The title itself, A Farewell to Arms, by Hemingway depicts a setting that relates to war, either directly or indirectly. The novel revolves around the central themes that are love and war, with a majority of its principal, yet oblivious, characters being uncertain about the war - doubtful of the assumed magnificence it brings, and resentful of the massive destruction it leaves behind (Hemingway 6). It depicts a wonderful relationship between two souls that was significantly antagonized by the effects of war - somewhat 'evil' acts of societies. The sickening elements of doom, clearly demonstrated as the story progresses, display a heartbreaking tragedy that eventually affects the 'heroic' character (Hemingway 355). Additionally, war is not necessarily condemned since the author cannot be regarded as a pacifist. The author further describes war as a murderous, yet dark extension of a cruel world that refuses to preserve, protect, and acknowledge true love (Hemingway 355). Stages of the author's private life, concerns, experiences, and thoughts become the fundamental ingredients of the novel. The essay not only invokes autobiographical elements showcased by the book but also depicts their accuracy and realism.
Literature, somehow, can be read satisfactorily and scrutinized by the respective author. Literature tends to be inseparable from the author who created the scenic events that took place within their respective work of art. To be specific, however, Hemingway focuses on the elements of love in a world overshadowed by war as he showcases a mournful, and deep contemplation on the aspects of love (Prescott 49). Furthermore, Hemingway finds an imaginative way of expressing his emotional reaction to events that prove detrimental to his emotional and psychological health (355). He creates the hero, Lt. Henry, as the one who not only accepts wounds attributed to war, but the resultant pain incurred when he loses his true love. The author, especially towards the end of the novel, uses rain as a symbolic tool to express sadness, as seen when Henry, walks in the rain feeling depressed after receiving the painful news of the death of Catherine and loss of his child (Hemingway 355). Therefore, whether ordering wine, handling weapons, betting on horses during races, both the main protagonist and Hemingway become quite adept at whatever they indulge in. However, when the world tries to shatter their dreams, they survive the pain without any complaints.
Hemingway, as described by his close friends, was a heavy drinker and during the progression of the novel, Henry could be cited as one as well (Hemingway 154). The concept of depression, which affected the author ultimately leading to his death, can be attributed to alcoholism as a means of solace. Furthermore, Hemingway conceptualizes rain as an element of depression - a feeling which makes an individual consider the world as a continuous rainy day (250). The element is used to initiate a depressed and cynical tone to caution on unfortunate, yet futuristic, outcomes. Moreover, the rain was used to accompany significantly sad scenes, case example, the death of Catherine during delivery, to elevate the horrific magnitude of the situation.
The novel displays numerous autobiographical events related to the author. The love affair shared by Henry and Catherine, the character's injury while in battle, his separation from inner peace - emotionally, mentally, and physically, despair and frustration can be attributed as some of the elements that dictated Hemingway's life. A mortar-shell gave Hemingway a severe injury that landed him in the hospital while he was at Fossalta. Coincidentally, he was rushed to a Milan hospital for healing during the late summer of 1918. While at the Milan hospital, an American Red Cross nurse became the apple of his eye and he fell deeply in love. According to the author's autobiography by Barker, the nurse was his first love - just as Henry was love-stricken by Catherine at first sight (56). Both ladies are vividly described as beautiful, young, and energetic. However, the result after the war seems to tarnish the dreams of both Hemingway and Henry - Catherine dies while delivering a child, whereas Agnes (the author's lover) refuses to travel back to America due to her job and unfamiliarity of an 'unknown' world.
Also, the author and the hero-narrator share significant roles. Both are of American descent, and their function during the war was to operate the ambulance. Furthermore, both of them get injured while at war, serving in the Italian Army. Hemingway, describes the scene after the mortar hit the ambulance by stating "there was a flash, as when a blast-furnace door is swung open, and a roar that started white and went red" (58). This important phrase evidently reveals the exact experience he felt during the accident. Therefore, to some extraordinary degree, the author has displayed a synergetic relationship - one which is reinforced and fulfilled by significant events and characters as impacted during his lifetime. These elements depict how the author can out-bring his personal life experiences through fictional literature - an aspect that intrigues the reader developing the urge to know more. It would be unfair to say the novel's link with autobiographical events lessens it from the theme.
Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A life story. Vol. 1. Macmillan Pub Co, 1969.
Hemingway, Ernest. "A Farewell to Arms." Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 1929.
Prescott, Mary. "A Farewell to Arms": Memory and the Perpetual Now. College Literature, 1990, pp. 41-52.
Wilhelm, Randall S. "Objects on a Table: Anxiety and Still Life in Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms." The Hemingway Review, 2006, pp 63-80.
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