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Structure of ”A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms is a 1929 novel by Ernest Hemingway set during World War I. The structure of the novel is mainly focused on the love story between the protagonist and his love interest catherine. It follows the structure of a dramatic tragedy: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution or denouncement.

The novel begins with exposition. Here, the narrator, which is the protagonist, establishes the setting. It is an Italian countryside where the lushness of the vegetation and the beauty of the mountains are corrupted by a series of ground soldier fighting and bombings. The once serene roads are now being destroyed by lines of trucks that carry Italian soldiers and big guns. The whiteness of the snow is stained by the blood of the wounded and dead. Hemingway conveys a stark contrast between the chaos of war and the stillness of nature, and it seems as if nature is definately giving way to the tides of war. This part of the novel also shows that the protagonist, Frederic Henry, is an American who serves as an ambulance driver in the Italian military in their campaign against the Austrians. The exposition, to me, seemed kind of long as the protagonist undergoes some activities that don’t appear to be all that relevant to the story. Longwinded or not, this parts of the novel serves it’s purpose by introducing readers to Catherine Barkley a British nurse who volunteers for the war. A woman, who is about to make henry’s life in the campaign quite a bit more complicated because almost instantly sparks fly between them and love inevitably blossoms. Their love, however, is not without conflict as henry is torn between his duties in the campaign and his love of Catherine.

The action starts to rise when Henry is called for duty and he and his fellow soldiers they brace for an attack. During this attack several Italian soldiers either die or get wounded, including one of Henry’s fellow drivers. Henry himself is wounded in the leg requiring him to be brought to the hospital. Here, the action is brought to a higher level, creating a suspenseful event that keeps the readers guessing as to whether or not the protagonist survives the ordeal. Alas, my worries were unfounded as Henry does survive and his two legs are intact. In fact, his injury proves to be a blessing in disguise as it becomes a way for him to be more intimate to the woman he loves, impregnating her in the process. The intensity of the action is sustained as Henry is sent back to the warfront after recovering from his injury. Once again, the romance between him and Catherine is threatened. Adding to his building woes is the “minor” incident where Henry kills an Italian officer who refuses to help them. This and the Italians’ retreat from the advancing enemies lead to the climax.

The climax of the novel occurs when Henry is arrested by the Italian army and is subjected to interrogation. Apparently, Henry and several others in leadership positions are suspected to be the cause of the defeat of the Italians. What makes this part the climax is that the suspects are shot after interrogation whether the accusation is true or not. As Henry observes, the interrogators are young patriotic Italian officers whose main objective at that moment is to eliminate anyone who they think poses a threat, placing Henry in a situation where death is certain. This moment, with the very people he helped win the war is going to do what the bombs and bullets could not: claim his life and strand the woman he loves alone in the world. Henry, desperate to live, makes a courageous dash and dives into the cold river amidst a volley of gun shots. He is able to escape the interrogators, but the freezing river still poses a threat. Fortunately, his will to be with the woman that helped him survive the whole ordeal gives him the strength to survive. This is also a turning point in Henry’s life, especially as a soldier. His abhorrence for the war that he has been harboring for quite sometime finally manifests in this stage. He denounces the conflict and resolves that he does not want to have anything to do with it anymore.

Following the climax is the falling action. After successfully escaping, he cuts all his connections and involvements with the war. He seems to easily comes to term with the guilt he has after abandoning his duty by convincing himself that he has done the right thing. After becoming reunited with Catherine, they stave off arrest and live a happy life in isolation. At this point, it looks like their happiness will last. They are alone in their world, cut off from the chaos of war, as they anxiously await the birth of their child. It seemed as if the lovers have successfully defied all odds.

The denouement of the novel really surprised me because after all of the hardships and struggles survived by the protagonist, the novel ends in tragedy. Catherine is about to give birth, but she is in so much pain they opt for a caesarean procedure. Unfortunately, that does not save the baby which is still born. Here, the thoughts of the war come back to henry. He realizes that he has not totally escaped its cruelty after all for even now It haunts him. In war, he witnessed death everywhere. Now that he is out of it, death is still with him because not only does the baby die, catherine is taken from his life as well even though he prays, perhaps for the first time in his adult life for her to recover. Despite all the odds and perils that he and Catherine go through just to realize their love for each other, Henry still ends up alone in the world that will never have quite the same beauty as it did before the war.

A. Exposition.
i. Setting: In an Italian countryside during World War I.
ii. Frederic Henry serves as an ambulance driver for the Italian army.
iii. Henry is introduced and falls in love to Catherine Barkley.
iv. Complication: Henry is torn between his duty to the army and Catherine. B. Rising Action.
i. The enemy attacks the Italian base, injuring Henry.
ii. The injury becomes away for Henry and Catherine to be more intimate
iii. Henry is sent back to the war front and shoots an Italian officer. C. Climax.
i. Henry is arrested and faces death during the interrogation.
ii. He escapes by diving into a freezing river.
iii. His abhorrence for the war manifests.
D. Falling Action.
i. He successfully escapes.
ii. He comes to term with his guilt by convincing himself that he does the right thing.
iii. He is reunited with Catherine and escapes arrest.
iv. They live in isolation waiting for Catherine to give birth. E. Denouement.
i. Catherine has a complicated labor
ii. The new born child is dead.
iii. Catherine dies.
iv. Henry is alone in the world

Work Cited:

Hemingway, Ernest. “A Farewell to Arms.”

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