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A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell To Arms (original 1929; edition 1929)

by Ernest Hemingway

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Title:A Farewell To Arms
Authors:Ernest Hemingway
Info:Scribner (1995), Edition: 9th, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Read, Your library
Tags:fiction, owned

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A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (1929)


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English (155)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (3)  Swedish (2)  German (2)  Norwegian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Finnish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (170)
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I have mixed feelings about A Farewell to Arms. It starts off rather pedestrian, reading less like a celebrated inter-war novel by a respected author and more like a 'How I spent my summer holidays in wartime Italy' story. The description is, even by Hemingway's 'iceberg' standards, rather sparse. You would think it would be easy to convey the beauty of an Italian town at sunset, yet in the early part of the book such a setting is described thus: It was hot walking through the town but the sun was starting to go down and it was very pleasant." (pg. 17). The book really struggles to get going, and it doesn't seem that Hemingway is yet decided in whether it will develop to be primarily a war novel or a romance novel. Consequently, the anti-war ruminations of the characters feel contrived and the romance angle unconvincing.

The characterisation is also poor throughout. Rinaldi, Henry's male best friend, was presumably intended by Hemingway to be a stereotypical heart-on-his-sleeve, hot-blooded Italian. Instead, partly because he insists on calling Henry 'baby', Rinaldi comes across as aggressively and laughably camp. However, it is the female characters which are particularly poor, spending most of their scenes crying or fretting about making babies. Catherine Barkley, the nurse who serves as the protagonist's love interest, falls in love with Henry rather easily and inexplicably. On an early date, and with only middling small-talk serving as foreplay, she falls weeping into his arms - "'Oh, darling,' she said. 'You will be good to me, won't you?'" (pg. 25) - before beginning to talk about their 'strange' life together. The reader's thoughts are similar to Henry's - what the hell - and unfortunately, whilst other aspects of the novel improve, Catherine never loses this behaviour, constantly fretting over whether she is a 'good girl', and a good wife. "She looked at me very happily. 'I'll do what you want and say what you want and then I'll be a great success, won't I?'" (pg. 96). I could cite many more examples, but it is hard to choose which to share. Simply let the book open on any given page and you'll find a gem. She seems - certainly unintended on the part of the author - to be emotionally-stunted, with a puppyish naïveté about romance: more an overgrown schoolgirl than an independent woman. This makes the subsequent relationship between the two less convincing, which is particularly damaging as it becomes a more prominent storyline as the novel develops.

After the poor start, A Farewell to Arms does settle and allows for some classic Hemingway to shine through. The anti-war musings become less simplistic and Hemingway's patented iceberg approach to description and setting is allowed to thaw. Beginning with the Italian retreat after the Battle of Caporetto, the novel really gets the kick it needs. The disorderly retreat, the panic, Henry cut off, going cross-country, the battle police - all highlights of A Farewell to Arms. Henry becomes disillusioned and deserts (although, it must be said, this seems forced on him rather than being a choice), fleeing with Catherine. "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 the war. I had made a separate peace." (pg. 217). The novel becomes a great read by this point, and one can add the encounters with Count Greffi to the list of the novel's highlights. Somewhat surprisingly for a Hemingway novel, by this point some moments of humour pop up, particularly the absurd bickering between the champions of Montreux and Locarno on pages 251-3. In another instance, Henry betrays his unease about deserting, to which Catherine replies: "'Darling, please be sensible. It's not deserting from the army. It's only the Italian army.'" (pg. 224).

