A Farewell To Arms


Chapter 1 to Chapter 6

Chapter 1 Summary

Chapter 1 describes in detail the physical setting of the novel, an Italian village on the Austro-Hungarian border. The narrator recalls this time and place in the past tense. He does not identify himself, but refers to “us” and “we.” We gather that it is summer during World War I, at one of the war’s battlefronts. The narrator tells us that he can hear fighting in the mountains across the plain from where he lives, and that his side does not fare well. He describes troops marching and officers traveling in “motor cars,” and says that he thinks one of the cars often carries “the King.” A rainy autumn brings on an epidemic of cholera, which kills seven thousand soldiers before it is checked.

Chapter 2 Summary

A year has gone by, during which the narrator’s side has had several victories. The narrator, still unidentified, relates that “we crossed the river in August and lived in a house in Gorizia”—an enemy town captured by the narrator’s side. The house in which they live is a nice one, and the town has several undamaged cafes, as well as brothels which the officers and the soldiers all enjoy. In this chapter, the narration turns to specific characters and conversations. Although we do not actually learn his name until Chapter 7, the narrator is Lieutenant Frederic Henry, a young American ambulance driver who has volunteered to join the Italian army. At dinner in the officers’ mess hall, several of the Italian officers predict that the fighting will be over for a while because winter has begun and the snow is falling. The officers make crude jokes to the priest and mock him for not visiting the brothels. The priest handles their jibes with good humor; notably, Henry does not join in making fun of the priest. Henry has a period of leave coming up, and the priest suggests that Henry visit the priest’s family in Abruzzi. The officers encourage Henry to tour the larger cities of Italy, such as Rome and Naples....

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