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Free Study Guide-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 21

Summary

September brought cool nights and then the days started getting cold too. The war was dismal, the fighting went on, and the Italian army could not capture San Gabriele. Ettore was fighting, and Crowell was sent back to America. The Italian army had lost one hundred fifty thousand men on the Bainsizza plateau and on San Gabriele. Henry felt that the Allies were not going to win the war at the rate at which they were losing men. Henry’s home now was the hospital. His leg had healed a bit but the treatment had to be kept up. He received a letter that he would have three weeks of convalescent leave, starting on the fourth of October. There was a letter from his grandfather, together with some money. He finished his dinner and went back to the hospital and started reading a few newspapers. He thought that the war could not get any worse and even if America really got into war, he still could live in Milan. When later in the night, Catherine came into the room, he told her about his convalescent leave and she asked him what he intended to do during that time. He said they could go anyplace they wanted to. Life is not hard to manage when one has nothing to lose.


Catherine disclosed to him that she was three months pregnant. She felt that it was the most natural thing in the world to have babies and so Henry shouldn’t worry about it. She promised to give him no trouble. She advised him to select a place where they could spend some time together in October. She did not know where they would go, but she felt that it would be somewhere “splendid.” Again and again she asked Henry if he was worried or felt trapped because of her pregnancy. He admitted to being trapped not by her but by “biology.” That statement sent her into deep thought. Later she told him that fighting made people drift. Henry assured her about their relationship. When he wanted to fortify himself with a drink, and offered one to her, she said that she was an “old-fashioned wife” and did not drink.

Notes

This chapter records significant developments in both the Themes: love and war. In the war, Italians suffered heavy losses. It looks as if America is also going to plunge into the fray. As such, the war seems interminable and the prospect of Henry going to the front becomes inevitable. On the love front, Catherine is pregnant. In this chapter, she indicates that she is slightly crazy. She wants repeated assurances from Henry that he loved her and that she was his obedient, good and faithful wife. Henry’s claim that he is “biologically trapped” is telling: he is ultimately blaming Catherine’s biology (thus, her) for his “problem.” The story has reached its midpoint.

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