These highlights mentioned above, and others, do allow the reader to forgive the disappointment present in the first 100 or so pages of A Farewell to Arms. However, I feel that perhaps the reason I was so forgiving was that I could identify and appreciate classic Hemingway moments, as I have read some of his other works. When I first decided to read a Hemingway novel, I narrowed down my choices to this novel and For Whom the Bell Tolls. I decided on the latter and loved it; if I had chosen Farewell first I might not be such a budding fan, for it is a decidedly imperfect novel. I initially planned to write a review based around the novel's themes, as I had for The Old Man and the Sea and, to a lesser extent, For Whom the Bell Tolls. I decided against it, as although one could analyse the symbolism of the rain, and the themes linking war to childbirth (and the all-important line on page 222 about how "The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places." ), these themes are imperfectly executed and presented. The novel picks up considerably towards the middle, and the ending is a double-gut-punch, but its flaws are easily identifiable. A Farewell to Arms is not one of Hemingway's best works, ranking quite a way behind the later For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea, but it is still an above-average novel." ( )
  MikeFutcher | Jun 3, 2016 |
Has ever anything like A Farewell To Arms been written? Anything where the humor is so unfailing, the romance so perfect, the movement of the plot so unforced, so perfectly congruent with the reader's imagination and personal experience, so real? The answer, at least while I am still numbly reveling in the aftertaste, seems to be no. There is something uniquely genuine about A Farewell, especially in its unforced, minimalist construction, perfectly suffused with the subtle wisdoms which are never overstated, and resultingly even more powerful. Only something written from an experience so close to the heart can be expected to deliver such a vivid feeling of the beautiful and sad duality of the human experience. Truly, it is in itself, an experience of a lifetime. ( )
  AZG1001 | Mar 31, 2016 |
The novel is divided into five books. In the first book, Henry meets and attempts to seduce Catherine Barkley and their relationship begins. While on the Italian front, Henry is wounded in the knee by a mortar shell and sent to a hospital in Milan. The second book shows the growth of Henry and Catherine's relationship as they spend time together in Milan over the summer. Henry falls in love with Catherine and by the time he is healed, Catherine is three months pregnant. In the third book, Henry returns to his unit, but not long after, the Austro-Germans break through the Italian lines in the Battle of Caporetto, and the Italians retreat. Henry kills an engineering sergeant for insubordination. After falling behind and catching up again, Henry is taken to a place by the "battle police" where officers are being interrogated and executed for the "treachery" that supposedly led to the Italian defeat. However, after hearing the execution of a Lt.Colonel, Henry escapes by jumping into a river. In the fourth book, Catherine and Henry reunite and flee to Switzerland in a rowing boat. In the final book, Henry and Catherine live a quiet life in the mountains until she goes into labour. After a long and painful labour, their son is stillborn. Catherine begins to haemorrhage and soon dies, leaving Henry to return to their hotel in the rain.

[edit] Characters
Frederic Henry, often simply called "Tenente" ("Lieutenant"), is the narrator of the story. Henry is a volunteer ambulance driver from the United States. In Henry, we see the beginnings of what comes to be called Hemingway's "Code Hero": Henry is stoic under duress or pain; he modestly deflects praise for his contributions to the war; he is unflappable under fire; he does his work. He is a "man's man," in that his thoughts revolve on women ("girls") and drink. He participates in and seems to enjoy the banal, everyday conversation between the soldiers. He is attracted to the simple goodness of the priest, who, like Henry (who is not religious), sticks to his beliefs despite the war's constant presence.
Catherine Barkley is an English V.A.D (which is similar to a nurse). She volunteered in the war at the same time her fiance of eight years joined the army. He was killed in the Battle of Somme. She is English, professional and deeply feeling. Her sexual desires and her simple desire for companionship are sometimes at odds with her needs to tend to the ill. Like the code hero, she handles conflicting needs with grace, giving to both, but shorting none. Feminist thinkers will see in Catherine Hemingway's perfect woman: wise and cynical in many ways, her wisdom cannot contain her desire. As Henry gives his health and youth to the war effort, Catherine's chief heroism is to accept the pain and death of childbirth stoically. Barkley has been "consistently ignored" as a code hero, probably because she is a woman [5]
Rinaldi is a physician through whom Hemingway draws his idea of an Italian male. Sketched somewhat jingoistically, Rinaldi is unfailingly exuberant, ignoring small details that would stop his large and giving gestures. He loves women and drinking, bearing a bottle of the latter and tales of the former to his friend Henry as Henry recovers from his wounds. He enjoys performing surgery, seeing it as an enjoyable challenge; he greets his friend Frederic Henry with a formal European-style kiss. He usually refers to Henry as "baby". Rinaldi is a form of the code hero as well. He allows Hemingway to explore another, non-Anglo-American, way of being male, of facing even a difficult world, an injured Italy, with joie de vivre, ignoring all danger, giving himself. Henry reunites with a tired and syphilitic Rinaldi in the middle of the novel, illustrating the flaws of this approach to the war and to life.
The Priest The chaplain in Henry's unit. Baited by the other officers, he is befriended by Henry, to whom he offers spiritual advice. The last time we see this character, his faith is wavering. Can also be interpreted as a "Code Hero".
Helen Ferguson Catherine's friend and fellow nurse.
Passini and Bonello Ambulance drivers serving under Henry.
Manera, Gavuzzi, Gordini, Piani and Aymo Other ambulance drivers.
Mrs. Walker An American nurse at the American hospital in Milan.
Miss Gage Another American nurse, sympathetic to Henry and Catherine's affair.
Dr. Valentini A surgeon who is highly competent and full of joie de vivre.
Meyers A gloomy American expatriate.
Ettore Moretti An Italian-American Officer from San Francisco serving in the Italian army.
Ralph Simmons An American student of opera and Henry's friend.
Count Greffi An old but vigorous Italian whom Henry knows from Stresa and who serves as a mentor to Henry.
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
This is as close to a romance novel that I'll get. ( )
  jimifenway | Feb 2, 2016 |
Widely considered to be on the greatest anti-war novels ever written, A Farewell to Arms, tells the story of American Frederic Henry and his experiences as an ambulance driver in the Italian Army during WWI. During the course of the war, he meets and falls in love with a British nurse, Catherine Barkley, and the novel gradually begins to focus on their love affair, the war itself only a backdrop to their romance.

