A Thematic Study of A Farewell to Arms
? 1 Introduction ? ?
Hemingway is a representative writer of the Lost Generation in modern American ?
? literature. His influence has been more pronounced in the realm of prose style. In his first ? collection of stories and thereafter, he combined elements from Gertrude Stein, James ?
Joyce, and journalism to create a radically modern approach to the writing of sentences and ?
? paragraphs, such as an emphasis on nouns and verbs, a limited word-palette, frequent ? repetition of the same words and phrases, short sentences and a lack of clarity in the ?
relationship between one sentence and the next. Hemingway‟s writings and his personal ?
? life exert a profound influence on American writers of his time. Many of his works are 装 regarded as classical of American literature, and some have been made into motion pictures. ?
The overriding theme of his stories and books is “grace under pressure”, especifically, the ?
? ability of “men without women” to remain calm and competent in the face of ? life-threatening violence. His saga novel A Farewell to Arms is the best one among ?
literatures about Lost Generation. The novel describes the experience and the change of 订
? character of one typical American youth in the first person. This paper, based on an
? analysis of characters and symbols, approaches the thematic concerns of the novel and ?
argues that war and love and their mutual relationship are the central idea that runs ?
? throughout the novel.
2 Story of A Farewell to Arms ?
? A Farewell to Arms is set against the historical and geographical background of World ?
War I. Hemingway, like other famous authors, such as John Dos Passos, F.Scott Fitzerld, ?
? joined the army. Before the war, they were innocent, being full of emotions, but deluded by ? the grandiloquence from the politicians. During the war, they saw many tragedies, and their ? bodies and soul mostly suffered irreparable hurt. To the extent of Hemingway‟s experience, ?
? A Farewell to Arms can be seen as his autobiography.
? Ernest Hemingway conveys this story chronologically, in a strictly linear fashion, ? with no flashback scenes whatsoever. In fact, the novel contains very little exposition at all.
Lieutenant Frederic Henry was a young American attached to an Italian ambulance
unit on the Italian front. An offensive soon began, and when Henry returned to the front
from leave he learnt from his friend Lieutenant Rinaldi, that a group of British nurses had
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arrived in his absence to set up a British hospital unit. Rinaldi introduced him to nurse
Catherine Barkley. The two soon fell in love with each other. Before Henry left for the
front, Catherine gave him a St. Anthony medal.
At the front, as Henry and some Italian ambulance drivers were eating in a dugout, an ?
Austrian projectile explored over them. Henry, badly wounded in the legs, was taken to a ?
? field hospital. Later he was moved to a hospital in Milan. While he was in hospital, ? Catherine often came to his ward, which helped Henry get rid of his restlessness and ? loneliness. After his operation, Henry was staying in Milan for recovery with Catherine ?
? Barkley as his attendant. Together they dined in restaurants, and together they rode about ? the countryside in a carriage. Summer passed into autumn. Henry‟s wound had healed and ? he was due to leave in October. He and Catherine planned to spend the leave together, but ?
? he became ill before he could leave the hospital. Before he recovered and was ready to ? leave for the front, Henry and Catherine stayed together in the hotel room, and she told him ? that she was pregnant. When Henry returned the battlefield, the war was going badly in 装
Italy. The German troops forced a full-scale retreat. Then Henry deserted the war in a ?
? daring escape. He met Catherine in Stresa. The two went over to Switzerland where they ? spent an idyllic time waiting for the birth of their baby, but their baby was delivered dead. ?
Catherine died from too much loss of blood. After Catherine‟s death, Henry left and ?
订 walked back to his hotel.
? War and love are obviously two important themes explored in the book. In the first ?
two parts, they are in the war and the war is overwhelming. In the last two parts, they are in ?
? love. And, just as the first two parts are prepared with love in the time of war, the last two ? parts are tinged with war in the time of love. The third part serves as a transition between 线
the two „stories‟ and centers on the escape. It is during the escape that Henry realizes that ?
? he is through with the war and decides that all he wants is to be with Catherine. ? Hemingway‟s declarative, terse prose serves him well in this novel. It enables the ?
narrator to be detached from life, and also serves to paint a cruel picture of the war. ?
