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Farewell to Arms Book Report

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In the fictional novel A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway there are many characters throughout the book, however six characters stood out the most. The narrator Frederick Henry is an American, who served as a lieutenant in the Italian army to a group of ambulance drivers during World War I. The next major character is Catherine Barkley; she was an English nurse and shortly became Frederick’s wife. Rinaldi is an Italian surgeon who is a very close friend of Frederick. Count Greffi was a father figure to Frederick during the novel. Helen Ferguson is a close friend to Catherine and becomes very jealous of her and Frederick’s relationship. Lastly, there is the priest; he is a spiritual young man who shares his beliefs with Frederick Henry.

The setting of A Farewell to Arms is Italy, where they were fighting Austria, during World War I. The story is about Frederick Henry who was a drunk who traveled from one house of prostitution to the next. Yet he was not satisfied with his unsettled lifestyle. The war is winding down, its winter time and Frederick is planning a tour in Italy. Frederick meets Catherine Barkley an English volunteer nurse, who serves in Italy, at a nearby hospital.

In the novel, there were three main themes in the story. There is love, reality and hopelessness. Love is a major theme throughout the story, Frederick falls in love with Catherine and they spend a lot of time together being in love. Reality sets in when Frederick gets injured and then has to go back to the frontline leaving Catherin behind. World War I was a horrible war, not having all the right equipment and men dying everywhere. Hopelessness is shown all through the story because no matter how hard we fight to live, we end up defeated, but we are here and we must go on. An example is when Catherine is fighting to stay alive, she gives everything but she dies. Frederick wants to live with Catherine forever, but she’s taken away from him and in the end, Frederick will also end up defeated and dead.

This book is very unique in its own way. Hemingway’s style of writing is so different because it goes so smoothly together. He characteristically uses plain words, few adjectives, simple sentences, and frequent repetition through his novels. This particular story is about a womanizer who ends up falling in love which is unique when dealing with war. This story also balances war and love equally during the story.

The novel had many strong parts, although one of the main parts was when Catherine was in labor. The birth takes a very long time, and there are complications. The doctor suggests a caesarean section; the baby ends up dying leaving Catherine with a hemorrhage. The nurses are not able to stop it and Catherine dies. Hemingway described the scenery in the story so well it made the book even better. He was straightforward, though he goes in such detail with the background. When Frederick was meeting with the priest, those were strong parts in the book because the priest was so spiritual and real with Frederick. Having to deliver the equipment in the ambulances and getting stuck in the mud was quite frightful with the enemies nearby. Frederick had to deal with losing a soldier and not being able to deliver all the equipment.

The beginning of A Farewell to Arms was one of the weakest parts of the book. Frederick’s relationship with Rinaldi was not expressed enough. There were areas in the story knowing Rinaldi was the closest friend to Frederick. “…You are my great and good friend and financial protector.” (Hemingway 12) Hemingway should have gone more into depth with their relationship, as well as with the priest. He lacked details in Fredericks and the priest’s relationship. Fredericks and Catherine’s adventure to Switzerland was not too exciting. I was hoping that they would get arrested, instead of the guards believing their lie.

Early critics of the novel emphasized its realistic picture of war and disagreed over the success of Hemingway’s short literary style. A number of critics were hysterical about the frank language and sexual situations Hemingway presented. A Farewell to Arms was in fact banned in Boston in its first run in Scribner’s Magazine. By the 1940s, however, proponents of the New Criticism had begun to do closer textual studies of A Farewell to Arms, finding it rich in language, symbolism, and irony. Other critics praised Hemingway’s narrative structure and explored themes such as the conflict between abstract ideas and existing experience with love and death.

I think that this is a very good book due to the realistic descriptions. They are concise, honest, genuine and do not include nonsense experiences that were unessential to the story. Since everything which is not important has been left out it is very easy to follow the plot. The descriptions of the environments also are very vivid because of the precise, real and not at all cluttered details. However the book sometimes becomes a little bit too harsh. Digressions and exaggerations are at times necessary to make the book more exciting and lively. One thing that I appreciate about this book is that it is not just revolving around the hardships and how horrible the war is like many other books in the same genre but also describes the passionate love between Henry and Catherine. The contrast between the beautiful love and the war is very striking.

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