Hopeless Suffering in A Farewell to Arms
Near the end of A Farewell to Arms Ernest Hemingway has Fredrick Henry describe the time he placed a log full of ants on a fire. This incident allows us to understand a much larger occurrence, Catherine’s pregnancy. Combined, both of these events form commentary on the backdrop for the entire story, World War One.
After he finds out his son was stillborn, Lt. Henry remembers the time when he placed a log full of ants on a fire. After sitting for a moment, the log began burning. When it started to burn the ants came out of the log. They ran back and forth across the log, first towards the flames, then away. Eventually most of them fell into the fire and burned. A very small number escaped the fire, but even these were badly hurt. The only action Fredrick took was to throw a cup of water on the log, but “the cup of water on the burning log only steamed the ants”(Hemingway, 328). This hopeless, mechanical picture of suffering allows us to understand other forms of pain in the book.
Catherine’s pregnancy follows this…