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A Farewell To Arms Love and War
Love and War Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel A Farewell To Arms documents the journey of Frederick Henry, a young American soldier serving in the Italian army during World War I. As a Red Cross ambulance driver during World War I himself, Hemingway is able to use his novel as a vehicle to convey to readers his own wartime experiences and personal opinions, including his thoughts on love and relationships during war. Through his description of the deep and complex relationship between Henry and Catherine Barkley, an English nurse, Hemingway is able to comment on the power of love and relationships to escape the pain that accompanies war. However, through Catherine’s untimely demise, Hemingway additionally shows that although love during war can be powerful and passionate, it is only temporary. When Catherine and Henry meet, they are both looking for a way to escape from the pain that they are experiencing as a result of the war. Hemingway presents many different characters participating in the war with individual ways to escape from the war. Rinaldi uses his ability to seduce women, the Priest who uses his faith and his love for God, and Henry and Catherine use their relationship. Catherine is struggling to overcome the loss of her fiancé and initially describes their courtship as a “game.” On page 31 after they are done with the alleged “game,” and Henry tries to tell Catherine that he loves her, she says, “Please let’s not lie when we don’t have to. I had a very fine little show and I’m all right now” (Hemingway). Catherine explains that the motivation behind her seduction of Henry is her desire to escape the unfortunate reality of her loss. Likewise, Henry uses to relationship to avoid acknowledging or talking about the horrors of participating on the front. In each other, both Henry and Catherine find temporary reprieve from the agony that is plaguing them. In addition, Hemingway showcases the power of love as motivation to act selflessly when Henry flees from the war to seek Catherine out and escape from the retreat and his impending death. As Henry and Catherine’s relationship grows stronger, Henry finds himself putting Catherine and their future first. He identifies that their love is no longer an abstract idea, but a mutual and meaningful connection that Henry favors over his duty to the war. Although Henry recognizes the risks associated with deserting from the army, he justifies the gamble he is taking by explaining that he can now find peace in his relationship with the woman he loves and their unborn child. On page 243, Henry says, “I had the paper but I did not read it because I did not want to read about the war. I was going to forget about the war. I had made a separate peace” (Hemingway). Even though Henry is risking arrest and possibly death, he is motivated to escape the war in order to enjoy the passionate romance and impending future he hopes to enjoy with Catherine. Hemingway concludes the novel with Catherine’s untimely death, showing that similar to life during war, love during war is unpredictable, uncertain and temporary. Throughout the novel, various obstacles that arise during a time of war test Henry and Catherine’s relationship. First, Henry is injured and sent to a hospital in Milan. When Catherine arrives in Milan, they reconnect and confirm their strong and undeniable love for one another. Catherine eventually gets pregnant and almost immediately, Henry is sent back to the front without leave. When they are finally together again, Henry’s impending arrest threatens to permanently separate them. Regardless of the unfavorable circumstances they face, they always seem to find a way back to one another. However, their luck eventually runs out as Catherine hemorrhages and passes away during childbirth. As Henry is waiting to hear Catherine’s fate, he sits in the waiting room and says, “Everything was gone inside of me. I did not think. I could not think. I knew she was going to die and I prayed that she would not” (Hemingway 330). Catherine’s death emphasizes Hemingway’s core message that although love during war can be true and powerful, it is uncertain and can cause great pain. Ernest Hemingway uses Henry and Catherine’s relationship to emphasize the power of love as an escape from the grim realities of war. Although Henry and Catherine engage in highly passionate relationship and share an undoubtedly true romance, there is no guarantee of life and love during wartime. Through Catherine’s untimely death, Hemingway emphasizes to the reader that there is no reparation for the pain and loss one experiences during a time of war. Catherine’s death leaves Henry empty and destroyed with no other escape from the pain or realty of losing the woman he loves. Hemingway further suggests that the shelters used by each individual involved in a war are always temporary, uncertain and will eventually be broken down. Works Cited
Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scribner, 2003. Print.
Cited: Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scribner, 2003. Print.