? Additionally, it is used to produce a realistic narrative from Henry‟s point of view, avoiding
? elaborate schemes and descriptions. Thus, nothing in the novel is romanticized. The love ?
between Henry and Catherine becomes a way out for mutual existence. ?
? The reader also notices the humor, which Hemingway manages to provide despite the ? seriousness of his topic. The author is, indeed, finding something to laugh about in life, ?
much as his characters are discovering meaning in an indifferent existence. ?
3 The Theme: War and Love
A Farewell to Arms has an intense antiwar emotion. The novel is divided two parts.
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One is a farewell to war, the other a farewell to love. Hemingway condemns not the men who do not join the army, but the evil war and the hypocritical of imperialism.
Hemingway points out that it is the war that destroys the happiness. Even in the first
chapter, the author has already described two opposite world. The troops were muddy and ? wet in their capes; their rifles were wet, usually there was an officer on the seat with the ?
? striver and more officers in the back seat. (Ernest Hemingway 2004: 2) From the described
? details, we can find the disparity, which is caused by the imperialism. The soldiers endure ? the tribulations, which the ordinary person cannot bear, while the authorities ignore the ?
awful situation, just enjoying their own happy time. The war, launched by the authorities, ?
? causes the whole society to relapse into the hell, including the soldiers. Moreover, at the ? same time, Hemingway joins the army, discerning all the seamy side. For the authorities, ?
he expresses his anger through contrast that the troops walk in the rain and the officers sat ?
? in cars. At the end of the first chapter, he gives his voice to the authorities. At the start of
? the winter came the permanent rain and with the rain came the cholera. But it was checked 装
and in the end only seven thousand died of it in the army (Ernest Hemingway 2004: 2). In ?
? this sentence, he uses “only seven thousand” to illustrate his view. He knows that the
? officers do not care about other people‟s life, even so many like seven thousand, because ?
they only want to live comfortable, having superiority complex by exploiting others. In this ?
订 chapter, he only describes the real situation and uses a few comments, which have the ? function of matting, to express his anger. ?
We can find the truculence of the war in many chapters, for example, his (Passini) ?
? legs were toward me and I saw in the dark and the light that they were both smashed above ? the knee. One leg was gone and the other was held by tendons and part of the trouser and 线
the stump twitched and jerked as though it were not connected. (Ernest Hemingway 2004: ?
? 36)At last Passini died. Henry is hurt too. My knee wasn’t there. My hand went in and my
? knee was down on my shin. “Oh, God” I said, “get me out of here.” (Ernest Hemingway ?
2004: 36). Henry undergoes miserable situation, seeing his accompanier dying near his ?
? body, and is injured by the explosive. It is the war that destroys their physical and mental ? status. Thus Henry has the thought of farewell to the war. ?
Even he has already said good-bye to war, gotten renascence after death, gone into ?
? exile in Switzerland, enjoying their happiness like living in Xanadu, his wife still dies at ? last, because the author thinks that “ If people bring so mush courage to this world the ? world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one ?
and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kill. It
kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of
these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”(Ernest
Hemingway 2004: 164) The tragedy shows that life is a dream, and negates the civilization
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of bourgeois society radically. Henry and Catherine are both good people, and they strive for their felicity. For this, Henry escapes from the army, being treated as a deserter. They
try their best to reach Switzerland. However, they still have a tragic sequel.
In one sentence, the western modern world described by Hemingway is filled with ? atrocity, desperation, failure and death, thus many people think that his works is mainly ?
? denial western civilization, and he is one nihilist denying all traditional value. However, in ? the exceeding sorrowful novel, he still has a positive answer. Though life is meaningless, ? aimless, no directional, the action should follow a certain rule. There should be a few ?
people who are pure-hearted, brave and individual. He pays much attention to “the truth” ?
? found in a flash; especially threaten by death, no matter somatic or mental. According to ? Hemingway‟s view, the biggest achievement is keeping his own style, facing the huge ?
power. Even the result is failure, or they are defeated by the evil, they are still triumphal in ?
? spirit. We can find the triumph that exists not only in Spanish ordinary people in For
? Whom the Bell Tolls, but also in Cuban fisher fighting with big fish in The Old Man and 装
the Sea. ?
