on August 17, 2014
It's many years since I first read this, over 60. I had forgotten all but the nighttime flight up the lake into Switzerland. Perhaps Hemingway was of that mind but I never have fathomed why anyone in the First War would have voluntarily joined the Italian Army to supervise ambulance drivers. Or why anyone would have gone to Spain to fight in war not their own. But that was Hemingway - his story was that the evils of war was everyone's business. In this story there is essential courage and dedication until the realities of war (any war is a vicious interlude in our lives) bring out the realities and barbarism that comes over individual men when every moment could be life or death. And I do not find it difficult that either Henry or Catherine in the midst of a passionate discovery of each other would eventually flee to the safety of Switzerland. I found Rinaldo unnecessary to the story and somehow offensive; on the other hand, I found the Count delightful with his two bottles of champagne a day at 94, hoping to reach 100. For me, there were many sections that were long and drawn out far beyond what was requited in the story - but that is Hemingway and he is the one with the Nobel and the Pulitzer.
But lurking under and alongside this story there is cruelty and sadness that Hemingway cannot seem to evade, and while he tries to make it a noble sacrifice at first, it later descends into tragedy. So far in my re-reading of Hemingway he has been excellent at turning a beautiful and passionate love into a hopeless tragedy. And at this distance, hopeless and pointless, although a five star hopeless and pointless. .
on July 27, 2016
This book was a bit of a slow read for me, it was very confusing at times to be honest. I find Hemingway's writing to be very meaningful, but it was a bit difficult to grasp all the meaning in one read. Some of the sentences were very long and in a lot of paragraphs, the point the author was trying to make was completely lost to me which is why I had to research many parts of this book. Other than that, the book was amazing. At the the beginning the characters may seem a bit dull or stereotypical but the storyline and character development impressed me. The depiction of war and the suffering of soldiers was also amazingly detailed. Overall, this is a good read.
on January 4, 2015
Hemingway, Ernest. Farewell to Arms. 1929. Scribner’s. NY.
A love story in the time of war, a soldier falls in love with a nurse and the adventure of the heart begins. The setting of the Italian front during the First World War is a interesting locale for this story. The story flows like the many mountain rivers Hemingway refers too. He is known for his pared down style but I found this story to be somewhat verbose. Being one of his early works it could be that he was still finding his style.
The protagonist presents some pessimist philosophy and the story brings it to fruit. A log burning in the fire with an army of ants trying to escape sure death is the metaphor for the story. Or is the burning log an allegory? It was probably a symbol or some sort of literary device that makes a point. I liked the story for its setting, but I found the dialogue of the romance a bit dry. That dryness made me wonder about the relationship. How passionate was it? Were these two repressing their feelings? Was there separation fear due to the war? Was the relationship a product of the war and bound to end like war? I can’t say: read it and find out for yourself.
on June 27, 2005
A Farewell to Arms, written by Ernest Hemingway, classically combines love, misery, seduction, and sorrow all in one historic novel. This wonderful novel depicts the harsh realities of war among two lovers entangled in the mist. The main character, Lieutenant Frederic Henry, and his lover, Nurse Catherine Barkley, initially have a relationship consisting of games, illusions, and fantasies. This cleverly ties in with the war that currently encompasses Henry, World War I. The blending of these aspects results in one of Hemingway's greatest novels.
Lieutenant Henry lives his daily life as an ambulance driver for the army. Disillusioned by the war, he meets an English nurse, Barkley, who mourns for her dead fiancé. They commence a game of seduction, each with their own reasons for playing it. Barkley, psychologically damaged from the death of her fiancé, struggles to push the history behind her while Henry tries to stay as far away from the war as possible. After a little while together, Barkley brings up the game they play by saying, "This is rotten game we play, isn't it" (31)? Henry retorts that he "treated seeing Catherine very lightly" (41).
