A Farewell to arms

Ernest Hemmingways A Farewell To Arms is classic display of literature. The way he develops his characters is ingenious. In the beginning of the story I did not like the way it was going. As I read deeper into the book, A Farewell To Arms I discovered the complexity of the characters themselves. I discovered that Frederic Henry was a rather complex character as well. When you are finally given the full picture of Frederic Henry, you realize that he can be described in several different ways. First, Frederic Henry is a round and very dynamic character. You also realize that because Mr. Henrys mannerisms are so easily recognizable, he is a stock character as well. The point of view in the story is written in first person. The first person point of view is that of Frederic Henry. The stories underlying theme is identity. Throughout the whole story Frederic Henry is revealing himself to the audience and discovering himself at the same time. A secondary theme in the story is that Catherine, Frederics love interest, is slightly crazy. Throughout the story, I was intrigued by the things that Frederic Henry revealed to the audience. While reading the story it was as if you were right there with Frederic, going through the same things he did, and knowing every intimate detail. The aspects that Frederic Henry display are the aspects of a well developed character and a true war hero.
The first aspect I would like to touch on is that Frederic Henry is a well-rounded character. As the story progresses we learn more and more about the character Frederic Henry. Though it may seem like a small point, a good example of how we learn more about Frederic as the story progresses is the fact that he is nameless in the first four chapters. Throughout the first four chapters, Frederic Henry is referred to as lieutenant by his peers and baby by his girlfriend. Its not until chapter five that he is referred to as Mr. Henry. Then we learn his full name, Frederic Henry, in chapter thirteen. Another example of Frederic Henry being a round character is that he is closely involved in just about every part of the story. Of course he would have to be involved in the majority of the story because its basically the confession of his life. The entire story we learn about Mr. Henry, and we watch him grow to become a good man. Even when Frederic is not involved in the seen, he is still involved in many aspects of the scene. As other characters converse we still learn more about Frederic Henry and his relationship with each character.

The second aspect of Frederic Henry as a character that I would like to display is the fact that he is a very dynamic character. Throughout the entire story Frederic Henry grows and changes. In the beginning Frederic is part of a group of soldiers. But as the story progresses and he and Catherine fall more into love Frederic begins to isolate he and Catherine from the group. Instead of saying we in accordance to his group of friends he uses we to represent him and Catherine. Aside from isolating himself from his group of friends Frederic Henry changes from a rather self-centered person to a caring person. Instead of planning for his future and living to fulfill his needs he begins involving Catherine in the picture as well. Not only does he change in respect to Catherine but he changes in respect to other characters as well. Mr. Henry begins to look out for others needs, particularly in the battles he is involved with. A great example of this is when Frederic gets injured badly he insists that the other soldiers be treated first.(Lewis, 46) There are countless other times when Frederic tries to help other soldiers, showing complete selflessness, but unfortunately fails. Though he failed to save Catherine, he showed major change from the way he was at the beginning of the story when he did all he could to save her. As the story progresses Frederic grows more and more familiar to the audience and his personality becomes more audience friendly.

