A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms

When I finished FTA I was of course stunned
by the death of Catherine and the baby and Henry's sudden solitude. "What
happens now?" I felt, as I so often do when I finish a book that I want
to go on forever. This is infinitely more difficult with a book that has
no conclusion, and FTA leaves a reader not only emotionally exhausted but
also just as alone as Henry and with nowhere to go. The entire work was
aware of where it was going and what was going to happen next, and then
to stop the way it did was unfair. Now, I've read enough essays while deciding
which would be the topic for my class presentation that I know many people
see that the unfairness of life and the insignificance of our free will
are apparently the most important themes in the book, but I don't agree.

I also don't agree that it is a war story or a love story. Exactly what
it is, though, is not clear to me. Can't art exist without being anything?

"There isn't always an explanation for everything."

War and love are obviously important themes
in the book, and the relationship between the two is explored by Hemingway
and, somewhat, by Henry. In the first two Books we are in the war and the
war is overwhelming. In the last two Books we are in love. And, just as
the first two Books are peppered with love in the time of war, the last
two Books are tinged with war in the time of love. The third Book is the
bridge between the two 'stories' and it is not surprising that it centers
on the escape. It is during the escape that Henry resolves that he is through
with the war (a war in which he really has no place) and decides that all
he wants is to be with Catherine.

Until the third Book Henry doesn't seem
to be agonizingly concerned with matters of right or wrong in the war and
it seems, in fact, separate from him. Even when he is injured it doesn't
appear that he is really a part of the war which surrounds him. He maintains
a distance from it and this distance isn't really closed until Aymo is
killed by his own army, he discovers that Bonello is only staying with
him out of respect, and he is almost killed as a spy. After this he resolves
to desert the army and be reunited with his love, Catherine. Henry is no
dummy and he could easily tell that everything was not all correct with

Cat, which leads to the question of his love for her. You must admit that

Cat is a bit...well... flaky when they first meet. She loses that persona
soon enough, although I couldn't help but distrust her integrity until
somewhere in the middle of the fourth Book. It is also difficult to believe
wholeheartedly in his love for her until much later in their relationship,
and it leaves me wondering if he is leaving his involvement in the war
because of his unfailing love for Cat or if Cat and any feelings he has
for her are just excuses to escape the insanity of the war he experiences
in the third Book. When he is with Catherine, they are in another place,
untouched by the war, both symbolically (in the tent of her hair) and literally
(in Switzerland).