Embodying the stereotype of the testosterone-fed male, Henry also looks for sex from Miss Barkley. He yearns for pleasure in a world filled with despair and death. As the novel progresses, his accounts of the war decline in quality and quantity. Accounts of the war decrease and become less detailed, showing that he continually bothers less with the war. Henry changes from a man living with the war to a man only interested in himself and anything directly related, including Catherine Barkley.
The relationship between the two lovers changes as time passes by as well. Their relationship progresses from an illusion to actual feelings of love. "We were never lonely and never afraid when we were together" (249). Apparently Henry believed love existed when two people felt as they did together. It indirectly affects the war for Henry because as the relationship consumes more of his life, his unwilling grip to war weakens. The importance of it decreases as Barkley's significance increases to him. As time goes on, Henry turns into a man who prioritizes a greater love for Catherine. He throws away his integrity and runs from the army, showing the shifts in his list of priorities. War only existed as something in his way.
This anti-war novel clearly convinces all about the unsympathetic truths of World War I or, more simply, war in general. "The West front did not sound so good...I did not see how it could go on" (118). Throughout the course of the novel, Henry faces the deaths of many of his companions. Upon realizing his love, Catherine Barkley, now must stand at the brink of death, Lieutenant Henry grimly accepts the truth. "They killed you in the end. You could count on that. Stay around and they would kill you" (327). In all his days in the war, he never realizes the death surrounding him until the person he cares for most begins to slip from his grasp.
Hemingway, in his novel, teaches others the psychological features of people, interweaving it with the innuendos of the darkness of war so readers cannot forget the environment and setting that the two main characters feel trapped in. He gives others a refreshing breath from society by denouncing materialism. The idea of denouncing materialism ideally fits in psychologically with the ongoing war. He urges others to reconsider their materialistic priorities for something more genuine. Hemingway never made these materialistic possessions important. Nature, one of the things he embraced, clearly shows its importance when he felt it necessary to write, "The first cool nights came, then the days were cool and the leaves on the trees in the park began to turn color" (133). He felt it necessary to describe the colored canvas produced by the changing of the surrounding trees as autumn came.
As Richard Schickel once said, "A great novel is concerned primarily with the interior lives of its characters as they respond to the inconvenient narratives that fate imposes on them." Throughout the novel, Hemingway remains constant in keeping up the realistic atmosphere he introduces in the beginning and how it affects Henry's life. This romantic literature never ceases to be unfair to the readers' high expectations of works by Ernest Hemingway. As a highly popular and recommended novel, it lives up to the just raves. Pick up a copy of this thoughtful, beautifully written novel. Another book I need to recommend -- completely unrelated to Hemingway, but very much on my mind since I purchased a "used" copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition," a somewhat raw, but oddly engaging little novel I can't stop thinking about.
on December 22, 2006
This is the first Hemingway novel I've read, and I found it very compelling. The book places Henry, a young American ambulance driver in the Italian army, and Catherine Barkley, a beautiful nurse in the war who has recently lost her love in the Battle of the Somme. The two meet by chance, and what seems to be an outlet to release sexual gratification soon becomes much more.
This novel isn't particularly fast paced, nor is it hard to follow. The purpose of Hemingway's simplistic dialogue is to show realism in love during times of war and optimism in love where there seems to be none. The couple delude themselves at times, believing only what they want to believe in order to cope with the anguish that war brings.
You have to read through the whole novel to truly appreciate Hemingway's masterpiece. The novel has a moving ending that still rivals its modern day counter-parts.
