A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is considered one of the great novels of World War I. It introduces the theme of love, while war occupies all of Europe. It is a complex novel with many characteristic aspects of modernism. After looking into Hemingway's biography, the reader can tell that he included details from his personal life in his novel. He based the main character Frederic Henry upon his own experience as an ambulance driver during World War I. He made him a hero who develops and changes throughout the novel. Henry's relationship with British nurse Catherine Berkeley is based on Hemingway's faded love affair with the beautiful American nurse he met while recovering from his wounds at a Milan hospital just like his main character Henry.
One of the modern features demonstrated by A Farewell to Arms is the style used by Hemingway. His modern style forces the reader to look for hidden truth while reading the text which contains some unclear and very long passages. The author tries to master the chaos of two worlds: a world of war and a world of love by creating his own, self-sufficient, and symbolic work. When one theme moves into the foreground, the other one recedes into the background. The sequence of action runs parallel in both themes, so the reader gets the feeling of reading a single main theme rather than two. He leaves for the reader the freedom of judging and deciding what is right or wrong. Hemingway does not spend a lot of time directly dealing with the emotions or thoughts of characters. He tells the story in many long uninterrupted dialogues and actions using this dry sort of tone. He omits describing facial gestures and emotions in his text. That gives the sense of boredom and monotony to the reader.
A more detailed description of Hemingway's modern approach and his ways of thinking is the characterization of the two main characters, Henry and Catherine. Their life story incorporates many modern characteristics, including the loss of major religious belief, abandonment of traditional rules, and a sense of isolation, rejection, and disappointment.
Hemingway decides that it is easier to show how meaningless and catastrophic the war is through an individual caught in it. The individual is Frederic Henry, a former architecture student who joins the Italian army. Throughout the novel, the author shows how Henry's personal attitude changes. He progresses from a drinking, depraved soldier to a loving, caring husband. When he joins the army he does not have many feelings. He takes love and war rather lightly. He does not believe in honor and glory and does not have any particular goal in his life. He says: "Well, I knew I would not be killed. Not in this war. It did not have anything to do with me. It seemed no more dangerous to me myself than war in the movies. I wished to God it was over though. Maybe it would finish this summer. Maybe the Austrians would crack....I wanted to go...