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The Strengths Of The Female Characters In "A Farewell To Arms" And "For Whom The Bell Tolls": Books Written By Ernest Hemingway

1390 words - 6 pages

Ernest Hemingway wrote two poignant war time love novels, A Farewell to Arms involving Catherine Barkley and Frederic Henry, and For Whom the Bell Tolls featuring Maria and Robert Jordan. Both couples fall in love, yet endure difficult situations such as blowing a bridge, running from calvary, wounded friends, and avoiding war. During this time, Catherine and Maria help transform their partners from sexually selfish males to emotionally healthy human beings. The women go through harsh physical and emotional experiences, such as rape and death, but they still show courage through a male-dominated world. The women show great inner strength, as they prepare those closest to them for their own journey after death. Through it all, the inner strength of the female characters not only influences their own well being during adverse times, but alters the lives of the men they encounter.Maria and Catherine Barkley begin to seduce Robert and Frederic as a healing process from themselves. Both women know that men of war are easily distracted by the prostitutes near the front lines and have to take caution toward men. Maria from For Whom the Bell Tolls has been trained by Pilar, her mother-like figure, to put pain behind her; to do this she begins a relationship with Robert. She moves quickly beginning a sexual union with him the first night. Throughout three days the relationship develops into an inspiring healing outline. As Cixous points out, "The affirmation of life and love that Jordan makes as he experiences emotional commitment for the first time with Maria appear symptomatic of Hemingway's desire to move beyond a restrictive system of sexuality or gender to one that approaches a Cixousian embrace of otherness and togetherness" (145). Maria begins to repair herself by looking at sexual intercourse as a good not evil act. Similarly Catherine Barkley from A Farewell to Arms who puts the pain of her fiancee's death behind her by putting herself in a relationship with Frederic. Although her close friend Miss Ferguson believes it is a bad time for a relationship, Catherine is a victim of war who feels incomplete without a partner. She makes a point when she slaps Frederic across the face when he tried to kiss her for the first time. In his criticism Cixous asserts that, "Catherine's defense of the slap demonstrates her sense of his behavior as typical and sordid: 'I'm dreadfully sorry . . . I just couldn't stand the nurse's-night-off aspect of it' The rather unwieldy adjective she uses demonstrates that, unlike Frederic, Catherine cannot view love as a game" (26). These men begin to realize that they have never had feelings for women like this before. As their relationship evolves, they begin to understand the depth of emotion necessary for such a commitment. The women are used as instruments of good to influence the men to mature to engage in a structural relationship.The harsh war takes a toll on everyone, especially the women. Maria, from the novel For...

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