Essay on Progression of Love in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms

The Progression of Love in A Farewell to Arms


    There are two major themes in A Farewell to Arms that Hemingway clearly conveys: war and love. The war theme is obvious because the book is set during the World War. The theme of love is less obvious, it begins faintly because of the uncertainty between Frederick Henry and Catherine Barkley. Neither desire love or commitment to anyone, but act upon their desires of passion. As the story progresses, so does their love. The strength of their love is enforced by various understandings and agreements. Love is the theme that closes the book, leaving a final allusion of what their love is about.


When the two first meet, Catherine is still dealing with the death of her fiancé in battle. This presents her as a woman who knows the dangers and possibilities of war. As a nurse physically present during the war, she is rightfully not perceived as grieving and mortified by her fiancé¹s death. She did not marry him because he wanted to enlist in the war, ³I would have married him or anything … But then he wanted to go to war and I didn¹t know² (Hemingway, 19). Typically, many women married their sweethearts in lure of the war. She goes onto say that she ³didn¹t know anything then,² but the fact that she did know that the war was not an excuse to get married presents her as perceptive and intellligent (19). The war alone could not justify her love for her life long friend and fiancé. This tragic event explains her confusing emotional behavior towards Henry at first.


Henry¹s failure to remember his appointment with Catherine because he was drunk shows that he did not regard Catherine too seriously. However, his surprising sorrow when she is unable to see him shows tha…

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…irlwind romance of Henry and Catherine¹s relationship. Henry¹s involvement in the war always leads him back to Catherine, whether by choice or accident. His love for her became an important drive for him to go on: when he was wounded, during the retreat, when he killed a man, and when abandoning the Italian Army. Henry¹s life was the war, but his motivation was his love for Catherine.


Works Cited and Consulted

Hemingway, Ernest; A Farewell to Arms; Simon & Schuster, Inc.; New York, NY; 1929

The Cambridge Companion to Ernest Hemingway; edited by Scott Donaldson; Cambridge U. P.; New York, NY; 1996

Mandel, Miriam B.; Reading Hemingway: The Facts in the Fictions; The Scarecrow Press, Inc.; Metuchen, NJ; 1995

Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Farewell to Arms; edited by Jay Gellens; Prentice-Hall, Inc.; Englewood Cliffs, NJ; 1965



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