? Yet, A Farewell to Arms is at the same time a tender love story—one of the tenderest
? and affecting ever written. In the novel, we can find many romantic scenes, which mainly ?
exist in the Milan hospital where Henry recuperates and in Switzerland. ?
订 “I only wanted to for you.”
? “There isn’t any me. I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me.” ?
“I thought girls always wanted to be married.” ?
? “They do. But, daring, I am married. I’m married to you. Don’t I make you a good ? wife?” 线
“You’re a lovely wife.”(Ernest Hemingway 2004: 74) ?
? If we read those sentences, we must think this novel describes a romantic love story. ? Henry and Catherine talk about their feelings and the future, loving each other thoroughly, ?
ignoring the changing society. What a romantic scene! Therefore, we can treat this ?
? depiction as a foil to the absurd war. Henry and Catherine‟ love begins in battlefield,
? developing in the field hospital, but dying because of it. We can say that if there were no ?
war, it is impossible for two exotic strangers to love, while incontestable, their fate is not ?
? hard as the present life. Though when they escape to Switzerland, the war does not let them ? pass. ? Actually, it is the very combination of love and war that makes this book so potent ?
and memorable. Regarding the woman he loves, the hero of Hemingway‟s novel For
Whom the Bell Tolls tells himself: “You had better love her very hard, and make up in
intensity what the relation will lack in duration and continuity.” Frederic Henry of A
Farewell to Arms could say the same thing of his affair with Catherine Barkley. Because
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they meet in a time and place in which every day could be their last together, Henry and Catherine must wring every drop of intimacy and passion from their relationship. From the
book, we can find many details to illustrate my view. Thinking about how soon Catherine
begins to speak of love, and how soon they sleep together, especially considering the ? conservative mores of the time in which the book is set, we can get one conclusion that the ?
? result of this situation is unbearable because of its intensity at that time. ? ? 4 Thematic Development through Characterization ?
? Good writers use all techniques of characterization needed to convey the theme and ? engage the reader, and Hemingway is not an exception. The following part will focus on ?
main characters in the novel to explore its thematic meaning. ?
? 4.1 Frederic Henry 装
? To some extent, thinking about characters and characterization, A Farewell to Arms is
? the story of Lieutenant Frederic Henry and the way he grows and changes, lives and learns, ?
in order to catch up with the Nurse Catherine Barkley with respect to experience and the ?
订 wisdom that it brings. We all know that Ernest Hemingway has been accused of misogyny; ? we could get a conclusion that Catherine is more mature when they meet, so from that time ?
on Henry struggles to match her level of maturity. ?
? At the first few chapters, we find that Henry spends time on bars and whorehouses in ? the cities of the lowlands. He is spiritually lost at first and Henry treats war or the world as 线
one obligation, which he achieves through alcohol and sex. A Farewell to Arms traces his ?
? movement towards an understanding of the world and of himself. It is obvious Catherine ? catches Henry‟ heart as soon as they meet because Catherine is different, more mature, in a ?
word, the characters‟ contrasting levels of maturity are demonstrated by their different ?
? attitudes towards the war. Henry suggests, “Let’s drop the war.” With her characteristic
? mixed of wisdom and humor, Catherine replies, “It’s very hard. There’s no place to drop ?
it.”(Ernest Hemingway 2004: 8) permanently scarred by the loss of her fiancé, she already ?
? realizes it is impossible to “dropped” the war easily. Additionally, when Henry tells us that ? his declaration of love for Catherine is a lie, it exposures he is boyish, and does not ? understand the meaning of love. ?
Before receiving his war wound, Henry is still talking abstractly about bravery. And
there is one point to be cried up that Henry admits he is scared after the first shelling. In a
bit of foreshadowing that will prove ironic, he argues against giving up: “It would only be
worse if we stopped fighting.” He says that defeat is worse than war itself. Because of his
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own intense pain, however, and the trauma of witnessing of the death of a comrade, Henry will no longer be able to deny his involvement in this war or its potential to affect him. He
has therefore grown closer to Catherine.
When Henry and Catherine meet again in Milan, he declares his love for her, only this ? time he understands the meaning of love. For Henry, he doesn‟t only treat his affair with ?