Reading this, I didn't get the sense that the novel itself was a piece of anti-war literature. While it focused heavily on the nonsensical realities of war, it never came across as dogmatically stating that war is wrong. Rather it seemed to say that war is brutal, dirty, and nasty. Hemingway doesn't romanticize war as many other authors seem to have done in the past and still do to this day. This is what I like about Hemingway. He is honest and straightforward, making his novels very readable. On the other hand, he is one of those men who can't write a female character to save his life. Catherine is insipid, cloying, and downright annoying. Her character made it very hard to enjoy the novel. Not only did I not like her, but she seemed to drag down Frederic as well when they were together. He went from an intriguing multi-dimensional character to one who could only utter phrases about how grand she was and unable to have any thoughts or actions that did not revolve around her. While I appreciated the juxtaposition of their love affair against the backdrop of war, I felt the novel ultimately suffered from the inclusion of Catherine. I think that were the author someone who could better draft a female character, this novel could have gone from being an interesting examination of the singular tragedy of life to something truly spectacular. ( )
1 vote Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
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In its sustained, inexorable movement, its throbbing preoccupation with flesh and blood and nerves rather than the fanciful fabrics of intellect, it fulfills the prophecies that his most excited admirers have made about Ernest Hemingway... in its depiction of War, the novel bears comparison with its best predecessors. But it is in the hero's perhaps unethical quitting of the battle line to be with the woman whom he has gotten with child that it achieves its greatest significance.
added by jjlong | editTime (Oct 14, 1929)
It is a moving and beautiful book.

» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hemingway, Ernestprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bleck, CathieCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bradbury, MalcolmIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ford, Ford MadoxIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hemingway, PatrickForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hemingway, SeánIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Renner, LouisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuck, MaryCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vranken, KatjaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warren, Robert PennIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Is contained in

Romanzi volume I by Ernest Hemingway

The Novels Of Ernest Hemingway . by Ernest Hemingway

Five Novels: The Sun Also Rises / A Farewell to Arms / To Have and Have Not / The Old Man and the Sea / For Whom the Bell Tolls (FOLIO SOCIETY) by Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises / A Farewell to Arms / The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Four Book Set (QP) {Complete Short Stories; Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Sun Also Rises} by Ernest Hemingway

Book-of-the-Month-Club Set of 5: A Farewell to Arms, A Moveable Feast, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rises, & The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (The Finca Vigia Edition) (Book-of-the-Month Club) by Ernest Hemingway


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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684801469, Paperback)

As a youth of 18, Ernest Hemingway was eager to fight in the Great War. Poor vision kept him out of the army, so he joined the ambulance corps instead and was sent to France. Then he transferred to Italy where he became the first American wounded in that country during World War I. Hemingway came out of the European battlefields with a medal for valor and a wealth of experience that he would, 10 years later, spin into literary gold with A Farewell to Arms. This is the story of Lieutenant Henry, an American, and Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. The two meet in Italy, and almost immediately Hemingway sets up the central tension of the novel: the tenuous nature of love in a time of war. During their first encounter, Catherine tells Henry about her fiancé of eight years who had been killed the year before in the Somme. Explaining why she hadn't married him, she says she was afraid marriage would be bad for him, then admits:
I wanted to do something for him. You see, I didn't care about the other thing and he could have had it all. He could have had anything he wanted if I would have known. I would have married him or anything. I know all about it now. But then he wanted to go to war and I didn't know.
The two begin an affair, with Henry quite convinced that he "did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards." Soon enough, however, the game turns serious for both of them and ultimately Henry ends up deserting to be with Catherine.

Hemingway was not known for either unbridled optimism or happy endings, and A Farewell to Arms, like his other novels (For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rises, and To Have and Have Not), offers neither. What it does provide is an unblinking portrayal of men and women behaving with grace under pressure, both physical and psychological, and somehow finding the courage to go on in the face of certain loss. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:43 -0400)

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An American officer in the Italian ambulance corps and an English Red Cross nurse find love on the battlefield during WW I.

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