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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
This chapter begins the alpine idyll of the escaped pair. They live in a Christmas-card inn on a mountainside. Hemingway spares nothing in his description of the pure, rural beauty of their surroundings. You may be reminded of the description, back in Chapter 3, of the Abruzzi. Then a callow American went to urban fleshpots; now a sobered deserter dwells where the roads are "iron hard with the frost" and the snow is dry and powdery for skiing.
They have a fine time, a finer time than their summer together. The war is far away, and if Henry wakes in the night, it's not from a nightmare. But however much it's suppressed by his love for Catherine, a slight fear in the night remains.
Another note of some foreboding is thrown in casually, when Catherine suggests they go someplace and have beer. Beer is supposed to keep the baby small, the doctor has told her, and that is advisable because she has small hips. She mentions it twice; Henry shows concern, but she dismisses it.
Later in the midst of their wonderful time Henry reveals that he thinks occasionally about his army friends, Rinaldi and the priest. Actually, he seems to be thinking about them and the war more often than he cares to admit.
As the chapter ends, he and Catherine wake up one night in beautiful, cold moonlight. She goes back to sleep before he does. He lies there thinking about "things" and watching her.
The question is, Can Frederic Henry make a "separate peace"? And can he ever put the war, and his experiences in it, out of his mind? Watching him watching her in the moonlight, you have to doubt it. Whatever those "things" are, he can't seem to forget them.
Winter has "settled into bright cold days and hard cold nights." Hemingway again shows his ability to let concrete details speak for themselves.
You learn more about Henry's family. His grandfather is still sending money, but Henry tells Catherine that he cares nothing for his family because of long quarreling. It's another example of his isolation from everyone but Catherine.
In a dismal rainy March, with Catherine eight months pregnant, they decide to move to town to be closer to a hospital.
For the first time in the novel you're given an exact date, March 1918. Seen from hindsight, there's a little ironic twist here. Henry notes the German offensive; the war seems to be grinding on forever. But we know that only nine months later, in November, it was all over.
Catherine makes preparations for childbirth. Henry, feeling left out, begins to go to a local gym to box for exercise. It's almost as if now that Catherine has become, in her own words, "like a big flour-barrel," he must work off his animal energy in aggressive exercise.
The chapter ends with an urgent and disturbing little sentence about something "hurrying" them, an echo of Andrew Marvell's poem quoted in Chapter 23.
Catherine wakes early one morning with first labor pains. Excited at the prospect, eager to get it over with, she goes to the hospital. From there, however, it's all downhill. Her labor is protracted, and the pains become so severe she needs anesthesia. As a last resort the doctor performs a cesarean.
As her ordeal drags on, Henry, the helpless father, encourages her, goes out to eat, comes back to see her, goes out to eat, speculates about her dying, berates himself for those nights in Milan, gloomily considers that "they"- the nameless world-have finally gotten to her.
The operation is performed; the baby is born dead. Henry leaves the hospital, has yet another meal, reads about a breakthrough on the British front, and returns to the hospital.
He finds her worse, resigned to death, hating it but confronting it stoically in the best Hemingway manner. She says, "I'll come and stay with you nights," and finally, "It's just a dirty trick." Then, while he's out in the corridor, she dies.
And in the justly famous, understated, poignant last line, Henry, after trying to say good-bye to her body, which is like the statues he disliked in Chapter 6, returns to the hotel.
One theme that reaches its conclusion in Book V is that despite the possibility of idyllic intervals, the world is a hostile place. "They" got Catherine, brave as she was. Hemingway puts it succinctly in his baseball image-"They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base they killed you."
And what of Frederic Henry? He's no longer a callow youth out for excitement; he isn't the soldier who, while standing slightly apart from the war, still obeys its rules. Instead, after growing completely disillusioned with the fighting, he has found a love strong enough to ease that disillusionment which makes him feel safe even on the darkest nights. Then that refuge is taken from him, gratuitously. What's left? Nothing, it seems. The world is hostile; life is illogical, unfair. But the least he can do is bear those hard facts with the same grace Catherine showed. Later, at night, the memories of her may come back to him. For now, it's a tight-lipped walk back to the hotel in the rain.