? Catherine a game, and it is significant that this transformation follows his wounding in ? battle. The experience has matured Henry, elevating him to a level of wisdom closer to that ? of Catherine. Yet the contrast of Henry‟s naiveté and Catherine‟s experience and maturity ?
is reiterated as Henry tries to make a date for the night after the operation. ?
? At last； during the course of the summer he spends with Catherine, Henry‟s character ? changes fundamentally. On the heels of his traumatic experience at the front, a love affair ?
with a woman, rather than merely sex with prostitutes, forces him to grow up for good. ?
? This change is described at the start of Chapter 34, after Henry‟s desertion from the Italian ? army. He shares a train compartment with aviators, who laugh at him and he tells himself 装
“in the old days I would have insulted them and picked a fight.” Now, feeling insecure due ?
? to his experiences in love and war, he does not even feel insulted. In fact, as his talk with ? Count Greffi reveals, the once-indifferent Henry has truly found something to believe in. ?
He tells the Count that what he values most is someone he loves and that he “might ?
订 become very devout.” Like Catherine, Henry has made a religion of their love. For that ? matter, he has replaced his loyalty to the Italian army with loyalty to Catherine. ?
In Switzerland, Catherine suggests she and Henry wear their hair in the same length, ?
? so as to be more alike. “Oh darling,” she says, “I want you so much I want to be you too.” ? Henry replies, “You are. We’re the same one.” (Ernest Hemingway 2004: 196). And 线
regarding experience and the maturity it yields, he is right. At last； Frederic Henry has ?
? drawn abreast of Catherine Barkley with respect to wisdom about the world. How has he ? done so? By participating in love and war, and by making the hard choices that both ?
? When he walks out of the hospital at novel‟s end, Lieutenant Henry is a different man ? than he is at the opening of A Farewell to Arms. He has caught up with Catherine Barkley ?
and now understands the world and his place in it. Sadly, he carries that understanding into ?
? the rain alone and broken, and forever without her. Catherine‟s death is the ultimate
? realization of Hemingway‟s philosophy. The death is a result of her pregnancy, and the ? pregnancy is the result of love. Whether in love or in war, the universe kills indifferently. ?
4.2 Catherine Barkley
Catherine Barkley is a static character in the novel. That is, she does not undergo any
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major transformation over the course of A Farewell to Arms. Apparently, she has done her growing and changing before the story begins. Hemingway can therefore “use” Catherine
as a foil to Henry and an index of his maturation. She is like a constant in a scientific
experiment. Of course, this does not make her any less interesting than Henry, and it ? certainly makes her no less admirable. She‟s simply less dynamic. ?
? The use of Catherine to contrast dramatically with Henry, which shows us just how ? much learning and growing he has yet to do, begins in the first scene they share together. ? Henry is still playing childish games—telling her he loves her when he doesn‟t, for ?
instance. Soon, however, the tables are turned. Catherine not only resists Henry‟s advances, ?
? but also reveals that she knows he has been playing a game. Apparently, she has been ? playing one too: “You don’t have to pretend you love me,” she tells Henry. “You see I’m not ?
mad …” (Ernest Hemingway 2004: 19) Here Catherine proves wiser than she at first ?
? appeared—wiser in the ways of the world so far than the easily deceived Henry. Indeed, ? Henry may be attracted to Catherine precisely because of her aura of hard-earned maturity. 装
Catherine rejects organized faith, and yet she is no nihilist. She lives by a definite, ?
? unshakeable value system, and what she values is love. During one of the many nights they ? spend together in Milan, the couple discusses marriage, which Henry wants but Catherine ?
resists for practical reasons. It would necessitate their separation, she explains more ?
订 worldly than he, despite his battlefield experience. She reminds him and us of her having ? been formally engaged to the soldiers who die. Then Catherine tells Henry that she has no ?
religion. She quickly corrects this statement, however, explaining, “You‟re my religion.” ?
? Catherine also tells the admitting nurse at the hospital where she goes to give birth at ? book‟s end that she lacks a formal religious affiliation of any kind. Henry also calls himself 线
an agnostic, and yet, as virtually anyone would, Henry tries bargaining with God in his ?
