Imagery in A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Imagery placed strategically through the novel A Farewell to Arms shows how well Ernest Hemingway is able to prepare the reader for events to come. Catherine Barkley, the English nurse who falls in love with Fredric Henry, an American in the Italian army, states, “I’m afraid of the rain” (125), as they stay in Milan. She goes on to explain “I’m afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it. … And sometimes I see you dead in it” (126). The foreshadowing this provides is very ominous and frighteningly accurate. Hemingway even continues to strengthen this foreboding by saying, “She was crying. I comforted her and she stopped crying. But outside it kept on raining” (126). He uses imagery from nature to contrast the clarity of the mountains, the danger of the plains, and the unknown of the rain.
For Fredric Henry, the mountains provide a sense of safety. Fredric and the ambulance drivers are eating in a small dugout, waiting for the offensive to start where they will be hauling injured men back to the hospital. A shell lands nearby that shakes the ground. One comments: “‘Four hundred twenty or minnenwerfer,’ Gavuzzi said. ‘There aren’t any four hundred twenties in the mountains,’ I said” (54). This gives a feeling of more safety, because the larger guns are harder to transport in the mountains. Fighting is also less successful in the mountains. Tactically speaking, “a mountain is not very mobile,” (183) so “in the old days the Austrians were always whipped in the quadrilateral around Verona. They let them come down onto the plain and whipped them there” (183). The mountains do not just provide safety in the war; they also help as Fredric and Catherine escap…
…Arms. Ed. Jay Gellens. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1970. 56-64.
Cowley, Malcolm. “Rain as Disaster.” The Portable Hemingway. Ed. Malcolm Cowley. New York: Viking, 1944. Rpt. in Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Farewell to Arms. Ed. Jay Gellens. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1970. 54-55.
Halliday, E. M. “Hemingway’s Ambiguity: Symbolism and Irony.” American Literature 27 (1956): 57-63. Rpt. in Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Farewell to Arms. Ed. Jay Gellens. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1970. 64-71.
Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. 1929. New York: Scribner, 1995.
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Schneider, Daniel J. “Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms: The Novel as Pure Poetry.” Modern Fiction Studies 14.3 (1968): 283-296. Rpt. in Novels for Students. Ed. Dian Telgen. Detroit: Gale, 1997.