The third aspect of Frederic Henrys character is that he is a stock character. A stock character is a character that is easily identifiable by the way they behave. Frederic Henry is very easy to identify. First off he almost always speaks in the plural form. For example, when he buys himself a gun he turns to Catherine and says, now we are fully armed, as if she too is armed.(Monteiro, 71) Another characteristic that Frederic Henry has, is that he is always trying to help other people. Throughout the entire story there are examples of he and his men out on the battlefield, and Frederic coming to someones aid. Since this behavior takes place so many times you automatically know that it is Frederic Henry who is coming to the rescue. The event that is most memorable is when Frederic and his men are captured and Frederic manages to help all his men escape. Upon the escape Frederic rows he and his crew for over twenty miles to safety, in Switzerland.(Gellens, 45)
The point of view in A Farewell To Arms, is a first person point of view. The interesting thing is that even though its a first person point of view, its a first person point of view that is expressed in a plural sense. All threw the story Frederic Henry uses the phrase we to refer to himself and his group of friends. Another interesting thing is that later into the story Frederics usage of the word we changes from referring to his group of friends to his relationship with Catherine. The story is also a confession in a way. Its a confession because as he tells the story he admits to his shortcomings early on. Not only does he admit his shortcomings but its as if he needed to expresses his regret for the people he was not able save.(Lewis, 46) The entire story is told from Frederic Henrys perspective. You see things as they happen through his eyes only. While telling the story Frederic Henry sounds almost apologetic, and when he retells his adventures, he uses a negative tone.
The theme in the story is identity. The whole point of the story is Frederic Henry revealing himself to the audience and essentially explaining who he is. Time after time Frederic lets the audience in on intimate details. By explaining himself and his actions it is easier for the audience to identify with Frederic and put themselves in his place. By putting the audience member in his place, he forces you to participate in every adventure he goes through.
A secondary theme is presented as well. The secondary theme is one that portrays Catherine. Some skeptics think that Catherines central theme is craziness. (Lewis, 46) throughout the storyt she is called crazy and is referred to as the crazy one. Catherine even refers to herself as being crazy. An example of when Catherine refers to herself as crazy is when she says, I havent been happy for a long time, and when I met you perhaps I was a nearly crazy. She questions her sanity again when Frederic says I dont want you to get Scotch and crazy tonight and the Catherine replies I am Scotch and crazy.(Lewis, 102)
Some interesting points about Frederic Henrys character is that he is actually the antagonist as opposed to the protagonist.(Lewis, 46) The evidence for such an argument is all throughout the story. Time after time Frederic tries to save people, but fails almost every time.Such a quality brings hope into the eyes of the audience but then lets them down time and time again. Though there were several successful escapes and rescues the failures still outweighed the successes. In the beginning of the story Frederics self-centeredness is rather annoying and makes you dislike him. Self-centeredness is the quality of an antagonist.

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Ernest Hemmingways A Farewell To Arms was all in all a good story. It displayed the trials and tribulations of an American soldier during wartime. The character Frederic Henry is a well-rounded and dynamic character. The fact that Frederic Henry was a stock character made him easy to recognize and therefore made the story easier to follow. Though the story was told through a first person point of view Ernest Hemmingway kept the story interesting by telling it through a plural first person. The underlying theme of the story was identity. Frederic spent the whole story explaining who he was to the audience. The way Frederic told the story, he made it easy for the audience member to identify with him, therefore making it easier for the audience member to put themselves in his place. An interesting secondary theme is the theme that implies Catherine is crazy. Because of things Catherine says and does the crazy theme seems to fit her personality. Throughout the story there is plenty of evidence of all these things and these aspects made the story even better and much more fun to read.

Gellens, Jay. Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Farewell To Arms.Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1970.

Lewis, Robert. A Farewell To Arms (A War With Words). New York, 1992.

Monteiro, George. Critical Essays On: Ernest Hemmingways A Farewell To Arms.New York, 1994.

A Farewell To Arms

A Farewell To Arms That fall, Henry and Catherine live in a brown wooden house on the side of a mountain. They enjoy the company of Mr. and Mrs. Guttingen, who live downstairs, and they remain very happy together; sometimes they walk down the mountain path in Montreux. One day Catherine gets her hair done in Montreux, and afterwards they go to have a beer–Catherine thinks beer is good for the baby, because it will keep it small; she is worried about the baby’s size because the doctor has said she has a narrow pelvis. They talk again about getting married, but Catherine wants to wait until after the baby is born when she will be thin again.

Three days before Christmas, the snow comes. Catherine asks Henry if he feels restless, and he says no, though he does wonder about his friends on the front, such as Rinaldi and the priest. Henry decides to grow a beard and by mid-January, he has one. Through January and February he and Catherine remain very happy; in March they move into town to be near the hospital. They stay in a hotel there for three weeks; Catherine buys baby clothes, Henry works out in the gym, and they both feel that the baby will arrive soon. Finally, around three o’clock one morning, Catherine goes into labor.