? desperation at Catherine‟s impending death. Catherine, on the other hand, retains the ? courage of her convictions. To the very end, Catherine remains the somewhat stronger of ?
the two. “Just you,” she requests of Henry in response to his offer of a priest‟s visit. ?
? Despite everything, love is her religion until the instant she dies.
? For much of the novel, Catherine is also more developed than Henry as a Hemingway ?
hero, modest and truthful. We will find that while Henry tolerates the “professional hero” ?
? Ettore Moretti, Catherine dislikes him intensely. “We have heroes too,” Catherine talks ? about Moretti, “But usually, darling, they‟re much quieter.” Additionally, Catherine is ? distressed by the rigged racetrack betting in which Meyers is involved. “I don‟t like this ?
crooked racing!” she declares. She suggests to Henry that they bet on a horse they‟ve never
heard of, and although it finishes fifth, she feels “so much cleaner.” Again, while Henry is
tolerant of a certain amount of corruption, Catherine demands purity.
The notion of Catherine‟s special bravery, another of her heroic qualities, is also
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introduced during the Milan idyll. With characteristic modesty, she suggests she would like to be brave. When Henry naively suggests that “Nothing ever happens to the brave,” the
more-experienced Catherine counters with the statement, “They die, of course.” And
Catherine‟s extraordinary fortitude is very much in evidence during the escape across Lake ? Maggiore. Despite her fairly advanced pregnancy, she not only travels through the ?
? November night in an open boat but also offers to hold the umbrella so it will serve as a ? sail. She steers and bails and even rows for a while, always maintaining a sense of humor. ? Significantly, we don‟t doubt Catherine‟s bravery and stoicism as she perishes, and we ?
have been prepared for it by scene after scene in which she displayed just these qualities. ?
? What does surprise is her statement, “It‟s just a dirty trick,” which seems to ally her with ? the cynical, nihilistic officers in Henry‟s unit. Perhaps Catherine has changed over the ?
course of the novel after all. ?
? 5 Thematic Development through Symbolism 装
? In A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway attempts to tell the unvarnished truth about ? war, thus he tries to use concise style like reportage. Colloquial language and rhythm can ?
be seen in many Hemingway‟ works, which give the readers the feeling that lives ?
订 personally on the scene. At the same time, Hemingway has a favor to using symbolism, ? according to Carlos Baker, an expert researching Hemingway, the effect of symbolism. In ?
the novel, mountains and lowlands have the typical meaning. That is, the mountains ?
? symbolize purity, death or gloominess, while the lowlands stand for the place of fight and ? retreat. No matter in Amalft, the hometown of the priest, or in Switzerland where the lovers 线
live together, all the antiplanoes are related to the happiness and health, not the mud and ?
? filth in the war. The high places stand for happiness while the low ones plainness, which ? make up the unconventional beauty in the symbolism in Hemingway‟ works. ?
The following part will choose some typical ones to illustrate how these meticulous ?
? and repeating hints help the development of the theme.
5.1 Catherine’s hair ?
? Catherine‟s hair is not a recurring symbol, but it is an important one. In the early, easy ? days of their relationship, as Henry and Catherine lie in bed, Catherine takes down her hair ?
and lets it spread around Henry‟s head. The tumble of hair reminds Henry of being
enclosed inside a tent or behind a waterfall. This lovely description stands as a symbol of
the couple‟s isolation from the world. With a war raging around them, they manage to
secure a blissful seclusion, believing them protected by something as delicate as hair. Later,
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however, when they are truly isolated from the ravages of war and living in peaceful Switzerland, they learn the harsh lesson that love, in the face of life‟s cruel reality, is as
fragile as hair.
? 5.2 Snow ?
? In stories such as To Build a Fire, by Jack London, snow and ice quite logically ? represent danger and death. After all, one can freeze to death, fall through thin ice and ?
drown, or perish beneath an avalanche. In Chapter2 of A Farewell Arms, on the other hand, ?
? it is snow that ends the fighting described in the book‟s first chapter. Looking out at the ? snow falling slowly and heavily, we knew it was all over for that year. (Ernest Hemingway ?
