A Farewell To Arms Essay

A Farewell To Arms Essay

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Ernest Hemingway intended this book for a mature audience. Considering the way he describes the horrors of the book. Ernest Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms uses nature to structure the novel and provide symbols that replace human emotions. Nature serves as a basic structure for the plot and the actions that occur. It also emerges as a source of symbols that replace human sentiment or feelings. Characters die and there is no mention of sadness or pain. Instead, Hemingway writes that it is raining, that it is autumn, or that peace has occurred when people are still at war. The replacement of emotions with symbols allows Hemingway to frequently understate what is really going on in the action. He further uses symbols to completely omit references to sentiments or feelings. Even more unsettling is the fact that these symbols often ironically represent the opposite of their meanings in common manner of speaking. Not only symbols, but also individual words, come to be used in this way. This undermines the use of technical language throughout the novel and causes the breakdown of that language. Thus, symbols and words provide a basis for the structure of the novel and for the loss of the technical language. The world of the first half of the novel is a dry, sterile version of the wet and sickly world that follows it. Within this world, the dry part is the world of success ;Henry wins Catherine and the army wins some battles. The wet world is the exact opposite, the army loses and is forced to retreat and Henry loses Catherine. The natural world thereby provides the setting within which Henry's personal and military experiences can take place. Natural changes from dryness to wetness are paralleled in the plot by both Catherine's pregnancy and the corrupt horse races. These scenes are put onto each other through their side-by-side placement. They define the transition from love to "marriage" and advancement to retreat, respectively. After Catherine announces that she is pregnant, she and Henry consider themselves "married," thereby catapulting their relationship from casual to serious. Similarly, the war with Austria goes well for the Italians until Henry describes the corruption of the horse races, a corruption that permeates every level of the Italian army and political machine. After the horse races, the Italian army no longer is able to win battles ;instead, the war turns into a retreat and becomes far more serious and deadly. Rain represents death and all the accompanying emotions of grief, pain, and despair. Death is both brought by rain and can be considered similar to it. Catherine is the first person to make this analogy explicit when she tells Henry that she is afraid of the rain. "I am afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it" (126). Although Henry dismisses her words at the time, they continue to haunt the novel up until she dies. Indeed, immediately after Henry visits her dead body in the hospital, the novel ends with the passage: "I...walked back to the hotel in the rain" (332). The novel thus ends with rain being used as a substitute for Catherine's death. Using symbols to replace death or emotions allows foreshadowing. Rain, for example, is frequently used to foreshadow death. Before getting killed, Aymo states, "We drink barbera now. “Tomorrow maybe we drink rainwater" (191). Henry comforts her and stops her crying. They use political language. Henry cannot adopt that language, and thus he chooses "a separate peace", a peace that has nothing to do with politics. This peace can also be interpreted as his choice of language ;he denounces the political public speaking and instead uses the technical language that he can trust. In this sense technical language is equated with peace, political language with war. The word "peace," (243) is further given an entirely different meaning by the line that immediately follows it. "I felt damned lonely and was glad when the train got to Stresa" (243). Stresa is where Catherine is located, and thus it seems that Henry is choosing love over war. In this case, "peace" merely means that he would rather be with Catherine than be in the war. This is in fact the choice that he makes, both by returning to Catherine and then fleeing with her to Switzerland. Life in the United States has changed through war and will never be the same. War has changed the face of the world. Death has changed how we agree with war. Life in the United States is barbaric war is prone to happen again. War is inevitable in our society because conflict is always around. However, like the symbols, the word "peace" is falsely interpreted. The flight to Switzerland placed Henry and Catherine in a world where everything seems "peaceful". This false peace is two-fold: it is an escape from war, and it is an escape from sentimental language. Neither of them notice the falseness of the peace, or realize the awaiting danger. Catherine comments, "Isn't it fine rain? They never had rain like this in Italy. It's cheerful rain" (278). This is the first time that someone thinks of rain as a positive symbol and gives rain its more common definition. Unfortunately, this is a trick ;the rain is related to death throughout the novel. Thus the rain, like the peace, is false in Switzerland. Catherine's complicated childbirth, which takes place during the rain, undermines her statement. Henry's use of language crumbles around the same time ;he becomes overly sentimental and "whiny" and explodes with numerous unanswerable questions. It is therefore the fact that language, in the form of symbols and words, cannot be trusted that causes him to give up on his technical language. The combination of natural symbolism with death and language creates a powerful unity to the events of the novel. The deaths are foreshadowed by the rain, which is used as a substitute for emotion. Thus the rain represents not only death, but also the grief, pain, and despair that accompanies death. It further represents a form of purging, a means of forgetting what has just happened. By having symbols stand for the emotional content of the plot, Hemingway cleverly removes the need to use extraneous language. This allows him to write much of the novel in the dry, technical language that he is famous for while still retaining the emotional content. It is important to notice that the breakdown of language at the end of the novel is not permanent. After having nearly given up his technical language, Hemingway returns to it in the final passage. Hence the novel ends with the word "rain" rather than the expected emotional outpouring. The book was deceptive and left things unanswered. The first question that never was answered is How does the war affect the characters' love story? Ernest Hemingway never said if it is fair to call A Farewell to Arms an anti-war novel? My opinion is that it is in way fair to call A Farewell to Arms a anti-war novel because it describes the horrors of war. This dissuades people to like war or believe in war.

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