To those of you that like action, or melodramatic dialogue, steer clear of this book. But to those of you who are interested in reading realistic dialogue and love in dangerous times, do yourself a favor and read A Farewell to Arms.
on June 25, 2004
Ernest Hemingway has done it again with an excellent book. A Farewell to Arms is perhaps Hemingway's greatest work. The book follows the events concerning Henry, a young man who volunteered to work for the Italian army. But when he discovers his true love, he faces a major decision that could radically change the course of his life. The character development is second-to-none, and Hemingway used his signature style of the book, anti-climatic situations. One of my favorite parts of the book is the anti-climatic end of the third and most climatic part of the book, where the main character is laying down in as a stowaway in a train compartment. (Don't worry, I didn't give anything away). The only flaw of the book was that it was very difficult to understand the hidden symbolism mentioned in the book. I probably would not have realized many of the hidden symbolic pieces without reading Cliff's Notes. I surely recommend the book; yet there is a reading enhancement and a much deeper understanding of the book when read with Cliff's Notes.
on June 21, 2004
I've heard it said before that you either love Hemingway or you hate him. In the past, I was a staunch supporter of the 'hate' side, but after reading A Farewell to Arms, I moved to the 'this is better than some things, but not what I'd choose first' side. In other words, I appreciate his talent and what his style did for modern writing, but it's still not something that's utterly enjoyable to me.
A Farewell to Arms is written in classic Hemingway style: sparse, often drab, and littered with often confusing conversations which have to be read three times in order to sort out who said what. A Farewell to Arms is written from the viewpoint of Frederick Henry, a young American in the Italian army during WWI. The book follows Henry's relationship with Catherine Barkley, a young nurse, as well as his life in the Italian army.
A Farewell to Arms is a grim book. I felt very 'gray' when reading this novel; the work in its entirety points to the brutal realities of war and the frailty of anything in the face of it. This novel is semi-autobiographical, as Hemingway himself served as an ambulance driver in the Italian army, and this personal experience seems to have lent Hemingway the ability to very clearly capture WWI.
The parts I enjoyed most were the stream-of-consciousness passages, for which Hemingway has a particular talent. The genius of these passages is that Frederick Henry's drunken stream-of-consciousness is written much differently than his sleepy stream-of-consciousness.
The main reason I didn't find this book particularly enjoyable is that I couldn't find a connection to the main characters. Frederick Henry came off as a bit stiff and average to me; there was nothing particularly engrossing about him to make me care whether he lived happily ever after or got blown to kingdom come. Critics have also pointed to Hemingway's lack of dynamic female characters, and I found Catherine Barkley to be no exception. Beautiful and submissive, she easily falls for Frederick Henry, who in my opinion is no prize.
So there you have it. There is no argument that A Farewell to Arms is classic literature, and with good cause, but I maintain that if you're looking for something really entertaining, this novel is not the place to start.
on May 27, 2004
For a long time I didn't appreciate Hemingway because I had been reading mostly post-modern authors who are heavy on adjectives and irony and hyper-stylistic phrasing, and because of this Hemingway's narrative seemed rather oversimplistic and stylistically flat. But eventually what you come to realize with Hemingway is that his pared-to-the-bone style has it's purpose, and that purpose is for the reader to discover the subtext between the lines which envelopes the story's conciousness. Hemingway doesn't control our imagination with vast flurries of adjective phrasing, rather he lays out the essentials of a situation and allows, as in poetry, our imagination to do the rest. For example in this book Hemingway doesn't describe his main characters in great detail. The narrator's tone and the way characters react to his authority suggest he is about thirty, yet the nurses all call him a "boy" suggesting he is the same age as most of the soldiers, 18-22. Catherine often seems the same age as the narrator, but we learn that she has had an 8-year relationship with an Italian, suggesting she's somewhat older than the narrator. Eventually you figure it all out but the thing is Hemingway seldom hands these details over, he leaves it to the reader to glean such things through dialogue and character interaction. For example, there is a particular point in the story where Catherine has some "news" for the narrator, but a reader who has figured Catherine out, the way she talks and the way she beats around the bush, will realize this news before the narrator's character figures it out. Anyway, I do think simplification is an underappreciated skill in Hemingway's hands, at least among his critics.
