The Farewell To Arms

A Farewell to Arms,
by Ernest Hemingway, is a typical love story. A Romeo and
his Juliet placed against the odds. In this novel, Romeo is
Frederick Henry and Juliet is Catherine Barkley. Their love
affair must survive the obstacles of World War I. The
background of war-torn Italy adds to the tragedy of the love
story. The war affects the emotions and values of each
character. The love between Catherine and Frederick must
outlast long separations, life-threatening war-time situations,
and the uncertainty of each other's whereabouts or
condition. This novel is a beautiful love story of two people
who need each other in a period of upheaval. Frederick
Henry is an American who serves as a lieutenant in the
Italian army to a group of ambulance drivers. Hemingway
portrays Frederick as a lost man searching for order and
value in his life. Frederick disagrees with the war he is
fighting. It is too chaotic and immoral for him to rationalize its
cause. He fights anyway, because the army puts some form
of discipline in his life. At the start of the novel, Frederick
drinks and travels from one house of prostitution to another
and yet he is discontent because his life is very unsettled. He
befriends a priest because he admires the fact that the priest
lives his life by a set of values that give him an orderly
lifestyle. Further into the novel, Frederick becomes involved
with Catherine Barkley. He slowly falls in love with her and,
in his love for her, he finds commitment. Their relationship
brings some order and value to his life. Compared to this
new form of order in his life, Frederick sees the losing Italian
army as total chaos and disorder where he had previously
seen discipline and control. He can no longer remain a part
of something that is so disorderly and so, he deserts the
Italian army. Frederick's desertion from the Italian army is
the turning point of the novel. This is the significance of the
title, A Farewell to Arms. When Frederick puts aside his
involvement in the war, he realizes that Catherine is the order
and value in his life and that he does not need anything else
to give meaning to his life. At the conclusion of this novel,
Frederick realizes that he cannot base his life on another
person or thing because, ultimately, they will leave or
disappoint him. He realizes that the order and values
necessary to face the world must come from within himself.
Catherine Barkley is an English volunteer nurse who serves
in Italy. She is considered very experienced when it comes
to love and loss since she has already been confronted with
the death of a loved one when her fiance was killed earlier in
the war. The reader is not as well acquainted with
Catherine's inner thoughts and feelings as we are with those
of Frederick. The story is told through Frederick's eyes and
the reader only meets Catherine through the dialogue
between her and Frederick or through his personal
interpretations of her actions. Catherine already possesses
the knowledge that her own life cannot be dependent on
another. She learned this lesson through the death of her
fiance. Her love for Frederick is what her life revolves
around, yet she knows not to rely on him to be the order in
her life. Had she been dependent on Frederick for the order
in her life, she would not have been able to allow him to
participate in the war for fear of losing her own stability with
his death. The theme that Hemingway emphasizes throughout
the novel is the search for order in a chaotic world.
Hemingway conveys this through Frederick's own personal
search during the chaos of World War I. Catherine has
found strength within herself to lead her through life. This is
what Frederick must come to realize. Through his
involvement with Catherine, Frederick slowly finds his own
inner strength. Frederick's affair with Catherine prompts him
to leave his wild life of prostitutes and drink. He becomes
aware of an element of stability in their affair and realizes that
the war that he was involved in was too chaotic, so he
deserts the army. He and Catherine make a life for
themselves totally isolated from everything and everyone
else. Frederick believes that his life is now completely in
order and that his values are in perspective, yet he still seems
discontented. He continuously has to convince himself that
he has "a fine life." He has not yet reached Catherine's level
that enables her to be perfectly happy in their love and yet
not dependent on it for all comfort and support. Frederick