A Feminist Criticism of a Farewell to Arms

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A Feminist Criticism of A Farewell to Arms

 
    After finishing A Farewell to Arms, I found it difficult to reconcile Judith Fetterley's feminist attack of the novel with my own personal opinions. I agree that Hemingway does kick women to the curb in his portrayal of Catherine, but my reasons for pinning this crime on Hemingway are different from hers'. Although she means well, Fetterley makes the ridiculous claim that by portraying Catherine as an angelic, selflessly loving "woman to end all women," Hemingway disguises misogynistic attitudes and a deep-seeded hatred towards the XX chromosome. This claim is not supported by the text. If we look at Hemingway through the lens of his own words, we find that his misogyny does not spring from a "too good to be true" portrait of Catherine, but rather in his tendency to cast her down into the dirt-Catherine is a dependent, baby-manufacturing trap that stifles Lieutenant Henry: "Poor, poor dear Cat. And this was the price you paid for sleeping together. This was the end of the trap" (320). It is his penchant for sex and his need for womanly comfort that keeps Henry coming back to Catherine, not some notion of "love" or true connection. This is Hemingway's misogyny, however unintentional, unmasked.

 

But to get a true sense of this "anti-Fetterley" feminist view of the novel, it is important too look at the specifics of Hemingway's construction of Catherine-facts that stand in direct opposition to Fetterley's stated attacks.

 

First of all, Catherine is not Fetterley's unique and unattainable goddess-she is an object in Henry's universe, a feast of sensations but nothing more. She is akin to good food and good drink: "'I was made to eat. My God, yes. Eat and drink and sleep with Catherine'" (233). Indeed, Henry's thoughts about Catherine, both when he is at the front or by her side, mingle with longings for good wine and reflections on sumptuous meals. In Henry's world, a good Capri would be nice, a nice...
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