Self-Absorption in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms
Catherine Barkley and Frederick Henry, the main characters in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms are two of the most self-absorbed characters I have ever come across. Frederick Henry thinks only of what he wants while Catherine worries only about what Frederick thinks and wants. They are constantly thinking only about themselves, which is why I believe that it was a good thing that the baby was not born alive. They are too absorbed in themselves to think of anyone else.
Shortly after meeting Catherine, Frederick attempts to get her into bed. By complimenting her hair, admitting that she had every right to slap him, and holding her hand, he uses these words and actions to get a kiss, the first step towards his goal. He does not stop to think that she might still be grieving for her lost boy and so he should take it slowly. Instead, he plunges right into trying to get her into bed without thinking about how she might feel. When he is hurt and in the hospital, he demands that the nurses pay attention to him although they are not ready for an injured soldier. He gets upset because they do not want to do anything without the doctor’s permission. They were trying to do their job and he just made it more difficult for them. He also did not notice that Catherine was getting tired from working so much. All he saw was that they got to spend time together and so did not think that she might be wearing herself down. It was only with a lot of convincing that he finally saw that she needed some time off.
Catherine did not even realize herself that she was getting worn down because of how absorbed she was in Frederick. She put his needs and desires before her own and believed that if she did and said what he wanted, then he will love and stay with her. "I’ll do what you want and say what you want and then I’ll be a great success, won’t I?" (Hemingway, 105). When she finally tells him that she is pregnant, she is more concerned about how he will take the news than how it will affect her. "It doesn’t worry me but I’m afraid to worry you." (137). Once she begins to show, she does not want him to look at her because she is ashamed of how she looks. "She was beginning to be a little big with the child and she did not want me to see her." (266). She also refused to get married because she was pregnant and fat. "I’ll marry you as soon as I’m thin again." (294). This desire to stay good looking for Frederick is shown many times throughout the book.
Back in those days, it was said that having alcoholic drinks would keep the child small. This was supposed to be good for women with small hips, but Catherine, who hardly drank before she became pregnant seems to drink more than is necessary while pregnant. "The...