A farewell to arms, a novel that was written by Ernest Hemingway, is the narrative of a disheartened soldier who happens to get entangled in a romantic relationship with his nurse. The soldier is confronted by the brutality as well as the nonsensical cruelty of the war. The soldier faces bare truths concerning how conflict compromises fundamental human relationships. In the novel, Italy’s responsibility is to prevent the Austro-Hungarian army from supporting the Germans on the battle’s western frontage, and Russia towards the east. The protagonist of the novel, who doubles as its narrator, is in the long-unrecognized as Lieutenant Henry. Henry is an American volunteer for the Italian forces since the U.S has not yet come into the war. Henry oversees a faction of ambulance drivers of Italian origin (Hemingway 3). This paper posits to provide an exploration of the plot as well as the basics of the narrative.
In the initial part of the book, Henry takes goes to Naples and comes back. Through his acquaintance, Lt. Rinaldi, Henry meetsBarkley, who is an aide to a British nurse. Barkley’s fiancéehad died in Somme the year before. Henry is immediately love-struck with Barkley and he spends a long time courting her. Henry’s initial meetings with Barkley come across as a playful game. The two characters are conscious of the surrounding gravity of events, but, altogether, Henry and Barkley participate in a joint flight of the imagination. In tears, Barkley tells Henry that they would have a weird life (27). The offensive begins again as the snow clears, and Henry departs with three ambulances to a station in the mountains. In the first night at the station, a bombardment takes place and Henry is gravely injured in the legs. Henry loses one of the drivers, while another is wounded. Consequently, Henry is transferred to a field health-care facility, but he is later transferred to Milan when an American hospital opens there.
However, the hospital staff is caught unawares by Henry’s presence at the hospital, but they accept him nevertheless. Barkley comes to work at the American hospital with Miss Ferguson, who is her acquaintance in order that she may be close to Henry. The primary estimates give Henry six months to recuperate, but a second physician operates on him virtually instantly. Before long, Henry walks on crutches and is seen visiting restaurants in the company of Barkley. Barkley makes sure that she works in the night shifts, in order that, they may spend time together during the night. Henry begins to engage in too much drinking, and as soon as he recuperates, he is offered leave for three weeks. He, however, loses it since he acquires jaundice as a result of drinking excessively. Barkley owns up to him that she is pregnant, but Henry is not disappointed with her, but only troubled. Seemingly more significant than the fear of battle are the discussions and drinking in the officers’ mess, mirroring the triviality of the encroaching battle (62).
Prior to his to return to the battlefront, the two spend a night in an inn. Henry departs by train at midnight in order to go back to Gorizia. On reaching Gorizia, Henry finds out that there are a smaller number of people in the town, and the town is increasingly unexciting. He also discovers that his acquaintance Lt. Rinaldi has grown to be increasingly miserable. Henry creates a fuss in the mess hall before leaving, as the two acquaintances chat over the war and life. The following day Henry arrives at the mountain station to search for the ambulance team. However, that night they are compelled to retreat following an Austrian assault. After a few days, the multitude of people who are retreating creates a traffic jam. Henry finds it appropriate to direct his three ambulances to take a path, but soon after taking the side road, the ambulances become stuck, and therefore, the team is forced to proceed on foot. Tragedy strikes as the come to a river when one of Henry’s drivers is murdered, and another one is captured as he tries to escape. Henry and his remaining driver try reuniting with the Italian army, but, to their dismay, the Italian army has become suspicious of German spies. The Italian army is interrogating as well as shooting anybody who is not of Italian origin. Henry leaps into a river in an effort to flee execution, and consequently floats for a period of time. He leaps on a train and travels to Milan (71).
When Henry arrives in Milan, he discovers that Barkley has left to a town known as Stresa in proximity to the Swiss boundary. Henry acquires some new clothes from an acquaintance and travels by train to search for Barkley in Stresa. On arrival in Stresa, he enters into an inn and finds Barkley in the company of her acquaintance Miss Ferguson. The reunion of Henry and Barkley brings joy two the couple, although Miss Ferguson is distressed on seeing Henry since she does not trust him. In the course of their stay in Stresa, an acquaintance of Henry, who is a bartender, informing him that he faces arrest the following morning. The bartender grants them his boat to paddle to Switzerland. Henry paddles throughout the night, but on their arrival in Switzerland, Barkley becomes the first to be arrested (82).
