Hemingway uses Henry’s morbid feelings of loss to enhance the dismal tone and underlying themes of the novel. This emotion is present throughout the whole book through the symbolism of rain. Rain denotes failing happiness in a life of complete sorrows. In the very first chapter of the novel, Hemingway states, “At the start of the winter came the permanent rain and with the rain came the cholera” (Hemingway 4). From the beginning of the story, rain is present and a forewarning of what is later to come. This rain represents doom, sickness, and death. According to Malcolm Cowley, “the rain becomes a conscious symbol of disaster” (54). While Catherine and Henry lie on the hospital bed, listening ...view middle of the document...
While comparing the writings and relationship between Hemingway and T. S. Eliot, Nicholas Joost and Alan Brown express, “Rain in Hemingway’s novel…is not the foretaste of hope or even tidings of joy, as it is in Eliot’s writings, but rather a signal of disaster” (218). Hemingway utilizes the symbolism of rain to evoke memories of the war and death and to represent the devastation of life that not even the power of love can withstand.
Henry is not only searching for meaning in life, but “[his] search is also a search for home – a place where he can be comfortable and safe” (Markley). Throughout the story, Henry finds it hard to sleep at night. Finally, he meets Catherine and finds a kind of home in the love they have for each other. Unfortunately, when Henry finally seems to find what he has been looking for, Catherine unexpectedly dies. “Some critics read Hemingway’s title as ironic, interpreting Hemingway’s message that one cannot actually make a ‘farewell to arms’” (Markley). Henry may have escaped the brutalities of war, but he cannot escape the pain and difficulties in life.
Throughout most of the story, Henry doesn’t seem to know who he is, but is seeking his true identity in a world of darkness. This theme is prevalent among Hemingway’s novels about war, due to the destructive and traumatizing nature of war itself. Telgen states, “Frederic represents, for Hemingway, the questions of what is man that he can cause such awful destruction and human suffering” (165). Henry is young and immature when he volunteers for the Italian front, and does not even know why he does it. Rinaldi, a good friend of Henry refers to him as “baby.” This shows Henry’s immaturity and inability to discover his true self. While in the militia, Henry is mistaken for an Austrian officer and a German spy. Henry doesn’t know his true self throughout the novel. Once, an Italian soldier was confused about his name, whether it was Frederic Henry or Henry Frederic. This small detail shows that Henry was an outsider, who didn’t know his own identity. He was an American in the Italian army.
Hemingway’s style of writing alone contributes to the overall tone of the novel. Hemingway starts the novel in media res, literally in the middle of things; in this case, war. Hemingway uses this technique to set the tone as one of alienation and disjuncture (Telgen 167). By starting the story in this way, the reader feels as if he or she is thrown into the situation. The reader is confused and disconnected. This technique and the overall tone of the novel puts the
reader into the chaotic wartime setting.
The use of dialogue is also very important to the story. “Hemingway employs dialogue at the expense of narrative whenever he can” (Telgen 167). He avoids prose, as to reveal information about the plot through common speech. Because of the use of dialogue, Hemingway is able to, in a sense, hide his personal position on the issues in which he is writing. Telgen agrees, saying,...