A farewell to arms

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A FAREWELL TO ARMS BY ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Ernest Hemingway was an American writer, born in 1899. He became a Nobel Prize winner 1954. The motives from witch he wrote his books was gathered from his experiences during the two world wars, from hunting, fishing, bullfighting etc. “A farewell to arms” was written in 1929. Several of his books have become films.

This book takes place in Italy during World War I and is a combination of romance, violence and tragedy. There are two main characters: Fredric Henry and Catherine Barkley. Mr Henry is an American ambulance driver fighting with the Italians against Germany and Austria. Catherine is one of the nurses at the hospital in the town where Mr Henry is at one time. They end up falling in love with each other. One day Mr Henry gets shot in the leg and is immediately sent to a hospital. After a while, Catherine starts to work there and the two can meet every day. During the six months Mr Henry stays at the hospital their love grows stronger. Unfortunately, after that he’s being sent back to the front, where things are not going so great. The Italians are being forced to retreat. In the retreat, Italian soldiers tries to shoot him because they think he’s a German. Mr Henry then flees and deserts. Now he starts to seek a refuge where he and Catherine can build a future for themselves.

The name of Mr Henry is rarely mentioned in the book, he often refers to the pronoun “I” or “tenente”, witch is italic for officer. This makes the whole book more personal, and you think of Mr Henry more as yourself than a person in a book. The story is not so much about the war, but more about Mr Henry’s thoughts and emotions, the war is only in the background. When the war is being described it’s often described through others eyes as they tell how awful it is. Mr Henry himself is only in battle once, when he gets shot in his leg. No, this book is more about the love between two people and their search for a calm place where they and their child can live in peace.

Hemingway is really great at describing emotions. One example is this, from page 259, chapter 38:
“One time in the night I woke up and knew Catherine was awake too. The moon was shining in the window and made shadows on the bed from the bars on the window-panes.
- Are you awake, sweetheart?
- Yes. Can’t you sleep?
- I just woke up thinking how I was nearly crazy when I first met you. Do you remember?
- You were just a little crazy.
- I’m never that way any more. I’m grand now. You say grand so sweetly. Say grand.
- Grand.
- Oh, you’re sweet. And I’m not crazy now. I’m just very, very, very happy.
- Go on to sleep, I said.
- All right. Let’s go to sleep at exactly the same moment.
- All right.
But we did not. I was awake for quite a long time thinking about things and watching Catherine sleeping, the moonlight on her face. Then I went to sleep, too”

This part shows quite well how the book is written. Mr Henry’s name is never mentioned, instead, in this case, she calls him sweetheart. It also shows how well Hemingway describes their emotions and feelings for each other. In the last sentence, “I was awake for quite a long time thinking about thing and watching Catherine sleeping, the moonlight on her face”, he doesn’t mention anything about how beautiful she is or how much he loves her, but you can still feel that that is the case.

The language is also great. The book never gets boring and you feel you want to continue reading it...

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Inactive member [2000-07-05]   A farewell to arms
Mimers Brunn [Online]. http://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=44 [2018-08-19]

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