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Imagery And Symbolism In Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell To Arms".

963 words - 4 pages

When reading Ernest Hemmingway's A Farewell to Arms, I was struck by the vivid images he conveys with his descriptions of nature and the world. Hemmingway's stark prose lends an air of bleakness to the story that truly puts the horrors and emotional turmoil of war into perspective. Although I was shocked and somewhat disappointed at the ending, I can see where Catherine's death is necessary to complete the cycle and terminate the wartime romance just as the war must eventually terminate. I will say, however, that the death of Catherine stands right up there with the death of Cordelia in King Lear, as the all time tragic heroine losses; just as disturbing and ultimately just as necessary. In class, we had discussed Hemmingway's use of the mountains and the plains as metaphors for good and evil, heaven and hell. We also discussed Hemmingway's use of rain to foreshadow disastrous events. However, until I read Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Farewell To Arms, I never truly appreciated the way Hemmingway used symbolism to establish a viable backdrop for his story. This collection of critical essays really illuminated the relationship that Hemmingway establishes between nature, places and people.Ray B. West, Jr. states that, "Malcolm Cowley has likened Frederic Henry's plunge into the river to escape execution as a baptism - a symbol of Frederic's entering the world of the initiated". Everyone agrees that Frederic Henry's leap into the Tagliamento River was a sort of rebirth and can be considered somewhat as a leap of faith. Faith was a quality that, up to that point in the novel, was sorely lacking in Frederick Henry's repertoire. However, his conversion to this more noble state did not come easily. In fact, it can be said that Frederic Henry was dragged kicking and screaming to this point in his life. For if it had not been for the kangaroo court he was about to face, he would probably not have made that fateful decision. West goes on to say that, "Frederic...ceases to be the curiously passive hero. He cannot escape the war until he escapes from Italy...and to escape is to struggle." This is a turning point for Henry, not only so far as the war is concerned, but also is his emotional state, because his struggle to escape galvanizes his feelings toward Catherine, and for possibly the first time he begins to care about someone other than himself. But this conversion takes time and as West says, "the final consecration does not come until later when Frederic is confronted by love and death at the same time." Frederic Henry has begun to learn to feel but it will take some time until he learns to truly love.Rain was a huge part of the imagery present in A Farewell to Arms and possibly the metaphor with...

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