A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway’s WWI classic, A Farewell to Arms is a story of initiation in which the growth of the protagonist, Frederic Henry, is recounted. Frederic is initially a naive and unreflective boy who cannot grasp the meaning of the war in which he is so dedicated, nor the significance of his lover’s predictions about his future. He cannot place himself amidst the turmoil that surrounds him and therefore, is unable to fully justify a world of death and destruction. Ultimately, his distinction between his failed relationship with Catherine Barkley and the devastation of the war allows him to mature and arrive at the resolution that the only thing one can be sure of in the course of life is death and personal obliteration (Phelan 54).In order to chronicle Frederic’s maturation, it is first necessary to understand his character; he is what critics label a “Hemingway Code Hero.” Indigenous to nearly all of Ernest Hemingway’s novels, the “Hemingway man” lives by one simple rule: ‘Man the player is born; life the game will kill him” (Rovit and Brenner 90). This man looks to derive meaning and dignity from his stale, directionless being. In Frederic Henry’s case, the search for a system of values and morals is difficult because he is caught between two very socially defined extremes, love and war. He only gains knowledge through his direct experience with these two elements and through the indirect teachings of various characters in the novel (Waldhorn 68). It is suggested that Frederic must commit to a comfortable medium between the selflessness of the young priest and the egocentricity of Rinaldi.In the introductory chapters, Frederic is torn between spending his holiday in the …
…well to Arms.” Hemingway Review. 10 (1991):61-64.
Phelan, James. “Distance, Voice, and Temporal Perspective in Frederic Henry’s Narration: Successes, Problems, and Paradox.” New Essays on A Farewell to Arms. Ed. Scott Donaldson. Cambridge: New York, 1990. 53-73.
Rovit, Earl, and Gary Brenner. Ernest Hemingway. Twayne: Boston, 1986.
Spanier, Sandra Whipple. “Hemingway’s Unknown Soldier: Catherine Barkley, the Critics, and the Great War.” New Essays on A Farewell to Arms. Ed. Scott Donaldson. Cambridge: New York, 1990. 75-108.
Waldhorn, Arthur. “Excerpt from A Reader’s Guide to A Farewell to Arms.” Readings on A Farewell to Arms. Ed. Gary Weiner. Greenhaven: California, 2000. 68-71.
Watkins, Floyd C. “The General Versus the Specific in A Farewell to Arms.” Readings on A Farewell to Arms. Ed. Gary Weiner. Greenhaven: California, 2000. 106-114.