A Farewell to Arms


A Farewell to Arms written by Ernest Hemingway, is a love story set in Italy during World War I. When the story opens the narrator, a young ambulance driver named Frederic Henry, meets his future love interest, Catherine Barkley. Catherine Barkley is a nurse’s aide who had lost her fiancé in battle a year earlier. Their relationship progresses and Henry’s legs are injured when a mortar shell hits his unit. He is moved to a hospital in Milan, Italy. Catherine is transferred to his unit. She tells Henry she is pregnant. He is diagnosed with self-inflicted jaundice and is forced to return to the front when another nurse, Miss Van Campen finds liquor bottles under his bed and in his armoire. Henry returns to the front and receives word to retreat. While the Germans are right on his tail, his vehicle gets stuck in mud. He takes flight on foot, and loses his engineers. Henry then is shot at and swims down a river to safety. He finds Catherine and they stay in a hotel on the lake. They find out that Henry is going to be arrested for running from service. They paddle a boat to safety in Switzerland. They attempt to forget all about the war and mostly succeed in doing so. Catherine goes into labor and delivers a still born baby boy. She then dies of a hemorrhage. The war affects Catherine, Henry and their love each in different way. Catherine is affected emotionally. She has lost a loved one, she is under stress, and she is more pressured to move quickly in a relationship. Henry is affected emotionally as well as physically. He hurts his legs, he loses a loved one, and he has to risk his life. Their young love is affected by the war in that it made things move quickly. The two both wanted someone to care for them. They both realize that the war is destructive and want not to think about it. This gives them a common background to base their relationship on.


Catherine is affected by the war even before the story opens. A year before she meets Henry, her fiancé and friend of eight years dies in battle. The reader is aware that she cared for him a lot when Henry compliments her hair and she says, “I was going to cut it all off when he died,” (19). This action is a sign of devotion. It shows that she wanted to do something in memory of him. Her hair, as Henry says, is beautiful which makes the action she was thinking of more noteworthy. Catherine is also under a lot of stress now that she meets Henry. She worries about losing another person that is close to her to the war. The reader is aware of this through a lot of commentary in the story, but it is most evident when she says, “I want us to be all mixed up. I don’t want you to go away. I just said that. You go if you want to. But hurry back. Why, darling, I don’t live at all when I’m not with you,” (300). She says this when she is talking about how she wants to be exactly like him which again presents the deep love she has for him. She is also a little pressured to move more quickly in the relationship. Upon entering Henry’s room in the hospital, Catherine said, “Feel our hearts beating,” and Henry said, “I don’t care about hearts. I want you. I’m just mad about you.” “Do you really love me?” “Don’t keep saying that. Come on. Please. Please, Catherine.” (92). This case presents evidence that she felt pressured to love Henry. She most likely did not want to rush things because of the good friend she had just lost.


Henry is affected by the war in ways different from those of Catherine’s. Henry has a physical effect of the war. While on the front, his unit was hit by a mortar shell and he was unable to walk. He had to undergo surgery and was supposed to have a waiting period of six months before the surgery. Fortunately, his doctor took a risk and operated