A Farewell to Arms If The Sun Also Rises was one of thebest books I have ever read, then A Farewell to Arms isTruth. I simply cannot believe that these books existed solong without my knowledge of how grand they are. Iconsider myself to read constantly, more than almost anyoneI know, literature and simple, and here in less than a month Iread two books that are undoubtedly among the best I haveencountered. How many other good books exist that I haveyet to read? Am I really a reader? Will I ever finish them all?What will I do if I tire of reading? When I finished FTA Iwas of course stunned by the death of Catherine and thebaby and Henry’s sudden solitude.
“What happens now?” Ifelt, as I so often do when I finish a book that I want to goon forever. This is infinitely more difficult with a book thathas no conclusion, and FTA leaves a reader not onlyemotionally exhausted but also just as alone as Henry andwith nowhere to go. The entire work was aware of where itwas going and what was going to happen next, and then tostop the way it did was unfair. Now, I’ve read enoughessays while deciding which would be the topic for my classpresentation that I know many people see that the unfairnessof life and the insignificance of our free will are apparentlythe most important themes in the book, but I don’t agree.
Ialso don’t agree that it is a war story or a love story. Exactlywhat it is, though, is not clear to me. Can’t art exist withoutbeing anything? “There isn’t always an explanation foreverything.” War and love are obviously important themes inthe book, and the relationship between the two is exploredby Hemingway and, somewhat, by Henry. In the first twoBooks we are in the war and the war is overwhelming.
Inthe last two Books we are in love. And, just as the first twoBooks are peppered with love in the time of war, the lasttwo Books are tinged with war in the time of love. The thirdBook is the bridge between the two ‘stories’ and it is notsurprising that it centers on the escape.
It is during theescape that Henry resolves that he is through with the war (awar in which he really has no place) and decides that all hewants is to be with Catherine. Until the third Book Henrydoesn’t seem to be agonizingly concerned with matters ofright or wrong in the war and it seems, in fact, separate fromhim. Even when he is injured it doesn’t appear that he isreally a part of the war which surrounds him. He maintains adistance from it and this distance isn’t really closed untilAymo is killed by his own army, he discovers that Bonello isonly staying with him out of respect, and he is almost killedas a spy. After this he resolves to desert the army and bereunited with his love, Catherine.
Henry is no dummy and hecould easily tell that everything was not all correct with Cat,which leads to the question of his love for her. You mustadmit that Cat is a bit..
.well… flaky when they first meet. Sheloses that persona soon enough, although I couldn’t help butdistrust her integrity until somewhere in the middle of thefourth Book.
It is also difficult to believe wholeheartedly inhis love for her until much later in their relationship, and itleaves me wondering if he is leaving his involvement in thewar because of his unfailing love for Cat or if Cat and anyfeelings he has for her are just excuses to escape the insanityof the war he experiences in the third Book. When he is withCatherine, they are in another place, untouched by the war,both symbolically (in the tent of her hair) and literally (inSwitzerland). It seems like I don’t ever say anythingearth-shattering, or even critical, in these response papers,and I’m not sure if I’m supposed to do that. The line, “Thewar seemed as far away as the football games of some oneelse’s college,” is beautiful.