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Free Barron's Booknotes-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
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Catherine and Henry go to the races. Even here the war shows itself, in the form of their injured companion, Clowell, and in the form of the many other soldiers in attendance. On a tip from Mr. Meyers, Henry and Catherine back a horse whose appearance has been doctored. He wins, but last-minute cheating has made the odds so low, they gain little. Later they bet on a choice of their own that finishes next to last. Catherine, though, feels "cleaner" about it.

The chapter ends with a fine example, in Catherine and Henry's conversation, of the way Hemingway uses the most general words to communicate specific effects. Look at what he does. The long description that opens the chapter is full of sensory details-the sights and sounds of the racetrack. Now, Frederic and Catherine recall those sights and sounds with simple words like "grand," "pretty," "nice," and "good." Without the opening details, those words would sound flat and meaningless. With the backing of details, this general language, which is, after all, what people really use in conversation, becomes charged and poetic.


In one of his masterful compound sentences, Hemingway tells you that summer is gone. That's not all. The fighting is going "very badly" again in Italy, as well as in France. There's great pessimism and resignation as Henry discusses the war with a British major who believes "we were all cooked." The summer has faded, and with its passing comes the certain but unspoken knowledge that Henry must go back to the war and that the nights of love are going to be over.

But not before a last convalescent leave. Henry gets notice of it, along with some other mail-more money from grandfather plus "patriotic encouragement" (you can almost hear him snort as he reads this), letters from the priest and from Rinaldi, and a batch of old newspapers.

Henry reads the papers without much interest, speculating on what America must be like now that it is in the war.

Catherine, her rounds finished, comes to him. He tells her about the leave but she seems "upset and taut." She tells him she's pregnant.

After the news sinks in, they have, for the first time, something that might be construed as a fight. Henry admits "You always feel trapped biologically" at pregnancy. She gets upset and petulant. "I've tried to be the way you wanted and then you talk about 'always.'"

But they make up. What follows is significant. Note first their naivete about lovers' quarrels. They're never going to fight because if they do, the world ("they") will "get" them. Most people would consider a relationship without disagreement to be rare, too perfect to be true. But it's what Catherine and Henry require; in their war-torn world only a perfect relationship can provide the refuge they need.

Henry suggests that the world won't get the two of them because Catherine is too brave. "Nothing ever happens to the brave." Significantly, Catherine answers, "They die of course." Henry quotes from Julius Caesar about cowards dying a thousand deaths. Catherine disagrees, saying that the brave person dies many times also, but achieves his bravery by keeping a stiff upper lip, by not mentioning his suffering. The Hemingway stoicism, again.

Further in the dialogue, Henry's insecurity shows itself, first where he compares himself to a mediocre ballplayer and second where he sardonically admits he's brave when he's had a drink. These two statements recall the earlier revelation that he has trouble sleeping when he's alone and that he's subject to nightmares. The wound is always with him.

The chapter closes with a feeling of resignation. Catherine and Frederic Henry matter-of-factly assume that the war will go on for a long time, referring to it as another Hundred Years War.


The cold autumn rains begin, and Henry feels ill. The house doctor diagnoses jaundice. Henry is sick with it for two weeks, during which time he has a run-in with Miss Van Campen over his drinking. She accuses him of purposely giving himself jaundice by drinking so that he won't have to go back to the front. He, nastily, debates her on the issue, but she puts him on report and he loses his leave. Authority prevails.

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Free Barron's Booknotes-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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