This is much more of a love story than a a war story. Yes, it is set in WWI, but the war is essentially a backdrop for the devil-may-care romance. (I've heard this described as an anti-war story, which is silly. Hemingway served in WWI and WWII and seemed to feel quite strongly that there was a genuine purpose for war...) As a love story, though, there is plenty of tension. We are pretty sure of the narrator's sentiments toward Catherine but Catherine seems somehow too perfect for the narrator, so that we're always expecting something to go wrong... and the ending keeps us on a real tightrope.
on May 21, 2004
A Farewell to Arms is Hemingway's masterpiece about WWII where an Italian soldier finds love overseas in Europe. Henry, the main character, is an American serving in the Italian Army. One of his good friends, who also is a soldier, introduces him to a girl named Catherine Berkley. Catherine is one of the most beautiful women that Henry has ever laid eyes on, and they fall in love. Henry gets wounded in action and has to stay at a hospital for a few months. Catherine is a nurse, so she transfered to a new hospital so she could be with Henry. I really enjoyed reading about their experiences in the hospital. Henry wasn't able to do a whole lot, but since Catherine was a nurse, she could put him in a wheel chair and take him out on a walk so he could get some fresh air. Other parts of this novel that I enjoyed were when Henry and the other soldiers waste time in their bunkhouse. The time they spent over in Europe was spent either drinking or fighting. Usually they were doing more drinking than fighting, however, and that made the novel interesting. If you're looking for a hardcore war novel that goes in depth with blood and gore, this probably isn't what you're looking for. If you're interested in reading a story of romance with a war in the middle, then I suggest you read this. I love how Hemingway writes and have read a few other of his works. If you enjoy any of his other famous novels, then you should definitely try this one. It wasn't too tough a read, and it's not that long either. The novel caught my attention right away, and I couldn't put it down. I would rate it 4 out of 5 stars.
on April 29, 2004
This was one of the most boring books I've read recently. I'd only read a few of Hemingway's short stories before this, and I liked them, so I wasn't prepared for his novels to be such a step down. I'm not denying he was brilliant, but at short stories, not the longer form. I'm even willing to read more of his books to see if it's true that not all of his books are as flat and boring as this one and certain others. I think the most advanced word in this book is "silhouette"; the rest reads like a story a third grader could have come up with, though even a third grader could write a more complex story, with more complex words and emotions. The only exciting and involving part of the book for me was after page 200, when Henry is escaping from being shot together with the other soldiers, holding on to the piece of driftwood and floating through the river. After he reached the hotel it got boring again, and there were still a bit over a hundred pages left to go.
I felt absolutely nothing for these people. They had about as much depth as paper dolls, and it doesn't help matters any that they rarely say more than ten words at a time to one another. Catherine talks like a two year old, "Ooh, I love you, do you love me? I love you, darling. Why don't we get married?" Even a Barbie doll would have more depth of emotion if it came to life! At best I felt bad for the baby for maybe five seconds at most. A thirteen year old couple in love could do a better and more mature job of expressing their feelings for one another. And the prose just drags; nearly every passage reads something like "It was cold. It was dark. It was raining again. The train began to move. I was cold. I poured myself a tenth glass of cognac." Not exactly prose that leaps off of the page and makes you feel emotionally involved with the characters.
The love story was also a far stretch. Wasn't Catherine going with Henry's pal Rinaldi when they first met? And already on their first excuse of a date they're declaring they love one another, even though Henry admits to himself he doesn't really love her. I rolled my eyes; not another love story lacking discernable motivation, like the ones in 'Anna Karenina' or 'Doctor Zhivago'! (Although at least I felt emotionally involved with those characters, even though their love stories weren't given much explanation in the way of motivation.) God forbid there might have been any sexual or romantic tension instead of having characters fall into one another's arms after barely saying five words to one another.
There are some nice descriptive pieces in here, and I really liked the part where Henry is escaping, but other than that it just falls flat. After this disappointment, it will be awhile before I choke down another Hemingway novel. I hope it's true that not all of his books are as boring and lifeless as this one was.