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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.
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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.
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on December 25, 2000
In reading A Farewell to Arms, one is able to truly understand the many passions that abound within the souls of men...Hemingway's masterpiece, which details the epic struggle between life and death, between love and courage during the Great War, induces in the reader a whirlwind of emotions, beginning with trepidation and ending with an emptiness unrivaled in modern literature...It is, in its barest and also in its most complicated form, a passionate love story interrupted by spells of reality..By way of the author's customary, journalistic-type prose, and his conscious omission of superflous verbatim, the emotions of the characters and those of the reader become the very end of the tale, however, the spirit of the lovers is abruptly retracted, and the reader is left sitting alone, forced to contemplate what just happened...that the novel can seem brief while simulateneously depicting a long, arduous war march, is certainly a credit to the author, and is partly what makes A Farewell to Arms one of the great novels of the Twentieth Century.
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on June 29, 2002
A FAREWELL TO ARMS is one of Hemingway's earliest novels. With much of the material loosely based on his own personal experiences as an ambulance driver during World War I, the story captures in great detail the conflict in all of its horror and barbarism.
The book invites us to imagine all of the brave soldiers who went into the war in search of glory. What they found instead was the endless stalemate and hideous prospect of trench warfare. Perhaps more than any other war in the history of warfare, the first World War changed the traditional paradigms of how wars were fought and what the objectives of engagements were. Hemingway, who was there himself, serves as a perfect instrument to portray what it was really like.
The plot centers around Frederick Henry, an American ambulance driver for the Italian army (a job Hemingway performed himself). Henry is a typical masculine Hemingway male persona who falls in love with a beautiful, long-haired & impetuous British nurse named Catherine Barkley. Henry is an exemplar of the WWI soldier who gets more than he bargains for in the war; betrayal and ignominious soldiering of the Italians in the wake of defeat.
The tragic irony of this novel is what makes it so memorable. Henry, as a wounded man who withdraws from the battle, as well as the whims of the Italian Army. However, he does so only to find that life is full of tragedy whether you're in a war or not.
I would highly recommend this novel to all fans of Hemingway, American literature and World War I period historical and literary works. It is with the subtle prose of Heminway that we can be effectively transported back to that epoch of our world history.
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on December 11, 2000
Ernest Hemingway's Farewell to Arms is a good book that offers a worthy love story that takes place in central Europe during World War I. The main character, Frederic Henry, whom is an American fighting for the Italian Army, tells the novel. At the beginning of the book Frederic falls in love with a young nurse, Catherine Barkley. Throughout the book the two fall deeply in love and begin to meet often. As their affection for each other increases the intensity of the war also increases. Foreshadowing throughout the book leads the reader into a dramatic ending. Even thought the book offered a developed plot and descriptive characters it was hard to follow the enhanced theme. The use of Italian during the book adds for a more confusing story, but attaches deeper character in the story line. Although the novel was nice it had was a drawn out love story that did not interest me totally. If you are looking for a all out war story this is a decent book but it is geared more toward the person in line for a dramatic tragedy.
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on February 9, 2003
Earnest Hemingway's, A Farewell to Arms, is a masterful novel based on war and love. The book was very well written as well as easy to read. The book is about an American ambulance driver who is battling in war and at the same time finds the love of his life. A Farewell to Arms presents realistic characters, problems, and practical motivations that one can easily relate to.
To summarize the book without revealing too much about the stupendous novel, is that it is about Henry, the American ambulance driver, who finds himself in true love with a nurse, Catherine. As their love grows for one another the passion to leave the war and pursue this love also grows. The two love birds battle against injury, the enemy of war, and the tough times war presents. Their love becomes so great they decide to illegally escape the war to Switzerland where they can pursue their love for one another. The book does an excellent job presenting situations and ideas the reader can truly understand and relate to.