They go to the hospital, where Catherine is given a nightgown and a room. She encourages Henry to go out for breakfast, and he does, talking to the old man who serves him. When he returns to the hospital, he finds that Catherine has been taken to the delivery room. He goes in to see her; the doctor stands by, and Catherine takes an anaesthetic gas when her contractions become very painful. At two o’clock in the afternoon, Henry goes out for lunch.

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He goes back to the hospital; Catherine is now intoxicated from the gas. The doctor thinks her pelvis is too narrow to allow the baby to pass through, and advises a Caesarian section. Catherine suffers unbearable pain and pleads for more gas. Finally they wheel her out on a stretcher to perform the operation. Henry watches the rain outside. Soon the doctor comes out and takes Henry to see the baby, a boy.

Henry has no feeling for the child. He then goes to see Catherine, and at first worries that she is dead. When she asks him about their son, he tells her he was fine, and the nurse gives him a quizzical look. Ushering him outside, the nurse tells him that the boy is not fine–he strangled on the umbilical cord, and never began to breathe. He goes out for dinner, and when he returns the nurse tells him that Catherine is hemorrhaging. He is filled with terror that she will die.

When he is allowed to see her, she tells him she will die, and asks him not to say the same things to other girls. Henry goes into the hallway while they try to treat Catherine, but nothing works; finally, he goes back into the room and stays with her until she dies. The doctor offers to drive him back to the hotel, but Henry declines. He goes back into the room and tries to say good-bye to Catherine, but says that it was like saying good-bye to a statue. He leaves the hospital and walks back to his hotel in the rain.

Commentary Henry and Catherines simple domestic rituals in the first half of this section illustrate their simple happiness together, and make the tragedy of the second half of the section all the more painful. Catherine’s haircut, Henry’s new beard, their walks through the mountains, and their time with the Guttingens all signify a world that Henry and Catherine have longed for, devoid of war and filled with tranquil time together. Throughout this section, however, as throughout the novel, Hemingway uses subtle actions and words to foreshadow Catherine’s death, such as her attempt to keep the baby small by drinking beer. Images linking pregnancy to war and death have been peppered throughout the novel, even in the first chapter, where Henry says that the soldiers holding their rifles under their capes looked six months gone with child. This subtle foreshadowing creates a current of expectation–the reader at least senses that Catherine’s pregnancy will be fatal–utterly opposed to the domestic bliss and optimism with which Catherine and Henry now live their lives. Henry giving Catherine the anaesthetic gas at the beginning of Chapter 41, for instance, shows his tender but unworried desire to help her, but the obsessive need Catherine shows for the gas indicates to the reader that all is not well.

The tension in both the reader’s and the characters’ expectations builds throughout Catherine’s labor, and contributes to the heart-wrenching effect of her death: Henry believed Catherine would live, and though we know better, we want to believe him. Catherine’s death, when it comes, achieves the highest tragedy in plain understated terms: It seems she had one hemorrhage after another. They couldn’t stop it. I went into the room and stayed with Catherine until she died. Catherine’s death and the novel’s tragic ending are made ambiguous by their failure to initiate an epiphany in Frederic Henry. He does not seem to learn anything from her death, or to feel any catharsis after it, except what he possibly already knew and already felt: that the universe is hostile and painful, and the only thing he can do is live his life with clarity and honesty.

In many ways, A Farewell to Arms is simply an illustration of that theme: war and love both lead to violence and death, and tragedy follows happiness as quickly as it follows misery. The rain that follows Henry and Catherine throughout the novel is a perfect simple symbol of the malevolence of the universe; Catherine fears it, and it comes down relentlessly at every turn, even at her death. After she dies, Henry never interprets her death; that interpretation came in Chapter 34, when he thought of the world killing the good and the brave. But after describing Catherine’s death in Chapter 41, he simply tells how he walked back to the hotel in the rain, somewhat lost and alone in the world–as, A Farewell to Arms seems to say, we all are. Love can be an antidote for the painful feelings of war, but it does not change the basic unforgiving hardness of the world.

English Essays.


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