Themes in a Farewell to Arms

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A Farewell To Arms: Themes

There are three major themes in Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms. The first themeis enduring love ended only by mortality. The second, the effects of war on a man's ideals

and morals, things which people can and do believe during war. The last and most

important theme is Frederic Henry's disillusionment.

Hemingway shows that love can persevere in a world ruined with war. Frederic is

not looking for love, and when Rinaldi introduces him to Catherine Barkley, he thinks of

her as merely a sexual conquest. Henry considers his flirting with Catherine "like moves in

a chess game.". Henry thinks Catherine is a little bit crazy, and both admit they are acting.

At the front, Henry realizes he is lonely without her and misses her. But it is not until he

meets her, after he is wounded and sent to an American hospital, that he realizes he loves

her. Henry admits he didn't want to fall in love with her, but even so he has. Their love

continues to grow during his stay at the hospital. Their relationship is unusual since they

rarely argue. Their ideal relationship provides them with refuge from the war. However,

love, has it's limit, mortality. Henry leaves for the front again he suggests that their

romance is only ended by death. He notices because of his love he has become gentle.

When he deserts and returns to Catherine he finds comfort, order, and courage. He says,

foreshadowing the end of their love, "If people bring so much courage to this world the

world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.". Henry has become

dependent on Catherine. His love for her is strong enough to ease his disillusionment In

Chapter 41 their baby is born dead. Henry hopelessly watches as Catherine dies and he is

left without comfort or hope.

Henry's ideals and morals change during the novel. He begins to question the legal

and immoral theories of the war and replace them with illegal but moral ideas. For

instance, in Chapter 7 Henry meets a soldier who wants to be taken to a hospital which is

against the rules. At first Henry objects, but when the soldier asks him "You wouldn't

want to go in the line all the time, would you?", he answers no and decides to return later

and pick him up. Henry has been unable to find new morals, since he has lost faith in what

the leaders proclaim. Another example is the Romantic ideology of the time, the belief

that war brings glory and honor. Henry enters the war looking for adventure but finds no

glory or honor. He finds he is any no more important to the war than any other soldier.

Also, Henry in Chapter 24, willingly gives up his seat, however, when he was younger he

would have fought for it. He has become mellow and tired of conflict, not because of the

war, but because of his love for Catherine. (?) In Chapter 24, when aviators look at his

civilian clothes with scorn he isn't upset, he has made his peace. The soldiers accept

sanctioned prostitution and verbal abuse of the priest as typical behavior, yet before the

war it would not have been allowed. Once again, in Chapter 29 Henry acts curiously by

shooting a fleeing sergeant. Henry usually follows regulations, and because he had an

spectators he must act like an officer and show his authority. Henry doesn't believe that

shooting other men is moral but the war caused him to do so. Again, Rinaldi is much like

Henry apart from their attitude towards women. Henry sees Catherine as his escape and

Rinaldi finds, that visiting the Villa Rosa brothel he too forgets about the war. Neither

Henry nor Rinaldi can escape entirely from the war. Finally, for instance, in Chapter 30 he

deserts and turns his back on the war. Catherine, also, has her morals effected by the war.

She says that she stayed a virgin for her boyfriend to return from war, but since they "blew

him all to bits" she wishes she...
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