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Free Study Guide-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 34

Summary

In civilian clothes, Henry felt like a masquerader for a long time; he had worn the military uniform, which was very tight fitting. In the civilian trousers, he felt very floppy, as they were too big for him. He caught a train for Stresa and was almost alone in the compartment. His clothes were Simmon’s, but his hat was new. He felt as sad as the Lombard country that he saw outside through the window. He had the day’s newspaper with him but was not inclined to read it since it had lots of war news. He was determined to forget the war because he had made a “separate peace.” He was glad to get off at Stresa.

Carrying his bag, Henry asked a man at the station which hotels would be open then. The Grand Hotel was open. He went in a carriage to that hotel and checked into a room. Later, he went into the bar and recognized the barman from the hotel before. He lied to him that he was there on convalescent leave. He asked the barman if he had seen two English girls in town. The barman said that he had seen two English nurses and that they were at the little hotel near the station. When he questioned him about the war, Henry gruffly told him that he did not want to talk about war because there was no war; it was over, at least for himself. He felt like a truant schoolboy thinking about the goings-on at school.

Catherine and Ferguson were at supper when Henry went to their hotel to see them. Catherine looked happy to see him while Fergy accused him of getting her into a mess. Catherine replied that no one got her into a mess, she got in her own messes. Fergy declares that she could not stand Henry and that he had ruined Catherine. She called him a snake in an Italian uniform, with a cape around his neck. When they told her that they planned to leave together, she accused Catherine of not having any shame or honor. If she had any, she would not have been pregnant with a child and not be all smiles when her “seducer” came back. Henry and Catherine did not mind Fergy’s outburst because they knew that she was a friend. Fergy urges them to get married, not to please anybody, but because it is right. Leaving Fergy behind, Catherine and Henry spent the night together, happy and secure in each other’s company, alone against the others. He felt that Catherine gave him comfort and strength.


They woke up the next morning feeling happy and relaxed. They had breakfast in bed. When Catherine asked him if he wanted to see the newspaper, he said that he did not want to and when he understood it himself, he would tell her about his desertion. Catherine asked him if he would be arrested for not being in uniform. He replied that he would be shot. They decided that Switzerland was very close and safe and that they did not have to live like criminals. She consoled him, saying that he had only deserted the Italian army and so should not be too worried.

Notes

This chapter is one of the most important in the entire novel. Here, Hemingway puts forward his theory of “separate peace.” Countries may be at war, but if a man has made his peace with himself, then the external world does not matter to him. When he abandoned his post, Henry refused to be either angry or cheated and puts it firmly behind him. His defection was impulsive; therefore, he refuses to run into an absurd demonstration against violence or to withdraw into shell shock. He comes to terms with his act, of which he is neither ashamed nor guilty, and makes his separate peace. This peace is very important because it is not made with the world, but with himself. So far as war is concerned, Henry has made his peace, but it remains to be seen whether he can make peace in his love life too.

In this novel, it seems as if both Henry and Catherine have a sixth sense for exactly predicting things that come true in future. Catherine sees herself dead in the rain and so she is afraid of it. It does come true at the end. Similarly, Henry thinks that the world killed the brave, good, and gentle impartially; so Catherine, who is all of this, is killed. He will be broken and shattered but as he predicted, he will still be strong at the broken places. He will live on, waiting for death.

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