Main Characters and Description of Each

Lieutenant Fredric Henry (Tenente)
-The story is told from his point of view. He is a young American in the Italian army
during WWII.
-One of Tenente’s best friends, he is also a Lieutenant.

Catherine Barkley
-A nurse who works with a group of British nurses. She and Tenente fall in love
later in the story.

The story takes place in the 1940’s, during WWII. The place changes along with wherever
Tenente goes, because the book is told in first person. The story moves from Italy to Milan, to Udine, to
Caporetto, to Montreaux, and many other places and war fronts.

What is the major conflict?
The story is something like an Ernest Hemmingway’s “Romeo and Juliet”. It is a story about love
and war. In the beginning of the story, Tenente and Catherine Barkley fall in love. The conflict is that
while Tenente is in war and Catherine is with her group of nurses, they are separated for some lengths of
time. Tenente is always trying to get to her during the war.

Main Events:
The story starts with Tenente being attached to an Italian ambulance unit on the Italian front. His
friend, Lieutenant Rinaldi, told him that a group of British nurses had arrived to set up a British hospital
unit. Tenente started to call on Catherine Barkley, but not yet had he fallen in love with her. At the front,
he was injured badly in the leg and was transferred to a hospital in Milan. He had his leg operated on and
his wounded knee fixed. Catherine Barkley worked in this hospital, and she came to his room often to see
After the operation, Tenente and Catherine spent much time together in Milan. Before he returned to the
front, Catherine told him that she was pregnant. Tenente, at the front, drove an ambulance loaded with
hospital supplies. The ambulance was often held up by stalled lines of traffic for miles. Later the Italian
army was losing morale, and soldiers tried to escape the war. There was a type of “war police” which
would capture these renegade soldiers, give them a short questioning, and then execute them. Tenente was
among these renegade soldiers, but he managed to escape, plunge into a river, and escape on a log. He
crossed the Venetian plain on foot, then jumped aboard a freight train and rode to Milan, and then went to
the hospital in which he had been a patient. There he found that the British nurses had left to Stresa.
Tenente borrowed civilian clothes from a friend in Milan and then took a train to Stresa, there he met
Catherine, who was on leave.
He learned from a bartender that he was to be arrested the following morning, so he bought a small boat
from the bartender and he and Catherine rowed to Switzerland that night. During the rest of the fall and
winter the couple stayed at an inn ouside Montreux. They thought of marriage, but Catherine didn’t want
to get married while she was with child. When Catherine was close to birth, they went to Lausanne to be
enar a hospital. When she was in labor, she had horrible pains and delivered a dead baby. Tenente left to
eat and upon returning he found that Catherine had multiple hemorrhages. There he stayed with her until
she died.

Most important event in the story:
There are many important events in the story, but I would have to say that the uncovering of the
fact that Catherine was pregnant was very important, because at that point Tenente knew that he and
Catherine were very close and would have to be, because now they had a major responsability together.

How does the book end?
Catherine ends up dying of multiple hemorrhages, and after her death Tenente describes saying
goodbye as, “like saying goodbye to a statue”. He has nothing to do, no one to talk to, and nowhere to go.
Finally Tenente walks, in the dark, back to his hotel in the rain.