A Farewell to Arms Style Analysis

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Regina Carrere
van der Woude
AP English Language/Period 7
1 October 2012

A time of war is accompanied by death and separation, where morality simply becomes grey and banal and a pair of lovers solace is found in their isolation. In A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemmingway illustrates the strife of the narrator, Frederick Henry, with the young protagonist’s moral struggle with the reasoning behind war and the consolation found in his love for Catherine Barkley.

Hemmingway sets the atmosphere for the lovers through diction that implies isolation and felicity. Henry uses words such as “night,” “empty,” and “outside” to emphasize the secrecy and concealment he feels when he’s with his wife, Catherine (249). He even goes as far to use the pronoun “it” to refer to the act of sex (249). The secretive language that Henry uses expresses his fondness of the few moments he gets to spend with Nurse Barkley. Love transforms for the usually emotionally detached Lieutenant into a sacred refuge. Amidst the solitude of the forlorn couple Henry conveys his experience in the room with words such as “light,” “pleasant,” “cheerful,” “exciting,” “comfortable,” “smooth,” and “home” (249). Henry creates a warm and whimsical environment that expresses his jubilance in the presence of Catherine.

The effect of Catherine’s love, her presence, and the challenge of sustaining a relationship through war is prevalent in the nuances of Henry’s diction. He uses “we” where “I” would suffice, which reveals his filial attachment to the English nurse. His repetition of “alone” conveys his insecurity about his separation from Catherine (249). Henry’s characteristic disinterest dissipates in the presence of his significant other. The young Lieutenant’s affection towards Nurse Barkley demonstrates maturity in his view of love as a serious emotional investment. Hemmingway juxtaposes the blissful imagery of a couple rejoicing in their reunion with dark words that hint at Henry’s...
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