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Free Study Guide-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The plot in this novel is circular: in the beginning of the novel, Henry has no one and at the end, he is alone. The first chapter begins with the reported death of seven thousand soldiers and the last chapter deals with death too. The note of somberness created in the first chapter is carried throughout the novel, crystallizing at the end.

THEMES ANALYSIS

Hemingway seeks to convey through this novel an uncomplimentary view of war and a favorable view of love. The book is not an anti-war treatise exclusively, nor is it solely a love story. Henry finds war unromantic and rather than sacrificing his life for a cause he does not believe in, he deserts.

His desertion of the army is the natural and logical consequence of his disillusion. Life is an endless struggle, the end of which is death and pain.

The theme of the novel, as represented by the love story, is the quest for meaning and certitude in a world that seems to negate just those values. It is about love that goes unrewarded, but then everything in the world of the novel is without reward. The novel celebrates the value of effort in face of manifested defeat and the values of discipline and stoic endurance.

SYMBOLISM IN A FAREWELL TO ARMS

In this novel, Hemingway makes use of three major symbols: mountains, plains, and rain.

The mountain is associated with home whereas the plains are just the opposite. Mountains are introduced in the first sentence of the first chapter and continue throughout the novel: they symbolize love, dignity, health, happiness, and the good life; they also represent worship or at least the consciousness of God.


On the other hand, the low- lying plains serve as a symbol of indignity, suffering, disease, death, obscenity, war, and irreligious. The priest tells Henry that his homeland Abruzzi is a scenic place with mountains beyond it, with dry cold and snow, with polite and kindly people, with hospitality, and with natural beauty.

Contrasted to it, is the low-lying officer’s mess in the plains: obscenities, the priest-baiting captain, cheap cafes, prostitutes, drunkenness, and destruction. Henry’s love affair begins as a rotten game of wartime seduction but soon it acquires the dimensions of honor and dignity.

Therefore, the escaping lovers reach a small village and a villa nestled in snow covered mountains. Catherine becomes the center of the mountain image herself. She signifies home, happiness, security, and comfort, just as the mountains do.

Rain in this novel is a recurrent symbol. In the very first chapter, there is a reference to the rains, which bring cholera that kills seven thousand people. Catherine is afraid of the rain because she sees herself dead in it and indeed it happens at the end. All the major disastrous events in the novel, such as the retreat, the parting of the lovers after Henry’s recovery, and Catherine’s pains of labor and her death, all are accompanied by the rain. It signifies misfortune, distress, and death.

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