This book is one that once you begin to read it; you refuse to put it down. I really liked and enjoyed the book because the author writes descriptive scenes of the gruesome war. He demonstrates the emotions of Henry and Catherine so well I actually felt like I was in the story. Hemingway does an excellent job in writing this novel, he shows how true love can fight and survive war, tough times, and even disease & injury. This novel is one I wasn't able to put down after I began to read it. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys a story of love, war, and devotion. The book shows and demonstrates how love can surpass all and survive even the harshest of times. The novel is definitely two thumbs up and one you should read.
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on March 28, 2001
This wonderful story by a young early Hemingway is perhaps, along with "For Whom The Bell Tolls", one of the finest anti-war novels ever written. In it we are introduced to a young and idealistic man, Frederick Henry, who, through love, experience and existential circumstance, comes to see the folly, waste, and irony of war, and attempts to make his own peace outside the confines of traditional conformity. For all of his obvious excesses, Hemingway was an artist compelled to delve deliberately into painful truths, and he attempted to do so with a style of writing that cut away all of the frills and artifice, so that at its heart this novel is meant as a exploration into what it means to confront the world of convention and deliberately decide to choose for what one feels in his heart as opposed to what one is expected to do. Of course, in so doing, the young ambulance driver becomes a full-grown adult, facing his trials with grace and courage. Still, what we are left with is a modern tragedy, one in which the characters must somehow attempt to resolve the irresolvable.
Yet in all this emotional turmoil and existential 'sturm-und-drang' of two star-crossed lovers caught in the contradictions, deceptions, and brutality of the First World War, we are also treated to Hemingway's amazing powers of exposition at the peak of his prowess. Indeed, as with other Hemingway novels, it is Hemingway's imaginative and spare use of the language itself that wins the reader over. Unlike his predecessors, he sought a lean narrative style that cut away at all the flowery description and endless adjectives. In the process of parsing away the excesses, Hemingway created a clear, simple and quite declarative prose style that was truly both modern and revolutionary.
In what may be one of the most quoted passages in modern fiction, in "A Farewell to Arms" Hemingway gives us his personal view of the world's inevitable negative impact on all of us: "If a person brings so much courage into the world that the world must kill him to break him, so of course it kills him. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those it cannot break it will kill. It kills the very good, the very gentle, and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these things the world will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." Here the human beings are caught in the murderous crossfire of brutal forces fighting to death, and they must flee to save themselves and their hopes for a better future away from the madness. Their journey towards safety is full of the poignancy of all such fragile ventures, and someone must pay the cost of their bravery, gentleness, and love.
What one encounters as a result is a story seemingly stripped to its barest essentials, superficially more like the newspaper man's pantheon of who, what, where, when, and why, and yet somehow transformed into a much more accurate and imaginative effort, one leaving the reader with a much more artful account of what is going on. One reads Hemingway quickly, at least at first, when one learns to slow down and drink in every word and every detail as it is related. For me and for millions of others, the true genius of Hemingway is to be found in his artful use of language. This book was one of Hemingway's finest successful forays into the world of letters, and the result of his collected works truly changed the face of modern fiction. Enjoy!
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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.
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on June 10, 2002
There has always been something that draws me in to Hemingway's stories--whether it is his unique prose or incredibly believable characters. "A Farewell to Arms," not surprisingly, drew me in as well. The story is not entirely remarkable; with young Henry becoming disillusioned about war and seeking a respite from war's challenges in a relationship. However, Hemingway puts his own stamp on the novel with little touches of irony, such as the bomb going off when the men were eating macaroni, to his brief character sketches. The other characters, besides Henry and Catherine, are only revealed through short little vignettes. I liked this technique, because it was reminiscent of real life: casual acquaintances can disappear and reappear without warning or expectations. By only giving the reader rough sketches of characters, Hemingway mirrors reality. Human beings don't know their acquaintances thoroughly, so why should it be different in a novel? The love angle, though cold, was also a reflection of reality. A couple living through a war sees the relationship as possibly their last shot at achieving real human intimacy. They cling to the love like it is their last hope. Kudos to Mr. Hemingway for creating a believable and poignant novel.
