novel, Henry develops into a man who takes responsibility for his decisions and fate. This paper will analyze the main characters and the novel's themes, and then present a critical analysis of the book by literary critics.
At the start of the novel, the war seems to be going well for the Italians, and after a leave in Southern Italy, Henry returns to his unit. He is introduced to English nurse Catherine Barkley by his friend Lieutenant Rinaldi, an Italian surgeon. The two begin a wartime flirtation that eventually turns into passionate love and tragedy. When Henry is wounded in a combat zone, he ends up in Milan to undergo rehabilitation for his seriously wounded legs. He meets up with Catherine again who is also stationed in Milan, and the two begin a love affair. Henry does not love Catherine initially. 'I knew I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game'.'(Hemingway 31). On her part, Catherine is recovering from her fiance's death, and she uses Hen
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ds Frederic Henry to say his farewell to arms. 'It was not my show anymore' (Hemingway 232). He deserts and finds Catherine and they escape the war into neutral Switzerland. The two lovers are now happy, but Henry's happiness turns to deep sorrow when the baby is delivered dead and Catherine dies in childbirth. Henry's loss and cynicism is expressed as Catherine is dying. 'Now Catherine would die. That was what you did. You died.... [continues]
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