Example of a Literary Analysis essay on Literature about:
novel / Farewell to arms / Ernest Hemingway / Frederick Henry / Catherine Barkley
The concept of Ernest Hemingway’s “Farewell to Arms” and its message to the reader.
What experience has Ernest Hemingway put into his novel “Farewell to arms”? How does the main character of the book Frederick Henry resemble Hemingway himself? How does Catherine Barkley change the life and the personality of Frederick Henry?
It may be called a story about war, but it is, first of all, a story about love, hopes and faith. “Farewell to arms” is really a “study of doom” as it has sometimes been called; it is the “study of doom” of Frederick Henry from its beginning and weakness and to its maturity and inevitability at the end.
Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway essay
"You cannot know about happiness unless you have it"
Introduction: “Farewell to arms” is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway and is not just a creation of his vivid imagination but is the product of his own experience, too. It may be called a story about war, but it is, first of all, a story about love, hopes and faith. “Farewell to arms” is really a “study of doom” as it has sometimes been called; it is the “study of doom” of Frederick Henry from its beginning and weakness and to its maturity and inevitability at the end. Throughout the novel Frederick Henry, the main character, converts into a completely different person. He starts as a person satisfying his very own physiological needs, but does not find “himself” in it. He keeps subconsciously looking for “harmony” and finds his “love”-Catherine. Henry says farewell to the arms and all the unhappiness that they bring. It is this “love” that makes him changes the most, the love that gives him hope and faith and confidence that he can come through anything himself. And after he loses it he talks to God and even accepts death as the end of life. He loses his understanding of war and his purpose in it, but gains the understanding of love through pain. Owing to the love in his heart Frederick Henry learns to be a “true” man, to be able to show grace and dignity at any times and hardships and best strong, independent and mature not depending on anything.
Frederick Henry is an American a lieutenant, a supervisor of a group of ambulance drivers in the Italian army. He is a man that does not really know himself, a man with a hedonistic lifestyle. All his life was like “…nights when the room whirled and you needed to look at the wall to make it stop, nights in bed, drunk, when you knew that that was all there was, and the strange excitement of waking and not knowing who it was with you…”[Hemingway, 13]. Analyzing Frederick’s life before falling in love with Catherine it is very important to mention that in spite of seeing him as a “weak and lost” person the readers observes a small projection of the future “maturity” of the character. The brightest example of that is his attitude towards the Priest, a man with faith in God, in spite of anything. The Priest’s views are the ones that deeply touch Frederick Henry and put a start to his different perception of the war and world around him. "…There is no finish to war. War is not won by victory. One side must stop fighting. Why don't we stop fighting…”[Hemingway, 50-51]. Frederick’s admiration of such a person starts his way out of his “unworthy way of life”. The army does not give him this inner discipline he needs so much and is seeking for, but provides only an external illusion of order and discipline. Though he gets wounded, nevertheless he wants the doctors to take care of other people in the first place: "there are much worse wounded than me,” he says [Hemingway, 54]. Frederick Henry is ready to risk his life to save any of his “war brothers” [Hemingway, 62]. Henry searches for the values in his life and gradually he gets ready for finding them. Henry meets Catherine Barkley, a nurse, at the hospital and falls in love with her without even understanding it: “I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards”[Hemingway, 31]. By falling in love with Catherine Henry opens his heart for changes, changes that are provoked by Catherine and start making him an absolutely different man. Catherine teaches him to believe and to love profoundly. Their mutual feelings show that there are things that make the war to be even more pointless than it is. “You're my religion. You're all I've got…" – Catherine says to Henry, giving him the ability to have faith in love and to hope. They become each other’s sanctums.
Inspired by this feeling and tired of their partings Frederick Henry is not extremely scared when he deserts, but it is the fair of execution that makes him do it. He finally finds what he is looking for and if deserting is the only way to stay alive and not to lose it – let it be so. Catherine becomes his only true value that he was searching so badly and he is not afraid of doing anything to stay with her. He puts all his faith in it and hopes for the better. He escapes with Catherine to the mountains of Switzerland showing an outstanding ability to “fight” for his happiness at the customs. Henry understands the meaningless of the war and the damage it brings to his life, he loses faith I everything, except his love. His only meaning and faith is Catherine and their future baby now. Their life together is calm, happy and finally not influenced by war. Nevertheless fate wins in his battle for happiness. Catherine’s pregnancy starts the destruction of their calm life. Her pregnancy goes not well at all. Catherine dies from hemorrhage while giving birth to the child and Henry realizes that he has no control over what is going on in his life, he loses his faith and the reason for living. "What reason is there for her to die?" – that was what Henry asked himself before Catherine’s death [Hemingway, 330]. His confidence in knowing all the reasons and life-values are destroyed by her death. After all, who is he to have control over the events in his life? It seems that Henry is more desperate because of losing his values and faith that in the death of Catherine: "It was like saying good-by to a statue,” he says about her dying.
Conclusion: Henry turns to God for the reasons of what happened, for the reason anything happens at all… but this makes him completely forfeit the least faith in God he has. And through Henry tried to escape death at war it still finds him and takes what it needs according to the laws of life he cannot understand. His whole life and happiness was destroyed by death. By the death that is senseless for the world around him and so important for him. He realized that he will not learn the reasons and accepts Catherine’s death. He feels that no matter what he may think or no matter whom he may need the fate will do what whatever it does and there is nothing about it he can do, but not to need anybody or anything. He is too small to fight the chaos around him. Frederick learns how miserable and not important is whatever a man thinks or wants in his life and that we all live in the illusion of controlling our lives. He learns how meaningless is to depend on anything or anybody and to base any hopes on them. He learns that a man has to find inspiration and strength in his own self and not try to find it in anybody else. Is it really so necessary to have false hopes to LIVE?Frederick Henry makes the reader understand that we do not have to depend on anything to feel happy. He feels it, too. Frederick Henry feels nothing. No God, no hope, no faith…nothing but “doom” and him walking under the rain.
