A Farewell to Arms - Existentialism

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Like staring into an abyss. In the end there is no meaning, no logic and no hope. We are left with just alienation and nothingness.

Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’ explores notions surrounding both love and war. However it is not a love story, and nor is it a war story. It is a combination of both that allows for Hemingway to discuss what he is truly interested in: Existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophy that developed from the concept that there is no inherent meaning in life. However, we can create meaning. A Farewell to Arms is an exploration of this, but more than that, it’s an exploration of the reality of this in that; meaning in life doesn’t last forever, and when it’s gone, it leaves us with no logic and no hope, just nothingness.

Hemingway uses his protagonist Frederic Henry to support his existentialist views. He does this, firstly by creating meaning in Frederic’s life. Hemingway creates Catherine for him. Their love is only a game at first, Frederic admits “God knows [he] had not wanted to fall in love with anyone.” However, it becomes so much more than that. Towards the end of the novel, if Catherine isn’t with him he “[hasn’t] a thing in the world”. Hemingway makes a point of foreshadowing this inevitable fact early on, when we are privy to Frederick’s thoughts as he contemplates that “It was a long time since [he] had written to the States and [he] knew [he] should write but [he] had let it go so long that it was almost impossible to write now.” Throughout the book, the people he associates with; Rinaldi, the men in his regiment, everyone, they all disappear. Finally, he’s left with Catherine, and their unborn baby. Other than them, he has no one. If they were to leave, he would be left alienated.

Hemingway was not interested in the love story, or the war story. He was merely interested in communicating his views on the world to his readers. Predominantly, he was interested in communicating his views on existentialism. He...
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