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Self-actualization in A Farewell to Arms

The Italian front of World War I, while remembered as less devastating than the blood bath in France, reflected every deplorable aspect of war. The effects were far reaching; nearly 600,000 Italian soldiers lost their lives, and more than a million were wounded. Among both the enlisted and civilians, no person escaped the poisonous touch of the war. Such was the case with Frederick Henry, an American architecture student in Rome at the time the war began. When he joined ranks as an Italian Lieutenant, Frederick never anticipated the misery that would accompany military life. However, save a few chapters mid-novel, Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is by no means a painful account of the tribulations and tragedies of war.

In the midst of pervasive evil, Frederick finds salvation in the form of love. His relationship with Catherine Barkley is a respite from the savagery. Their “union” leads him to establish his own principles and is ultimately his refuge from the massive chaos of war. Hemingway gives several clues throughout the novel that foreshadow Catherine’s role in Frederick’s development as well as the impact that their relationship has on his life. The reader can trace a pattern of regression from the war, each time mirrored by a progression in his attachment to Catherine. Conversely, a period of deeper devotion to Catherine predicts a revolution in his regard to the war. By the novel’s conclusion, a reformation has occurred in Frederick Henry. He is transformed from a disillusioned young man, into a weathered soul that has suffered life’s greatest agonies: to lose in love and to lose in war. When Henry is first introduced, he is arrogant and dissolute and h…

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Finally, the desertion is his is ultimate act of self-actualization and commitment to Catherine. Henry makes a “farewell to arms” and washes himself of any responsibility to a war in which he has little interest. Book Four is a brief interlude of peace and normalcy for the couple. Once they have escaped to Switzerland, Catherine and Frederick anticipate an idyllic existence. But Book Five is close at their heels, and unimaginable tragedy looms in Hemingway’s foreboding words, “If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.” Of course, Hemingway has given away the ending, but only as Book Five ends, is the reader aware of the magnitude of Frederick’s loss. Frederick is a transformed man, schooled by her love, forever changed by the war, and a completed person for their time together.

Free Essays – Themes in A Farewell to Arms Farewell Arms Essays

Themes of A Farewell To Arms Although there were several themes in this book, a major theme seemed to dominate the story. This theme is the importance of love and loss in a malefemale relationship. These two lovers were so absorbed in each other that they needed no one else in their life. Wouldnt you like to go on a trip somewhere by yourself, darling, and be with men and ski? No. Why should I? I should think sometimes you would want to see other people besides me. Do you want to see other people? No. Neither do I. p.297. This conversation shows that Catherine loves him so much that she is willing to be alone just so he can be happy. At the same time, Mr. Henry would probably like to go skiing but would never dream of leaving Catherine alone. Death wins out over love. It is very dangerous. The nurse went into the room and shut the door. I sat outside in the hall. Everything was gone inside of me. I did not think. I could no think. I knew she was going to die and I prayed that she would not. Dont let her die. Oh, God, please dont let her die. Ill do anything for you if you wont let her die… p.330. Hemingway went on for an entire paragraph of him pleading with God. This is how he is able to show that Mr. Henry loves her more than anything, more than life its self. In a way, I think that they loved each other too much. They did not go out often or do anything that was with other people. They were always together. This is an unhealthy life style. They were creating their own fortress and isolating themselves from the world. My life used to be full of everything, I said. Now if you arent with me I havent a thing in the world. p. 257. This quote further supports the idea that they are isolating themselves from the world. Since they were so cut off from the outside world, Mr. Henry has even a more difficult time going back into the reality of life after her death. This theme of man and woman isolated in love and finally their loss to dark death is universal. The most profound aspect of this book would be its ageless symbolism. The free-living, heavy-drinking life that Catherine and Mr. Henery shared could be compared to the heavy investing, speculating and consequence-free life of the 20s. The product that came from Catherine and Mr. Henrys lifestyle was a dead child. The result of the over- investing of the 20s was the great depression. So the baby symbolizes the depression. Another point to consider was that Mr. Henry was a deserter. He left the army to be with Catherine. Desertion was illegal and he paid for it by loosing that which he loved the most, Catherine. Rain was connected with pain or grief. He drank to dull this grief or pain. Rain is wet and wet is connected with alcohol. We had each been drinking out of one of the bottles and I took my bottle with me and went over and lay flat on the hay and looked out the narrow window at the wet country. p.217. In this scene, he has been thinking of Cat and he decided that it would be best to drink his troubles away. When Hemingway said that the land was wet, it usually meant that Mr. Henry was drunk. After Catherine and the baby died at the hospital, Mr. Henry walked home in the rain. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain. page 332. He had just suffered a major loss and dealt with it in the only way that he knew; through alcohol. Although drinking at this point was not actually mentioned directly, we can nevertheless assume that he was going to make this connection just because of the setting in the rain. This book had many examples of symbolism and they all point to the fact that there is always a terrible price to pay for weak actions or for blind love. The word choice and ordering of detail of this book also leads one to believe that they are reading a classic. Hemingways style is one of simple, straightforward dialogue with the absence of slang. Many generations of readers can read and understand the story. An example of this simplicity of dialogue is as follows: Where do you want to go, Cat? Montreux. It is a very nice place, the official said. I think you will like that place. Here at Locarno is a very nice place, another official said. page 282. Although this simple dialogue is very easy to read, it is also very powerful in its directness and simplicity. On the other hand, his use of language when describing scenery is very elaborate. The next year there were many victories. The mountain that was beyond the valley and the hillside where the chestnut forest grew was captured and there were victories beyond the plain on the plateau to the south and we crossed the river in August and lived in a house in Gorizia that had a fountain and many thick shady trees in a walled garden and a wisteria vine purple on the side of the house. page 5. When describing these scenes, not only does he do it in an elaborate and detailed way, but he also runs his thoughts and sentences together as if it were all being spoken in one long drawn-out breath. The ordering of detail of this book was in a straight-forward, well-organized way. It was very linear and the story did not jump around between the present and flash-backs to the protagonists past. This kept the story from becoming confusing. Hemingways style is that of a classic author.

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