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Discussion Of Stereotypes In A Farewell To Arms

1530 words - 6 pages

"All good books have one thing in common - they are truer than if they had really happened," Hemingway wrote just five years after publishing A Farewell to Arms, a novel written about the war in Italy, which is ironic because A Farewell to Arms can be seen as a semi-autobiographical novel, as some of the events that occur in the novel are based off of Hemingway's own life. The parallels from the novel and Hemingway's life are evident-- the protagonist, Lieutenant Frederic Henry, is an ambulance driver in the Italian army, just as Hemingway himself was an ambulance driver for the Red Cross, serving in Italy. Hemingway also fell in love with a nurse, however her name was not Catherine Barkley, as it is in the novel, it was Agnes von Kurowsky. Hemingway and Kurowsky's love has been described as both "a passionate love affair" and "a simple romantic interlude." Hemingway seems to have based his protagonist's love interest on Agnes, as well as one of his wives (Mellow, 47-68). Even though Hemingway seems to have based his characters on real people, some argue that his female characters are one-dimensional and flat, and the male characters other than the protagonist are stereotypical and base. Ernest Hemingway, in his novel A Farewell to Arms, characterizes males and females in several ways, typically sticking to the stereotypes he is known for, the virile, strong male, and the passive, weak female; the main female character, Catherine Barkley seems to adhere to this stereotype for the entirety of the novel, but the protagonist, Lieutenant Frederic Henry evolves, sometimes playing this role, but in other instances opening up in ways Hemingway's male characters typically do not.
Hemingway has often been criticized for being a sexist and a misogynist, writing women in a way that showed how much he despised women. Some describe it as his fictional women being one dimensional and flat. Still others say that his writing style, especially in A Farewell to Arms, was underdeveloped, and in his later novels, "was able to portray a more sophisticated female character when he was an older, more mature writer" (Recla). However, because of his writing style, it is sometimes difficult to understand if he actually had an aversion to women, as some of his male characters do, or if he was just writing that way. However, it is clear that opposite-sex relations in Hemingway's novels and short stories are imperfect. In A Farewell to Arms, it seems that Hemingway based all of his female characters off the same base, for all of the prominent female characters are either prostitutes or nurses. Some say that women in Hemingway's novels are cookie cutter females, with different physical appearances, but still others argue that Hemingway's females challenge gender roles, and "Catherine is not one of the Hemingway women ... [used] to prove Hemingway's misogyny" but a "central female character [used] to critique gender roles and their naturalized social functions" (Traber,...

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