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Free Study Guide-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 5

Summary

The narrator went to see Miss Barkley again the next afternoon. As she was on duty, he could not see her. Instead, he spoke to the head nurse who chided him for joining the Italian side. He told her that since he happened to be in Italy when the war began and since he spoke Italian, he had enlisted. The day was hot and the narrator went to survey the area near the waterfront. The Italian soldiers were in trenches whereas the Austrians had barbed wire on the other side of the hill to protect themselves. A new wide road was being laid which would go over the mountain and zigzag down to the bridge. When this road was finished, the offensive would start. The narrator climbed so high up the road in his car that looking down through the woods, he could see the line of the river that separated the two armies. As he drove back to the town, three shells exploded on the way. He escaped unhurt and reached his villa safely.


After dinner, he went to the British hospital and found Miss Ferguson and Miss Barkley off duty and in the garden. Miss Ferguson addressed the narrator as Mr. Henry, excused herself, and went away. He tried to hold Miss Barkley’s hand and she did not object. When he tried to kiss her, she slapped him. Immediately, the narrator offered his apologies to her, though his face hurt where she had slapped. Though she was angry at first, she cooled down. He remarked that they had gotten away from the war, which made her laugh. He tried to kiss her again and though she resisted at first, she yielded. She called him darling, cried, and then asked him to be good to her. She said that they were going to have a strange life. When the narrator walked back to the villa, Rinaldi was waiting for him. He remarked that the narrator looked like a dog in heat and seemed to be making progress with Miss Barkley.

Notes

This chapter introduces the theme of love, while war occupies the forefront. We now have the name of the narrator, Mr. Frederic Henry. He has a casual attitude towards Catherine at this stage, whereas she starts to genuinely love him. In fact, Henry seems to be confused about his own feelings. By the end of this chapter, we know the nationalities of several characters in this novel. Henry is an American, serving in the Italian ambulance unit. Catherine is English, Miss Helen Ferguson is Scottish, and Rinaldi is an Italian surgeon. With a deft stroke, Hemingway makes his protagonist an ambulance driver, so that he can report events of the battle with a dispassionate calm.

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