2004: 3). Thus snow stands for safety rather than its opposite. Shortly thereafter, Frederic ?
? Henry describes the priest‟s home region of Abruzzi as a “place where the roads were ? frozen and hard as iron, where it was clear and cold and dry and the snow was dry and 装
powdery … ,” and the context leaves no doubt that this characterization is a positive one. ?
? Late in the novel, the argument between the Swiss policemen over winter sports not ? only provides much-needed comic relief; it also marks the beginning of Henry and ?
Catherine‟s second idyll. Immediately afterwards, Henry and Catherine find themselves in ?
订 the Swiss Alps, with snow all around. Thus they have temporarily achieved a life of both ? purity and safety. These chapters positively radiate contentment. ?
? 5.3 Rain
Starting in the very first chapter of A Farewell to Arms, rain clearly symbolizes death: ?
? “In the fall when the rains came the leaves all fell from the chestnut trees and the branches ? were bare and the trunks black with rain,” Henry tells us. “The vineyards were thin and ?
bare-branched too and all the country wet and brown and dead with autumn.”(Ernest ?
? Hemingway 2004: 1) The rain symbolism is not entirely a literary conceit, either, as rain ? actually precedes an outbreak of fatal illness. ?
Later, during their Milan idyll, Catherine makes the symbolism of the rain explicit for ?
? Henry, and for the reader: “I’m afraid of the rain because sometimes I see myself dead in ? it,” she says to him. “And sometimes I see you dead in it.” (Ernest Hemingway 2004: 81). ? It continues to rain as they bid one another farewell, in fact, Catherine‟s last act in this part ?
of the novel is to signal to Henry that he should step in out of the rain. Back at the front,
“the trees were all bare and the roads were muddy.”
It rains almost continuously during the chapter when the tide of battle turns and the
Italians begin their retreat from Caporetto, and from the Germans who have joined the
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fighting. The rain turns to snow one evening, holding out hope that the offensive will cease, but the snow quickly melts and the rain resumes. During a discussion among the drivers
about the wine they are drinking with dinner, the driver named Aymo says, “Tomorrow
maybe we drink rainwater.” Hemingway by this time has developed the rain symbolism to ? such a degree that the reader experiences a genuine sense of foreboding—and indeed, the ?
? following day will bring death to Henry‟s disintegrating unit.
? It is raining while the fugitive Henry rides the train to Stresa, raining when he arrives, ? and raining while Henry and Catherine spend the night together in his hotel room. The ?
open-boat trip across Lake Maggiore takes place in the rain, with an umbrella used as a sail. ?
? And in Chapter 40, as Henry and Catherine are bidding farewell to their wintertime ? mountain retreat for the city in which Catherine's baby is to be born, Henry tells us that “In ?
the night it started raining.” ?
? During the operation, however, he looks out the window and sees that it is raining.
? Just after the nurse has told him that the baby is dead, Henry looks outside again and 装
“could see nothing but the dark and the rain falling across the light from the window.” At ?
? the novel‟s end, Henry leaves the hospital and walks back to his hotel in the rain. In fact,
? the final word in A Farewell to Arms is “rain,” evidence of weather‟s important place in the ?
story overall. Here, the falling rain confirms one of the novel‟s main contentions: great ?
订 love, like anything else in the world—good or bad, innocent or deserving—cannot last. ? Therefore, the symbol of the weather in A Farewell to Arms is perhaps unnecessarily ?
obvious. Yet Hemingway‟s use of this literary device is hardly rote symbolism for its own ?
? sake. Rain and snow both drive his plot and maintain our interest, as we hold our breaths
? every time it rains in the novel, praying that Catherine will not perish during that scene. 线
? 6 Conclusion
In general, A Farewell to Arms has two themes: one is war; the other is love. However, ?
? Hemingway does not divide them into two ways, but combines them. Ernest Hemingway
? combines sober realism and simple language to present a powerful argument against war ?
and to tell a touching love story at the same time. This paper, from the analyses of ?
? characterization and symbolism, asserts that the hero Henry‟s growing mature and heroine ? Catherine‟s firm faith, on the one hand, illustrate the theme of the novel; on the other, show ? us what the true Hemingway Code Heroes are. ?
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