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| ‘A Farewell to Arms’ Essay

A Farewell to Arms is a novel by Ernest Hemingway. The book was published in 1929, and played a big part in Hemingway’s becoming famous American writer. Hemingway uses his own wartime experience in telling the story of a volunteer in the Italian army Frederic Henry. The tile is taken from a poem by 16th century English dramatist George Peele. Considering the horrors described in the book we may assume that the novel was intended for mature audience. Ernest Hemingway is known for his distinctive writing style, straightforward prose, in which he uses simple sentences, plain words and few adjectives. But, despite this simple language his works are still considered to be remarkable.

A farewell to arms was first published in 1929, and Hemingway tried his best to convince his editor not to change language of the novel which he felt was inappropriate. Nevertheless, the novel become immediately popular and was highly praised by literally critics throughout twentieth century.

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Narrative Features of ‘A Farewell to Arms’

The narration goes from the main character, Frederic Henry, an American who is serving an Italian ambulance unit during First World War. Hemingway’s style is extremely vivid in creating Frederic’s character. Basically, novel is written as narrator’s autobiography, and everything is a result of Frederic’s own consciousness. Hemingway’s simple style contributes to the realistic mood of the novel.

Despite the fact that Ernest Hemingway is known for his simplicity of style, if we take a closer look at A Farewell to Arms, we will see that author is aiming for certain complex effects, he is often experimenting with language and some of the sentences are long and complicated. Writing from Frederic’s point of view, he sometimes uses a modified stream -of -consciousness technique, like in Chapter 3:
“I had gone to no such place but to the smoke of cafes and 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, and the world all unreal in the dark and so exciting that you must resume again unknowing and not caring in the night, sure that this was all and all and all and not caring”.

The novel itself and its structure has been a point of discussions of many critics. There are several themes in the novel that are apparent: Love, humanity, war and even loss of innocence. For instance, love theme is clearly seen in the following quotation: “ Often a man wishes to be alone and a girl wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. It has only happened to me like that once.”(Chapter 34, p.249). War theme is represented in one of the most beautiful quotations ever written:” If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them, to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks everyone, and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good, the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are one of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” ( Harold Bloom, p 125.) The structure of the novel seems quite simple, it resembles Shakespearian tragedy, furthermore, Hemingway himself once called A Farewell to Arms his own Romeo and Juliet, he wrote: “ The fact that the book was a tragic one did not make me unhappy, since I believed that life was a tragedy and knew it could only have tragic one end”( Harold Bloom, p.25) This resemblance is caused not only by the fact that they both tell the love story, but is similar as well. Hemingway divided his novel into 5 books, like the five acts in Romeo and Juliet, this five books work out the plot of the novel. First book is introduction, the author uses this part to introduce the reader to the characters and setting of the novel. It introduces Henry, who is an ambulance driver in the World War I. He visits a hospital, where he meets a British nurse named Catherine. The second book, shows us Henry falling in love with Catherine, then the plot is complicated when Henry is wounded in canister shell. He goes to the hospital where Catherine is transferred.

When Henry recovers, Catherine announces him that she is pregnant. The third book is climax, where Henry goes back to battle field, where he gets almost killed in the madness of the war. In this part Henry Changes his attitude toward war. The fourth book is a resolution as Henry and Catherine escape to Switzerland. The fifth book is a conclusion, tragedy and final.

The story line makes the novel similar to the dramatic piece. Like Romeo and Juliet, Frederic and Catherine are lovers who cannot find permanent happiness together, but if in Romeo and Julie there is a family intrigues which are to blame for the tragedy, in the novel there is no one to blame for Catherine’s and Frederic’s fate. The story is simple and stark, realistic and fatal.

A Farewell to the Arms is one of the most popular novels ever written. Structure of the novel for sure contributes to its value, as it makes plot more clear and makes action more distinct. It is important to add that Hemingway uses symbolism in the novel. For example a beautiful symbol of Catherine hair. The tumble of hair reminds Henry of being enclosed inside the tent or the waterfall. It is a symbol of couples isolation from the world: “ She had wonderfully beautiful hair and I would lie sometimes and watch her twisting it up in the light that came in the open door and it shone even in the night as water shines sometimes just before it is really daylight.” (Chapter 18, p. 114). Hemingway’s style enables him to be initially detached from life, and also serves to depict uncompromising picture of the war. The vivid details, from crowded trains to hotel rooms, often serve no other purpose but to reveal mood of the narration for the reader. Both, structure and brilliant language , place novel on top of the American literature heritage.

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