Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms Receives Positive Criticism
Published in 1929, Ernest Hemingway finished A Farewell to Arms when he was barely 30 years old. Hemingway had been planning on writing about World War I for more than a decade, and chose A Farewell to Arms to be his attempt at a blockbuster, a novel which would sell very well.1 This view is supported by the fact that one of Hemingway's original works, presumably loss in the fiasco of Hadley's luggage, was also a war novel, emphasizing Hemingway's firm belief in the importance of war and love as a theme. By this time, of course, Hemingway was already fairly well known, having already published four short story collections and one successful novel in The Sun Also Rises. In this sense, Hemingway's timing in his quest for a big seller was perfect. Fortunately for Hemingway the book did sell, and although he was already close to being a bestseller at the time of A Farewell to Arms publishing, the novel went on to lead best-seller lists after only a few weeks in publication. In contrast to the lack of money-making power of Fitzgerald's novels, A Farewell to Arms sold 45,000 copies in only seven weeks; in fact, the interest in the book was so high Scribner's had to renegotiate Hemingway's contract following the unexpectedly large sales statistics.2
Although at this time declaring the novel a popular success almost worked against its being recognized as a good literary work, the initial reception for A Farewell to Arms was nonetheless strong. Especially impressed were the people Hemingway cared about the most: his fellow famous writers. Ford Madox Ford, in an introduction he wrote for a 1932 publication of the novel, wrote of Hemingway: "The aim - the achievement - of the great prose writer is to use the words so that they shall seem new and alive because of their juxtaposition with other words. This gift Hemingway has supremely."3 This was generally the praise for Hemingway at the time of the books publishing among the literary crowd: his literary technique and writing style. Not all immediate reception was good, however, as some critics, including Robert Herrick who referred to the novel as "dirt"4 lambasted the vulgarity of the work which in turn led to the later publishing of an edited version without such words as "testicles" and "shit." Nonetheless, contemporary criticism of the novel was by and large in total praise of Hemingway. Henry Hazlitt summed it up when he noted Hemingway was "the single greatest influence on the American novel and short story."5
Positive criticism continued to follow Hemingway and specifically A Farewell to Arms throughout the years. In 1949 Ray B. West...