A Farewell to Arms, one of the most renowned masterpieces of Ernest Hemingway, is a detailed account of life during World War I, which depicts a gruesome and deleterious reality of a soldier by incorporating themes of impermanence and change. The author of this work tries to convey his notions about the concept of war and love. Throughout the novel, relationship between man and woman in a grim reality of war is frequently discussed. Thus, A Farewell to Arms paints Ernest Hemingway’s view of love and war, espousing his modernistic belief: both love and war can never be more than temporary in this world. They are impermanent and changeable.
To begin with, this novel is mainly derived from the author’s life stories. Hemingway voluntarily enlisted for the war and worked as an ambulance driver in World War I. In 1918, he was deeply wounded on the Italian front. During this period, he was transferred to a small hospital in Milan due to his injury, and there, he fell in love with a beautiful nurse, Agnes von Kurowsky. This unique event led Hemingway to embellish his experience and created the novel, A Farewell to Arms, based on his real-life story.
The novel begins when the war enters the onset of winter. The main character, Frederic Henry, is a young American ambulance driver who serves in the Italian army. Because of his playful friend, Rinaldi, Henry becomes acquainted with an English nurse, Catherine Barkley, and falls deeply in love with her. Their love does not fade away when Henry was brought to a hospital in Milan because of his serious injury; Catherine has also been transferred to Milan, and thus, their relationship is intensified.
When Henry’s leg has healed, the army sends him a message saying that he has to come back to the front. Catherine, feeling their separation, reveals that she is pregnant and promises to wait for him with their child. Grateful, Henry goes back to the front, but a harsh reality awaits him. The narrator describes the great retreat of the Allied forces, during which he loses many friends, gets separated, and escapes from his army.
With the help from his friends, Henry successfully returns to Catherine, and they escape safely to Switzerland. Although Henry sometimes feels guilty abandoning his army, he and Catherine decide not to look back and put the war behind them. Their happy and peaceful life continues, and when spring comes, Catherine goes into labor. Her delivery is difficult and complicated that she dies of a hemorrhage after giving birth to a boy. Unable to express his grief, Henry goes back to his hotel in the rain without saying goodbye to her.
As the plot reveals, this novel includes several defining features of modernism. First of all, it rejects the traditional themes and subject matter. Unlike the traditional belief – the war is always glorious and needed in order to maintain a strong country – in literature, the idea of the grim reality of war is meticulously depicted in this novel. It refutes...