January 4th, 2013
The Themes of Doom and Entrapment in a Farewell to Arms
“If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it” (Avanzo 122). This quote applies to the main relationship in A Farewell to Arms between Catherine and Frederic. Frederic is an American ambulance driver in the Italian Army who is serving at the Italian front. Catherine is an American nurse who is stationed in the same location as Frederic, nursing the injured there. The novel is a tragedy starting with the relationship between the two previously mentioned, and ending with the death of Catherine and their child during childbirth. The two seemed to be trapped from the beginning, not able to escape the doom of the war. It was best said by Light, “And the sexual urge is the biological trap which leads to death” (para 5). In the novel, A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway displays the themes of doom and entrapment through the use of dialogue, scenery, and the motif of rain.
The book follows the relationship of Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley during World War One. They both meet and fall in love near the Italian front where they are both stationed. Frederic, soon after their meeting, is injured by a mortar shell and sent to a safe-zone hospital located at the inner sectors of Italy. Lucky for the couple, Catherine is also stationed here as Frederic’s nurse and, the two fall deeper into love. They spend their time with each other when they can, and end up having a happy relationship. Frederic then has to go back to the Italian front as he is recovered and cleared for combat once again. He arrives at the front and within a week has to partake in a retreat due to the advancing Austrians. Frederic breaks the retreat pattern as he knows it will get shot to pieces by enemy Aircraft and decides on a back route to the rendezvous point. The rain though causes a thick mud to be formed on the roads resulting in an ambulance getting stuck. As they try to get the ambulance free two soldiers try to desert, which prompts Frederic as leading officer to shoot them for treason. He kills one but only injures the other. The Germans are seen very close to their position so they try the rest of the journey on foot. Frederic is then confronted by the aggressive and impulsive “Battle Police” who are executing all officers in the Italian army for letting the sacred lands of Italy be touched by the Austrians. Frederic makes the quick decision and deserts the army himself to avoid death. He then gets Catherine and runs away to Switzerland where they settle down. Catherine is pregnant and soon goes into labor. The baby is too big and requires a C-Section in which both Catherine and the baby die. Frederic leaves the hospital shattered and alone once again.
The sense of doom is illustrated from the very beginning of the book in the descriptions of the surroundings and of the dismal Italian front, for which Frederic is stationed. This passage from the book best illustrates it; “The vineyards were thin and bare-branched too and all the country was wet and brown and dead with the autumn…Cartridges, bulged forward under the capes so that the men, passing on the road, marched as though they were six months gone with child” (Hemingway 4). This scene really paints the picture for the rest of the novel. Hemingway chose the words very closely to detail the loss that would eventually occur. The words like “dead” and bare-branched hint at the death as well as the phrase “Six months gone with child” which shows that birth will give way to violence and pain (Pozorski 3). The word choice is key here as Hemingway could have said this phrase a number of ways but he chose the word “gone” for a reason. The word illustrates something missing or gone. Tetlow best described this passage, “The opening passage is saturated with a sense of something having passed away, something gone” (4). This paragraph of doom really demonstrates the...
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