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Free Study Guide-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

BOOK I

CHAPTER 1

Summary

The narrator and his companions were living in a house in a village that was situated on the banks of a river. From there, great plains and greater mountains were visible. It was late summer that year and a war was going on in the vicinity. Troops went up and down the road, raising a lot of dust that settled on the leaves. There were orchards of fruit trees on the plain and, beyond them, the mountains were brown and bare. During both day and night, flashes of artillery could be seen from the mountains, signifying war.

During autumn, one could hear troops marching with heavy boots and huge guns, pulled by motorized tractors. The dusty leaves fell from trees, giving them a bare look. Mists came from over the river and there were clouds on the mountains. The troops were muddy and wet and the trucks splashed mud on the roads. Sometimes, the king zoomed past in a car, wishing to see how things were going, but sadly, things were pretty bad. Nearly seven thousand soldiers were already killed and there was more to come since the war showed no sign of abating. To add to it, with the advent of the rainy season, cholera set in. It was checked soon enough, but not before it had taken many victims.


Notes

The introductory chapter is very important. It is descriptive but no details concerning the name of the narrator or the battle are given. Perhaps, the author believes that one war is much the same as other, faceless and meaningless and its catastrophic results on the individual caught in it are all the same anyway. More importantly, this chapter describes three seasons: summer, autumn, and winter (the rains). It throws light on the constructive and destructive aspects of nature. As the novel sadly proves, one who goes through a harrowing season cannot look forward to the coming summer. For the “initiated,” the spring can never be the same, let alone better, again.

In this chapter, the reader is introduced to mountains, plains, and rain, which are recurrent symbols in the novel. The mountains stand for life, security, and majesty. The plain symbolizes war, death, and decay. The most significant and prominent symbol is that of the rain which is not life-giving and sustaining but life-taking.

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