Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms captures the inspiring trials and tribulations of a disillusioned man caught between love and war. Driving an ambulance on the Italian front of World War One Frederick Henry discovers his values as he realizes his love for Catherine Barkley, a innocent English Nurse.
An American Second Lieutenant in the Italian Army’s Ambulance Corps, Frederick Henry is depicted as an average man in search of a set of values. Initially Frederick is lonely, lustful, confused and restless, but as he becomes involved with Catherine Barkley he finds his niche, and a meaning to life. Frederick can be considered heroic in that he is honorable, not interested in material commodities, and puts his fellow soldier before himself. When the entire mess hall teases the priest Frederick defends him and is his only true friend. Also, when offered an award, Frederick refuses. Additionally, when he and the other drivers were bombed, he ignores his own injuries to assist the others and insists that the doctors treat others before himself. Catherine Barkley is a young English nurse who has already lost a fianc to the war and is introduced as partially crazy. She begins her relationship with Frederick pretending, he is her lost fianc who has returned, but soon falls! in love with him and regains her sanity. Throughout the story Catherine remains static, and represents the ideal Hemingway character that Frederick is to become as the novel comes to an end. The basic plot of the novel revolves around Frederick’s relationship with Catherine. Frederick experiences the war in the Italian Alps and sustains a leg injury that hospitalizes him for several months. Although he knew Catherine before his hospitalization, their relationship blossoms during this period when he is away from the front. Soon after his return to the front, there is a huge retreat and he takes his ambulance crew on a back road to get around traffic. When he finally does make it back to the army he is forced to desert in fear of execution. He finds Catherine and they begin a new life together in Switzerland. Ultimately, Frederick learns his basic values through Catherine in their adventures of love, war, and death during World War One. The theme shown is that love can come from even the strangest places, also there is a basic good versus evil shown by the dramatic tragedy at the end.
A Farewell to Arms is a very emotional and understanding story. Throughout the book Frederick acted as a confused hero with Catherine as his guidance. Frederick is very realistic and while he is a better man than the average he has several flaws. Catherine on the other hand is entirely too perfect. She seems almost supernatural, like an angel at times.
Initially when she is a little insane her character was more believable. The story is written in the first person narrative where Frederick is the narrator and sometimes refers to future events. Overall, A Farewell to Arms is an excellent book that while not always action packed kept me reading and surprised me many times.