How Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress” Theme Relates To Hemingway’s “A Farewell To Arms”

1140 words - 5 pages

Marvel’s poem to “His Coy Mistress” with its carpe diem theme is cleverly quoted in Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms”. The theme of seduction and living in the moment is apparent through several characters in the novel. Alcohol is also referenced throughout the story and used as a vice by the soldiers to think about the moment and not about the future. Catherine’s character is a perfect example of carpe diem. And war and violence force the mentality to live in the moment. The carpe diem theme is deeply rooted in “A Farewell to Arms”. The theme of seduction and living for today is apparent in Hemingway’s novel in several instances. Seduction occurs at the beginning of the novel, when Henry believes that he cannot fall in love, but becomes increasingly more wrapped up with Catherine. Seduction evolves with them getting to know each other and his wooing of her. Thus, both Henry and Catherine are living in seduction; in the moment. Seduction is also apparent with Rinaldi, whose romantic interest moves from Catherine and wavers to Miss Ferguson after her realizes Catherine is interested in Henry. “I am now in love with Miss Barkley. I will take you to call. I will probably marry Miss Barkley. (p12.)” But after they meet and Rinaldi sees that Catherine prefers Henry to himself, he starts to consider Miss Ferguson instead. “Miss Barkley prefers you to me. That is very clear. But the little Scotch one is very nice. (p21.)” Rinaldi’s reputation as a ladies man living in the world of seduction is clear when he is suspected of dying of syphilis because of all the women he has slept with. We see through these characters that they are living for today

within a world of seduction.
Alcohol provides a vice to the soldiers; to help them live in the moment and forget about the war. While Henry is recovering from his wounds in Milan, he also falls ill with jaundice. Miss Van Campen, the nurse, goes into his room and proceeds to find empty alcohol bottles and in response she blames alcoholism for his diagnosis. Alcohol is also frequently referenced in the novel, “they talked too much at the mess and I drank wine because tonight we were not all brothers unless I drank a little. (p 38.)” This passage suggests that Henry feels pressure to drink because he wants to feel like one of the guys and part of the group. The soldiers are not thinking about the future, they are thinking about today and drink to forget what they have seen and done. Alcohol is also referenced when the captain wishes to pick on the priest. “Helping ourselves to wine from the grass-covered gallon flask; it swings in a metal cradle … And the wine, clear red, tannic and lovely … after this course, the captain commenced picking on the priest. (p 7.)” The soldiers are not thinking about the consequences of drinking because the war is dramatic to them and they need to let loose and blow off steam. Alcohol is referenced throughout the novel and is a vice used by the soldiers to...

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