A farewell to arms

Review and discussion of themes in A Farewell to arms, Ernest Hemingway.

In an ugly existence, shattered by war they decided to flee to Switzerland, which was a country in peace and was generally perceived to be a “paradise”. Still, the novel ends with death. Life’s bitter irony.
(However, I found the ending to be blunt and unnecessary. It feels like Hemingway is using the novel to say “Life sucks and then you die”. Maybe he should have done it with fewer words. I don’t know…maybe it’s infantile to criticize a novel because it did not have a “Hollywood”-ending. Nevertheless, it feels as if he got to the final pages, found it to be way to cozy, and decided to kill off Catherine just to spoil the mood of the reader; and ONLY because he had the power to. Sure, one could argue that life is just as arbitrary as some bitter author, but I do not know…it felt blunt, and did not add anything to the story. But the feeling I got after closing the book is probably exactly what Hemingway was aiming for.)

It’s a somewhat strange love story they have Henry and Catherine. In a way it feels phony, like they are playing some kind of game. And it’s virtually impossible to grasp the essence of Catherine’s personality.

Youth contra old age is something Henry and count Greffi discusses. The count argues that Italy will win the war because “They are a younger nation”. And on the previous page he said that it is a great fallacy that men do not grow wise, they “grow careful”. It feels as if Hemingway himself is speaking through the old man, condemning those who do not seize the moment and live life to the fullest (like he did). He is celebrating the vigor of youth. Typically then Catherine and the baby dies, and presumably right there and then Henry’s youthful vigor is snatched from him. Hemingway is saying that the only thing we know with certainty is that we are all going to die, we just do not know when – so live life like every day was the last.

In the second last scene of the book Henry finally finds himself alone with the deceased Catherine, he wants to say goodbye; but does not manage to utter as much as a single word. He explains: “It was like saying goodbye to a statue” As Henry is standing next to her corpse he realizes that a corpse is all that is left of Catherine. She is gone. There is just not much he can do about it. So he turns around and walks back to the hotel. In the rain.
Hemingway is saying that we should spend our energy on the living; and not waste it on the dead. The rain serves as a symbol for human misery. But what can we do about it? Nothing. All we can do is ignore the rain while it’s raining, and enjoy the sun as much as possible whenever it´s up.