Ernest Hemingway has been greatly criticized for a supposed hatred of women that some feel is evident in his writings. One of the primary books that critics believe shows this misogynistic attitude is A Farewell To Arms. It is counterproductive to interpret the book using such a narrow focus because the author is dealing with much more profound themes. Hemingway is not concerned with the theme of gender equality, but rather with the greater themes of the inherent struggle of life and the inevitability of death.
The first images of struggle and death are seen in chapter 9 when Frederic is wounded. Up to this point in the story Hemingway had portrayed a very serene, pastoral setting and existence for the characters. It is here, though, that this comes crashing down. Hemingway is showing the horrors of war. War is not a glorious and colorful event; it is a dirty and base thing. This is the first hint that the romantic notions Frederic clings to might prove false. There is suggestion here that human existence is fairly tragic.
Hemingway shows many deaths as a result of the war. Passini, Rinaldi (who it is inferred died of syphilis), nameless officers, a sergeant, Aymo, and many others are casualties of the insane war. Their deaths are shown as casual, random events in the life of Frederic. Throughout the entire book Frederic seems to be trying to escape this death that is all around him and retreat once more to the serene existence he enjoys at the beginning of the book. This sets up what I believe to be the theme of the book: struggle is inherent in life and death is inevitable.
Another representative of death is Count Greffi towards the e…
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…ainst Hemingway that charges he is a woman hater. Hemingway does not idealize Catherine out of some deep hatred of women. He does not subordinate her to show male dominance. In fact, I believe that Catherine is a minor factor in this book and is more of a tool used for thematic purposes. Hemingway uses her to show Frederic’s inability to escape death. To use the ant metaphor (327-328), we are all ants on a log unknowingly running into the fire. And just when the log is tipped so we are away from the flames, just when we think that we are safe, someone tips us back in the fire and we die. Hemingway is showing that man’s frantic struggles and his scurrying about are futile, we all die in the end. Also, as much as we may try, we cannot keep death out of our lives.
Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell To Arms. Scribner Paperback Fiction: NY, 1995.
True Love in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms
True Love in A Farewell to Arms
At first look, Catherine Barkley, the woman from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, appears to be an example of a dream girl. She emerges as a mindless character who asks nothing of her man and exists only to satisfy his needs. Therefore, it has been propounded that Catherine’s character is demeaning to women. By analyzing the actions of only one of the characters, however, the special relationship that exists between Frederic and Catherine is overlooked. If Catherine is Hemingway’s manner of demeaning women then one must also examine the manner in which Frederic is described, for he too is very dependent and dedicated to Catherine as she is to him. The mutual love between Frederic and Catherine degrades neither of the two; rather, it shows them together in a good light.
Catherine Barkley’s basic approach to her relationship with Frederic is one of a subordinate. She appears to gladly accept a subservient role in relation to Frederic. “I’ll do what you want and say what you want,” she tells him, “and then I’ll be a great success, won’t I”(105). Her idea of a successful relationship, and thus of happiness, is based on making Frederic happy no matter what she has to do. She changes her personality and way of life until she is not longer a person in her own right. “I want what you want,” she tells Frederic, “there isn’t any me any more. Just what you want”(106). She no longer views herself as an individual but rather as an extension of Frederic; her sole purpose is to accommodate him. “Is there anything I do you don’t like?” she inquires of Frederic in her quest to be perfect for him: “Can I do anything to please you?”(116). Catherine even goes so far as to declare that she and Fr…
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…on one another allows them to be happy but they can no longer be happy alone.
The relationship between Frederic and Catherine has been criticized as being too romantic and too immature. It has been argued that through the extreme selflessness shown by Catherine, Hemingway aims to demean women. However, Frederic exhibits the same immaturity and selflessness as Catherine and the combination of the two in the story provides to build a special relationship. Their interdependency forms a strong bond through which both are able to be happy. The commitment to each other is mutual, causing each to lose their individual identities and become one with one-another. Instead of a degradation of women, the relationship between Catherine and Frederic represents an ideal for women and for men, one in which both are blissful and dependent on one another.