Hemingway on Love or War in A Farewell to Arms

Aug 3, 2018 in Literature

Ernest Hemingway is an American writer who is considered to be a living legend in American literature and whose works are filled with themes such as loneliness, sex, love, initiation, loss and one of main themes that characterize Hemingway’s writing style more fully is war. As Hemingway took part in World War I and also in the Spanish Civil War, the most famous novels, like For Whom The Bell Tolls, were written exactly during those times. Moreover, during these war times Ernest Hemingway fell in love several times. How did love and war or love during the war influence his works – let’s discover this further.

First of all almost every poet or writer is influenced by the epoch he is living in and his contemporaries. For example, in his novel A Farewell to Arms Hemingway managed to combine both influence and impressions from war and the influence of love he had during those times. The author opened us the relationship between two characters - an English nurse Catherine Berkley and the Lieutenant Frederic Henry  who volunteered to work in the ambulance. His personal experience of love Ernest Hemingway tried to depict in this relationship between an ambulance driver and a nurse.

Exactly because of the love story and not just because of cruelty and the shocking events of the war, A Farewell to Arms is a magnificent novel. Moreover, in his works Hemingway always used symbols to express as he thought meaningful things. Mostly the author used symbols to describe feelings and emotions that people felt and experienced during wars. For instance, rainy weather in A Farewell to Arms was used as a symbol of some tragedy or misfortune. To intensify shock, grief and sadness in his novels Hemingway used irony and sarcasm, A Farewell to Arms was not an exception. It is also believed that the author used love in his novels about war times as the cure and response to all horrors, insanity and grief that war brought to this world. Again and again Hemingway brightly pictures devastation and tragedies, like cholera epidemic that took thousands of lives or bombardment of the cities. A Farewell to Arms is one of these novels that were against the war. However, Hemingway does not blame the war in everything; he is just trying to show his readers that this world is self-destructive and that it is not just war one needs to blame, but also people and their attitude to everything. For instance, one of the main characters of this anti-war novel, Henry, was always mentioning that it seemed as the world wants to be destructed as it could not bear any dim of light or happiness.

Every time Henry and Catherine were trying to be together, something always appeared on their way, interrupted them, from Henry’s injury and arrest till the Catherine’s death after giving a birth to her child. Both of them were trying to get away at least for a moment from those times of war and grief. The meaning of this love is destructive too. Once one from the couple lost the other one he does not know how to live anymore. That what has happened to Henry and Catherine, when after her death it looked like Henry would not recover, he would not manage to survive it. There is no wonder then why the new edition of A Farewell to Arms will have about forty seven variants of the novel’s ending. Ernest Hemingway admitted himself that he had re-written the end of A Farewell to Arms for about thirty nine times before he was at last satisfied with it.

There was one ending that did survive Hemingway’s revisions, in which the author said that there exists no end of one’s life except death and that the only beginning of one’s life is birth. The interesting fact is that exactly this ending was used in a future movie based on the novel. In A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway showed himself as a realistic novelist. The relationships and a love story between Henry and Catherine are the prototypes of the author himself and the nurse that he had met during World War I and specifically the Italian Campaign. Hemingway brightly and in a very detailed way described war and its main events. He vividly described conditions at the front, troops on the field, fighting, bombardment, reportages that were taken during attacks and in the moments of peace, and other war issues.

As it was previously mentioned, A Farewell to Arms is a semi-biographical novel in which Ernest Hemingway describes his own experience, beginning from the detailed review of attacks, soldiers, battles, the injury of the main character which Hemingway compared to his own injury, and ending with the autobiographical picture of Hemingway’s relationship. In those times, Ernest Hemingway was an ambulance driver and one day he met a nurse whose name was Agnes. Although, in the novel Henry lost his beloved to death, Hemingway lost his Agnes too, but the reason was less dramatic. Agnes rejected Hemingway and his love, when a writer returned to America.

In love or war, writing about death, tragedies or something less pessimistic, Ernest Hemingway always stays as one of the best novelists in the world literature. A Farewell to Arms is considered to be his autobiographical novel, but moreover it became Hemingway’s first best-seller and the first novel that was adapted into a movie.

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