A Farewell to Arms – Hemingway’s Antiwar Novel
Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms in 1929. It was not his first book, but that was the one, which made him famous. It was a little bit more than ten years after the World War I, described by Hemingway in this book. I believe, the novel gained its popularity, because it was a true story about the war, which took millions of human lives away. Still what is the book about?
A young American goes to the front in Italy, which declared a war to Austria in 1915. The country was not ready for the war with such a strong adversary as Austria; its army was as weak and incapable to fight, as it had been fifty years before during the war for the reunification of Italy. That time in 1866 Italy won the war only thanks to the Prussian victories, this time the front was also held mainly owing to the French and British troops and Russian offensives in the Western Ukraine. So Frederic Henry, the protagonist of this novel, experienced that war in the Italian Campaign.
He was not in the front trenches, he didn’t repel enemy’s attacks, he served in the ambulance corps. Although he was only expected to drive wounded soldiers from the battle field to the hospital, he saw the war horrors just there and was even wounded.
Before the warfare Henry had met Catherine Barkly, an Englishwoman, who worked in the hospital. Their occasional meeting transformed itself later into a real love. It was not a true love for Henry in the beginning, but afterwards he realized, he couldn’t be without Catherine, and she really became a part of him. Their love was romantic initially. They managed to negotiate numerous obstacles on their way. Numerous, but not all of them. Catherine failed to give birth to their baby. The baby was stillborn with a cord around his neck, and afterwards Catherine died herself of hemorrhage and the experienced doctor couldn’t save her. So the romantically begun love finished tragically. Their love didn’t survive, although it was already far from any war menace and very close to the real happiness. A love story, but without any traditional happy end.
Ernest Hemingway was a prototype for the main character of the novel. He took part in that war and just in the Italian Campaign. Although he came there only in 1918 he was wounded and operated in the field hospital, so he knew the war not from somebody’s stories, he experienced it himself. And, of course, as an intelligent man he was against it. He didn’t write any antiwar pamphlets, didn’t participate in antiwar manifestations. He only described it, he described the war impartially, as it was in fact, not adding any superfluous details. In his book we shall not find any antiwar plots, demonstrations of pacifism. We find real live people, who try to avoid the war perils, to survive, to get as far from the death as possible. The author expresses his attitude to the war in the remarks of his characters.
A soldier with the rupture says: “I say it is rotten. Jesus Christ. It is rotten.” He was not wounded, it was an ordinary rupture, but the soldier calls the war rotten, because he was afraid, lest he would be sentenced for slipping the truss on purpose to make the rupture bigger. Before the attack Henry talks with his colleagues and one of them speaks about the decimation. “They lined them up afterward and took every tenth man. Carabinieri shot them.” It was an ancient tradition of the Roman army; the soldiers from the units, which wouldn’t attack or retreated without order, were lined up and every tenth of them was executed. The same happened in the Italian Army during the World War I. After the story about the decimation Henry says: “I believe we should get the war over,” I said. “It wouldn’t finish it, if one side stopped fighting.” When Henry comes back to front from the hospital in Milan in his first conversation with the surgeon Rinaldi, who shared the room with Henry, Rinaldi says: ”This war is terrible.” He had too much to do that summer and fall, when Henry was away. He operated many wounded soldiers, and he knew quite well, what the war meant. But the most abominable scene took place later after the retreatment of the Italian Army. The Army was not ready for any big warfare, and the Austrians took advantage of it. They started attack, which made Italians retreat in order to save their lives. That retreat was like a huge flood of people, who walked along the road from the front trying to find refuge somewhere as far from the front as possible. Carabinieri arrested the officers, who were not with the soldiers of their units, and shot them after formal questioning. Human life of their compatriots meant nothing, they just did their duty.
All this makes readers disgust the war, hate it and realize, that new generation should do all their best to make any war impossible, to eliminate it as a way of resolving problems.
In fact Hemingway took part not only in the World War I, he participated in the Spanish War and World War II as well. He got more war experience, and this not only didn’t change his attitude to war, but even made him more intolerant towards any military conflicts. His novel didn’t lose its topicality. So the book was reedited several times. Maybe, the most precious for us is the edition of 1948 with Ernest Hemingway’s introduction. In that short preface he wrote not only the history of the novel, but he expressed his own opinion about any war in such phrases: “…but they (wars) are made, provoked and initiated by straight economic rivalries and by swine that stand to profit from them. I believe that all the people who stand to profit by a war and who help provoke it should be shot on the first day it starts by accreditor representatives of the loyal citizens of their country who will fight it. The author of this book would be very glad to take charge of this shooting, if legally delegated by those who will fight and see that it would be performed as humanely and correctly as possible…” I am sure nobody can show any bigger disgust and more acute hatred to the war than Hemingway, who knew for sure, that the greatest evil is presented not by the people, who kill each other in the trenches, but the people, who initiate the war and send others to such a crime.
There were, and there are many different points of view on this novel. Not all of them are benevolent; some literary critics called the book a plain love story, which took place in the war time. There is no use to argue with them. Every reader may have his own opinion. In this respect I would like to remind Sean Hemingway’s words written by the grandson of the famous writer in his introduction to the same edition: “In A Farewell to Arms, like in the world of nature, much of significance lies beneath the surface, and yet it is all there if you know what to look for.” Just open the book, start reading it, and you will definitely find its antiwar significance, which is there and not so deep beneath.
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