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on December 3, 2000
The novel, A Farewell to Arms, was a captivating story that comprised all the key elements required in a story about love and war. The author, Ernest Hemingway, exploited many of his own experiences from World War I, and essentially based the whole novel on this familiarity. The novel's protagonist was Frederic Henry, a young American ambulance driver, who served the Italian army. The setting was the time of World War I and the Italians, allied with the British, the French, and the Americans, were fighting the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary. In the novel, Henry, who speaks Italian and English adequately, is a part of the Italian Red Cross. Even in the beginning of the novel, Henry feels detached from the war because he does not believe it has anything to do with him. Circumstances change, however, and Henry is hit in the leg by a trench mortar shell. Henry is immediately sent to an American hospital in Milan where he reunites with Catherine Barkley, an English nurse, and they fall deeply in love. Catherine becomes pregnant and soon Henry returns back to an unusually chaotic Italian front. The Italian army captures Henry and two other drivers in this uproar, but Henry makes a run for it and reunites with Catherine in Stresa. They move to Switzerland to avoid arrest from the Italians, but they enter even more trouble and tragedy when Catherine is to give birth to their child.
It is clearly identifiable that Ernest Hemingway has created a masterpiece. I believed this book was an astounding novel that included the entire essence of what a novel should resemble. This novel contained solitude, love, war, happiness, and tragedy. Having been drawn largely from Hemingway's personal experiences as an American ambulance driver for Italy, this novel contained many accurate descriptions to the setting, his injury, and the atmosphere of the novel. These descriptions in the novel allowed myself to be drawn into the story and made me feel as though I was a part of Henry's life. Hemingway's comfortable style of writing also helped to reveal the sincere atmosphere that Catherine and Henry created when they were alone together. Their love was absolutely genuine and veritable. This was evident in the way they spoke to each other. At one instance in the novel, Catherine said, "What good would it do to marry now? We're really married. I couldn't be any more married. There isn't any me. I'm you. Don't make up a separate me."(p. 107). Conversations similar to this allowed myself to understand how much they loved each other and what Henry was going through. They also showed me how strongly two individuals could love each other. The last scene of the novel was also very touching. The tragedy of Catherine dying while giving birth to her child was sad enough, but the inclusion of the scene where Henry tries to bid farewell made the novel even more depressing. In the novel, Catherine dies due to an unsuccessful Caesarian section and Henry is not by her side when she dies. He walks into the room and tries to say goodbye to his love, but cannot because he feels like he is saying goodbye to a statue. He leaves the hospital to walk back to his hotel in the rain. This scene was ingenious. It was very heartrending and displayed the significance of Catherine to Henry. These strengths made the novel an enjoyable story to read.
I believed that there were not that many weaknesses to this novel. However, if I were to change one element in the story, I would have added more action. It seemed as though the war only affected Henry twice throughout the entire novel. These two occasions were when he got hit in the leg and when the battle police captured him. It seemed like the war was of no importance in the novel, and this may have been done purposely due to the title of the book. However, I feel that the book may have been even more exciting if Henry happened to get into more trouble with the war. This type of excitement could have balanced out the segments containing war and love evenly so that the reader could enjoy descriptions of both components. Other than that, I believe this novel was truly flawless in its context.
I believe this novel can have a variety of people for its audience. This book is for anyone who wishes to read a good book. I recommend this novel to teachers, students, parents, and basically everyone. I believe no one should miss out on the opportunity to read the love story of Henry and Catherine. The seriousness of their relationship followed by their tragedy clearly maps out an interesting love story that may bring tears to some readers. This novel shows readers that love can heal pains from wars, but that it will never change the merciless cruelty of life. It truly is a masterpiece of a novel!
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