A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway's WWI classic, A Farewell to Arms is a story of initiation in which the growth of the protagonist, Frederic Henry, is recounted. Frederic is initially a naïve and unreflective boy who cannot grasp the meaning of the war in which he is so dedicated, nor the significance of his lover's predictions about his future. He cannot place himself amidst the turmoil that surrounds him and therefore, is unable to fully justify a world of death and destruction. Ultimately, his distinction between his failed relationship with Catherine Barkley and the devastation of the war allows him to mature and arrive at the resolution that the only thing one can be sure of in the course of life is death and personal obliteration (Phelan 54).
In order to chronicle Frederic's maturation, it is first necessary to understand his character; he is what critics label a "Hemingway Code Hero." Indigenous to nearly all of Ernest Hemingway's novels, the "Hemingway man" lives by one simple rule: 'Man the player is born; life the game will kill him" (Rovit and Brenner 90). This man looks to derive meaning and dignity from his stale, directionless being. In Frederic Henry's case, the search for a system of values and morals is difficult because he is caught between two very socially defined extremes, love and war. He only gains knowledge through his direct experience with these two elements and through the indirect teachings of various characters in the novel (Waldhorn 68). It is suggested that Frederic must commit to a comfortable medium between the selflessness of the young priest and the egocentricity of Rinaldi.
In the introductory chapters, Frederic is torn between spending his holiday in the cold, clear mountains of Abruzzi with the priest's family, and taking his leave in the city, where most of his time would be spent at the dispose of taverns and institutions of prostitution. Frederic chooses to spend his time in the city rather than Abruzzi, although that is where he "had wanted to go…" (Hemingway 13). Frederic realizes that there is a moral and religious way of life, which the priest represents, and he respects these values of the priest. He acknowledges the fact that the priest has a code to live by. On the other shoulder sits Rinaldi, the satisfied, self-assured surgeon with whom Frederic also tries to identify. Rinaldi seems fulfilled, but as the war progresses he falls into a world of despair and disease. Although he cannot see it, Rinaldi too closely resembles Frederic's dilemma and therefore is unable to tutor him (Waldhorn 69-70). Tremendously significant, Frederic Henry's exchanges with the priest and Rinaldi play a strong role in his development because he is unable to solely identify with either of them.
Frederic's education is enhanced by his relationship with the English nurse, Catherine Barkley, as well. Originally, Catherine is nothing more than an object of sensual desire,...