There are indications in each of the novel’s five books that Ernest Hemingway meant A Farewell to Arms to be a testament against war. World War One was a cruel war with no winners; ”War is not won by victory” (47). Lieutenant Frederic Henry, the book’s hero and narrator, experiences the disillusionment, the hopelessness and the disaster of the war. But Henry also experiences a passionate love; a discrepancy that ironically further describes the meaninglessness and the frustration felt by the soldiers and the citizens.
In Book I, the army is still waiting for action, and the world is one of boredom with men drinking to make time go by and whoring to get women. War itself is a male game; ”no more dangerous to me myself than war in the movies” (34). Love is also a game. When Henry meets and makes his sexual approach to Catherine Barkley he is only trying to relieve war’s boredom; ”I knew I did not love Catherine Barkley or had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards” (28).
Book II describes a slight transformation when Henry, wounded, spends time in hospital. He is suddenly more involved with the war, but, as a release from the war, he now acknowledges his great love for Catherine. The war is never far away, though. Protest riots take place in Rome and Turin and there are intimations that the war is becoming a stalemate, the army disillusioned; ”there was a great contrast between his world pessimism and personal cheeriness” (127), the prospects of victory evaporating; ”the war could not be much worse” (129).
In Book III Henry says (175): ”I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, sacrifice and the expres…
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…aught you off base they killed you” (314). Henry sees clearly the tight connection between love and war, as shown when he compares the dying of his beloved with the dying of his combat friends: ”Or they killed you gratuitously like Aymo. Or gave you the syphilis like Rinaldi. But they killed you in the end. You could count on that. Stay around and they would kill you” (aa).
A Farewell to Arms is clearly an anti-war novel; the story swifts from naive game playing, through the stages of love and hope, to pure despair and an understanding that a war can lead to no winners. The passionate love story of the novel strengthens the message still more by showing the ironic similarity, but also its discrepancy, with the war. The discrepancy is to be taken into serious account, this discrepancy is the important message of this novel; make love not war.
Essay on the Victorian View of Dover Beach
The Victorian View of Dover Beach
As the narrator of Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” looks out his window, he sees a beautiful world of nature: the sea and the cliffs under the glow of the moon. Describing this scene to his lover, he invites her to “[c]ome to the window” so that she might see it too (6). However, it is not just a beautiful beach that the speaker wishes his lover to see. Rather, he wants her to see Dover Beach as an ironic image that is a representation of his whole world. Likewise Matthew Arnold wants his reader to recognize the speaker and scene as a portrait of Arnold’s own world and feelings.
What Arnold is writing about is not a poetic fiction: it is a reflection of the changes he sees in his world due to industrialism, science, and a rationalism that opposes traditional religious belief. While Arnold uses Dover Beach to represent this modern world of change, he creates a speaker to represent the tension that the poet and his fellow Victorians feel: while living in a modern world, they long for the great ages of the past. Like Arnold, the speaker feels isolated from the world around him: he looks out the window and “sighs for lost palaces beneath the sea” (Dahl 36).
Initially, the beach that Arnold’s speaker describes seems serene, calm, and peaceful. This is the Romantic world that the speaker (and Arnold) wants to live in. However, for Arnold the modern world can be peaceful only if natural order and the authority of social institutions can be maintained. Arnold’s recognition of the futile illusion of such stability soon overcomes the sense of tranquility with which the poem opens.
As the speaker begins to contemplate the scene and listens to the pebbles grating with the waves, an “…
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…s the apparent pleasure offered by Dover Beach in the beginning. However, both the calmness and the violence of the beach, both the pleasure and the despair of the speaker, are true to the Victorian consciousness. Arnold and his speaker want the world to be one of peace and tranquility, but they cannot help but see its reality. This duality dramatizes the conflicted temperament of the Victorians. What Dover Beach as a place symbolizes to the narrator of the poem, “Dover Beach” as a poem expresses for Arnold and his Victorian audience.
Arnold, Matthew. “Dover Beach.” 1867. A Pocketful of Poems. Ed. David Madden. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace, 1996. x.
Dahl, Curtis. “The Victorian Wasteland.” College English 16 (1955): 341-47. Rpt. in Victorian Literature: Modern Essays in Criticism. Ed. Austin Wright. New York: Oxford UP, 1961. 32-40.