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Farewell To Arms (Book Review) Essay, Research Paper

Farewell to Arms (Book Review)A Farewell to Arms can be regarded as a story of a manwhose experiences of love and war lead to tragedy. This man’sname is Frederic Henry, and he is the main character in the story.Throughout the novel, the Frederic Henry progressively comes toan understanding of himself and the values by which he lives,achieving a complete knowledge of death. Up until this point inhis life, Frederic Henry has probably never faced death, andtherefore doesn’t really know what death is. He begins withvirtually no understanding of death, not understanding the horrorsor consequences that come along with it. Frederic then graduallycomes to a full comprehension of the meaning, understanding thecomplications and feelings of death. At the beginning of the novel, Frederic Henry has absolutelyno understanding of death, thinking he’s invincible. Henry doesn’tsee the reality of death, having a naive sense of immortality. AsEdgar Johnson says, “Lieutenant Henry is in the war, but hisattitude toward it is purely that of a spectator”. While Henry thinksof the war, he notes “Well, I knew I would not be killed.”(p.37)Frederic Henry was an ambulance driver in the war, and overlooksthe danger at times seeing the war as “no more dangerous to memyself than the war in the movies”(p.37) Henry sees no danger inwar because he doesn’t understand death. Instinctively thinkingthat he cannot die, Frederic has no concept of death. Henry’s comprehension of death remotely progresses when heis painfully made aware or his own mortality. Henry is beginningto realize that death is possible, but still doesn’t understand death.Frederic is told to take four ambulances to the area near the riverbecause there is to be a attack. While he and his fellow drivers aresitting in a dugout eating cold macaroni and cheese, “there was aflash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar thatstarted white and went red and on and on in a rushingwind.”(Hemingway p.54) Henry’s dugout had been hit by a mortarshell and Henry was seriously wounded. The lieutenant’s legs feltwarm and wet. He leaned over to put his hand on his knee and hisknee wasn’t there, “I looked down at my leg and was very afraid.Oh, god I said, get me out of here.”(Hemingway p.65) Henrybegins to show a little fear of death. Subsequently, Frederic heardsomeone behind him saying “Mama Mia!”(Hemingway p.55) Itwas one of his drivers, Passini. Passini’s legs had been smashedabove the knees. The lieutenant remarks, “I saw there was no needto try and make a tourniquet because he [Passini] was alreadydead.”(Hemingway p.55) Later in the novel, Henry gets fed upwith the war, and runs away from it. I would agree with PhillipYoung who believes that Henry runs away “in order to escape acertain death which he doesn’t deserve.” Henry now realizes that itis possible for even him to be killed in the war. He is terrified, andruns. This action showcases Henry’s distant understanding of death. At the end of the novel, Frederic Henry finally obtains anunderstanding of the horrors of death when coping with the death

of his beloved Catherine, who dies from giving birth. Henryobserves Catherine having another horrible hemorrhage and knowsthat he has just witnessed her death. Frederic adds that “It did nottake her [Catherine] long to die.”(Hemingway p.331) I must agreewith Robert W. Lewis who states that Catherine’s death is “reallyonly the end of a beginning as far as Frederic Henry is concerned.”Henry had finally met someone that he could love and care for, andnow Catherine has unexpectedly been taken away from him.Lewis goes in to remark that “Henry has undergone an initiatoryand learning experience that he is now ready to interpret.” AfterCatherine has passes away, Frederic chases everyone out ofCatherine’s room. He shut the door and turned out the light to giveher some peace and quiet. To Henry, “it was like saying good-byeto a statue.” This displays that Frederic has respect for thedeceased and understands death. (Hemingway p.332) FredericHenry has likely never lost anyone close to him and this is alearning experience for him. At the close of the novel, HenryDoesn’t seem very upset, but he probably is in shock, especially ifhe has never lost anyone close to him in the past. Henry doesn’tquestion why Catherine had to die, he just accepts it and realizesthat death is a just a part of life. After Catherine dies, Fredericwalks off into the cold rainy night, alone and tormented. FredericHenry has gradually come more accepting of death, he has come toterms with the fact that all people are going to die and there is noway around it. Throughout A Farewell To Arms, Lieutenant Frederick Henryslowly comes to a full and complete understanding of death. Thelieutenant begins with virtually no understanding of death in thebeginning of the novel. The lieutenant simply doesn’t see thehorrors and pain that accompany death. Henry then advances to aslight or superficial comprehension of death’s meaning when he isseriously injured and questions his own mortality. It is not untilthe closing pages of the novel where we see Frederic realize whatdeath really is. Here, Henry is forced to deal with the death of hisadored wife Catherine, who has so very suddenly died while givingbirth to Henry’s child. While telling this story, Frederic Henryrecognizes what life is all about. More importantly, Henryrecognizes what dieing really is and what it means. One could askthat if Frederic Henry does not fully understand death, than howwould he find the strength and knowledge to narrate A Farewell ToArms. Three years after writing A Farewell To Arms, Hemingwaywrote Death in the Afternoon, pointing out that love stories don’tend happily in life. One could guess that the theme for this novelcame from the ending of A Farewell To Arms, however, this wouldbe a little presumptive.

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell To Arms. New York: MacMillanPublishing Company, 1957Johnson, Edgar. The Sewanee Review , Vol 48, (1940)Lewis, Robert. Hemingway on Love. University of Texas Press,1965Young, Philip. “Loser Take Nothing” 20th Century Interprotationof A Farewell To Arms. New Jersey: Prentics – Hall Inc.,1970

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