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Free Study Guide-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 36

Summary

That night there was a storm and Henry awoke to hear the rain lashing the windowpanes. The barman wanted to discuss a serious matter with him. They went into the bathroom and Henry asked him if he was in trouble. The barman said that Henry was in trouble and the police were going to arrest him in the morning. They had noticed that Henry was in the hotel before as an officer, but now, he was without a uniform. After the retreat, they seemed to arrest everybody. The barman suggested that Henry go to Switzerland to avoid being arrested. He offered his boat, which would be all right even after the storm. Henry asked Catherine if she would like to go straight to Switzerland in a boat. She accepted and packed their bags. The barman took them out through the servantís quarters. Catherine thanked him, and he said he was glad to be of help. The porter offered Henry an umbrella, Catherine took hers, and they went out in the pouring rain.


It was a cold, wet, and windy November night, and Henry knew it was snowing in the mountains. The barman was at the shore of the lake and handed over the boat to them. When Henry offered to pay for the boat, the barman refused, saying that he could pay after reaching Switzerland safely. He also gave them a packet of sandwiches, a bottle of brandy, and a bottle of wine and accepted fifty lira as payment for them. The barman told him that he should row the boat past Luino, Cannero, Cannobio, and Tranzano and when he reached Brissago, after passing Mount Tamara, he would be in Switzerland, which was thirty- five kilometers from Stresa. Henry asked for a compass to guide them in the rain but the barman assured that it was not necessary and that the wind would guide them. He wished them luck and pushed the boat into the water.

Notes

Henry and Catherineís blissful but brief idyll is over. Till now, they had a vague apprehension that the police would be after Henry, but now, they receive confirmation that they were and that arrest was imminent. Hence, they go to Switzerland because it remained neutral and would offer them sanctuary. It was just a convenient thirty-five kilometers from Stresa. The journey could have been exciting or pleasurable under other circumstances, but now, it was fraught with danger.

The barman is a friendly and helpful man. In fact, most characters in this novel are good, showing that human nature has its decent side too. That is why it surprises us when Henry insists that the world breaks and kills people, particularly the good, brave, and gentle. It seems Henry is not referring to people here but to the world, torn asunder by war.

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