A Farewell to Arms: Contrast in Personalities

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  • Topic: Love, Marriage, Sexual intercourse
  • Pages : 5 (1909 words )
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  • Published : March 17, 2005
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Catherine Barkley and Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway present a contrast in personalities: in the ways they are playing opposite roles, in Catherines maturity and leadership and in Frederics immaturity and ineptness, and in the ways they view love. Frederic Henry is the narrorator and the protagonist in the novel. He is a former student of arcitecture of arcitecture who has volunteered to join the Italian Army as an ambulance officer, because he could not speak Italian. He tries to find fulfillment in love following his injury and desertion of his army post. Catherine Barkley is an English nurse with whom Frederic Henry falls in love with. Catherine Barkley takes care of Henry physically and emotionally. Besides making love, Catherine cares for Frederic like a mother cares for her child (Hays-52). Frederic Henry remains selfish despite his love for Catherine, and never comes close to the self sacrificing devotion that his friend, the priest, characterizes as true love (Donaldson-56). When Frederic gets shot in the knee, Catherine is the nurse that takes care of him. When Frederic decides to desert his post, he leaves with Catherine. Frederic does not fall in love with Catherine when he starts telling her he loves her, it is not until later in the book that he finds the love for her in him. Although Catherine loves him with all she has, he does not realize the true meaning of love, at first, but yet still tells her that he does love her.

A contrast in personalities is presented in the ways Frederic and Catherine are playing opposite roles in the relationship in the relationship. In a "normal" relationship between a man and a woman, the man is the one who takes care of the women and all that, but in this relationship it is reversed. Frederic is an ambulance officer for the Italian Army and Catherine is his nurse. Any time Frederic is injured, Catherine is there to help him out and care for him. Not only does Catherine take care of his physical state, but she also takes care of his emotional state. Whenever Frederic is feeling down, Catherine is there to cheer him up. Catherine maturely decides to make a commitment, to love someone who she knows does not love her back, and to take full reponsibility for her actions throughout, including the pregnancy that occurs (Hays-55). Catherine Barkley was a ministract, a mentor, and a teacher to Frederic (Hays-55). She did whatever she could to keep him happy and take good care of him. Frederic absorbs what others teach and then acts at last on his own on his own resolve (Waldhorn-68). As Robert Lewis noted, "Catherine, assumed the active, male role," and in several subtle ways and just as deftly, under cuts Frederic's (Hays-53). Frederic Henry is tutored in the ways of life by other characters in the novel (Waldhorn-68). In Lausanne, Frederic reverses the roles back to normal, nursing Catherine as she had once done for him for a long period in Milan, even donning a hospital a hospital gown as he administers anesthetic from a gas cylinder (Hays-51). Frederic serves Catherine in providing a love object, a focus for her self-prescribed romance therapy that cures her unstable mental state and does bring her hapiness in some way (Hays-51). Catherine is worried about what may happin in the relationship after such changes take place, but decides not to worry about it and just go along with the new changes that are now happening to them.

A contrast of personalities is presented in Catherines maturity and leadership and Frederics immautiry and ineptness. Frederic is a very jealous lover as shown in this quote, "I don't. I don't want anybody else to touch you. I'm silly, I get furious if they touch you" (Hemingway-299). Frederic has no wholly explory male figure before him (Waldhorn-68). This could explain why he has no explanation for abandoning his studies for abandoning his studies (Waldhorn-68). As Bell says, "in the isolation of his hospital bed, like a...
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