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A Farewell To Arms – Internal Conflict

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The character of Frederick Henry in Ernest Hemingway?s A Farewell to Arms is disillusioned, ??.first with the war which he had presumably volunteered to be in, and second with his romance with Catherine [Barkley], which, to give him credit, he had not initially volunteered for.? (Lewis 42) Initially, he is detached from the war because he is merely an ambulance driver and therefore, has nothing to do with the actual war. He must ultimately decide to follow his obligations to the Italian army or to follow his love for Catherine Barkley, both of which cause Frederick Henry great internal conflict. Eventually, his surroundings and the events that occur change Frederick Henry from a disillusioned young man, into a matured character that had suffered life?s greatest agonies: to lose in love and war.

Frederick Henry starts off as a lost young man without any set goals in life and in need of something greater than what could be satisfied by cheap alcohol and solicited sex. Frederick drinks and visits brothels and yet he is discontent because his life is very unsettled, and lacking any order. Not until his love affair with Catherine Barkley does Frederick Henry feel like he has some order and value to his life.

The only type of relationship that Frederick wanted with Catherine was a physical one. He does not love Catherine at first but tells her he does to get her into bed. Frederick turns love into a game.

?I knew I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards. Like bridge you had to pretend you were playing for money or playing for some stakes. Nobody had mentioned what the stakes were. It was all right with me.? (Hemingway, 30-31) By developing the necessary trust to lure her into bed, he consequently fell in love with her.

Frederick and Catherine make a life for themselves in Switzerland completely isolated from everything. They are each other?s only source of strength and have become completely dependant on one another.

Then we?d both be alike. Oh, darling, I want you so much I want to be you too.? (Hemmingway 199) Even though they appear to be happy and living in bliss, Frederick has always seen his relationship with Catherine and their unborn child as a burden.

And you don?t feel trapped? Maybe a little. But not by you.

I didn?t mean by me. You mustn?t be stupid. I meant trapped at all.

You always feel trapped biologically.? (Hemmingway 139) ?[T]he announcement of her pregnancy is followed not only by the rain but by his waking in the night nauseated and jaundiced.? (Fetterley, 72) ?When the courtship is over (when Catherine is pregnant), she conveniently dies as does the baby who would have been so troublesome to the hero.? (Lewis 45) Perhaps Catherine?s death also causes Frederick some inner conflict as he was expecting to have an epiphany. While he does accept her death, he does not seem to learn anything from it other than it was inevitable. Frederick sees Catherine?s corpse and comments that ?[i]t was like saying good-by to a statue.? (Hemmingway, 332) The war also causes Frederick to feel conflicted.

Henry enters the war looking for adventure but finds no glory or honor. This was demonstrated by his rejection of Rinaldis idea to have him decorated for his bravery, as he insisted that there was nothing brave about being blown up while?..eating cheese. (Hemmingway 63) Frederick disagrees with the war he is fighting because it is too chaotic and immoral for him to rationalize its cause, however he fights anyway, in order to achieve the discipline which the army forces into his life. He feels as detached from the war as he does with everything else in his life and comes to realize that he is no more important to this war as any other soldier. He begins to question the legal and immoral theories of the war and replace them with illegal but moral ideas.

Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.? ( Hemmingway, 185) Fredericks decision to desert the army is motivated partially by the fear of being killed. His river escape is like a baptism, during which he severs his ties to the past. When he emerges from the river, Frederic is presumably reborn. But is he Now he is on his own, and he must act to escape. Yet he has not sloughed off his old skin, and before completing his flight he will cover himself with that same cloak of passivity he donned when describing his relationship with Catherine ? and for much the same reason.? (Donaldson, 98) Henry made a farewell to arms and washed himself of any responsibility to a war in which he had little interest.

By the end of A Farewell to Arms, Frederick Henry is a transformed man, schooled by Catherines love and a completed person for their time together and forever changed by the war. The horrors of war are contrasted with the wonders of love, but in the end Death the master reached the hero, who thought he had escaped death by escaping the war. Ironically, it is through love that he is hurt. Still, love is better than war. (Lewis, 44)

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