Together, Henry and Barkley stay together in an isolated mountain town known as Montreux. The two spend their entire time in Montreux reading, talking and hiking. By this time, Barkley’s pregnancy has fully-grown, and when the spring draws closer they shift into a bigger town. When Barkley goes into labor, the two hurry to the hospital where they arrive early at sunrise. However, Barkley still has not delivered the infant by midday. The doctor proposes a caesarian, and the operation appears to go well, but Henry soon discovers that Barkley has hemorrhaged and that the baby was born dead, having been strangled by its umbilical cord. Soon afterward, Barkley succumbs to recurring hemorrhaging.
Basics of the Novel. The novel does not have any subplots, and the trifling characters are absolutely unnecessary. This perennially well-liked book draws its power from the intensity of Henry and Barkley’s affection for each other, as well as the power of the hostile forces that eventually tear them apart. The novel’s symbolic structure is developed around a succession of contrasting circumstances indicating an incessant dichotomy that would be labeled as “not home” and “home”. In spite of the adamant, denotative irony at the surface of the novel’s arrangement, the subsurface activities are structured connotatively around “not home” and “home”. Throughout, the novel, the author has worked entirely by implication, quiet repetition, and suggestion, therefore, placing the audience into potential awareness. The proposition for a symbolic “not-home” and “home” equation may be additionally extended and perceived as a sense of “home” (normalcy) versus “not-home” (the ridiculous).
The issue of what is a delusion and what is authentic saturates the novel. In general, held in reserve for philosophical argument, these issues provide the novel with an insightful drama. This is a tragedy in which the lives of the characters are profoundly affected since without dealing with these issues, they cannot flee the consequences of ignorance or indifference; in its place, their lives turn out to be inauthentic. In the author’s fiction, a character may act, strive and survive, but the character cannot be entirely human, a real being until one sees beyond the outward show to the real meaning (105). Barkley and Henry are drawn to one another via an illusion of seduction, love, as well as comfort that offers Barkley solace, following her fiancée’s death and Henry a diversion from the war. FollowingHenry’s injury, his craving for Barkley and the comfort she provides transforms from a desirable diversion to something indisputably real. Henry’s development in understanding as well as, the move torealismharmonizes the progression of the novel. Whereas at the beginning of the narrative, the adherence to an ordered world, picturesque landscapes, whorehouses and bars, conflicts with the backdrop of a growing war, subsequent to coming back from the hospital, Henry becomes increasingly conscious of the vulgarity of warfare and the nonexistence of the delusions. The novel’s resonating theme echoes the author’scontempt for the abstract concepts of honor and faith that contrast with the tangible facts of warfare. As Henry accepts the purposelessness of abstract views, such as conscience and duty towards one’s place of work, he ought to contend with the vainness of life. Henry acknowledges the ridiculousness of war, only to experience the loss of his wife and child through death, the irrationality of peace (179).
The difference between illusion and reality become interchangeable for Henry when fantasy and truth result in irrationality. By following Henry’s cyclic journey through the narrative, the audience is shoved in and out of nightmare and fantasy. Henry’s fortunes rise and fall alternately with the narrative’s structure. This emphasizes the notion that “home” is a fantasy, whereas “not-home” is the realism of suffering and pain. This highlights the dichotomy of illusion and reality is the inevitable sense of the illogical. It can be argued that for the author the character exists vulnerably in a passive and, anxious association with the world. The author’s illusory subjects are strongly and peculiarly alienated from the real world. These characters give the impression of existing in the anideological void. This is because of their incapability to find an anypositive and meaningful relationship with the bigger public arena. Henry’s sense of illusion and reality result in a similar futile sense of emptiness and hopelessness. In the novel, the author demonstrates that happiness is a fantasy based exclusively on perception and that the fantasy offers simply a temporary refuge from the authentic.
Hemingway, E. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scribner, 1929. Print.
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