Escape from Reality in A Farewell to Arms
In Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Fredric Henry gets involved with Catherine Barkley to escape the insanity of war. Frederic loves Catherine. Catherine loves Frederic. The extreme situation of war and fate allowed both of them to be thrown together and fall in love. This love for one another was an escape into another world for Frederic. It provided him emotionally with a private place, where he could go to separate and evade the horrible realities of war occurring in and around him. Under any other normal circumstances this love probably would have never happened, but the pitcher had the curve ball in for Frederic from the first throw. He wanted him out.
From the beginning, Frederic and Catherine’s relationship started in a strange state. Frederic knew Catherine was a little cooky, but he still continued to pursue her. He did not even love her at first, but he still needed a way of escaping his present situation, so he decided what the hell, and went after her. Plus, he really didn’t think he had anything to loose. There were no stakes named from the start. He didn’t really care if he lost anyway.
“I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of
loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said
things instead of playing cards. Like bridge you had to
pretend you were playing for money or playing for some
stakes. Nobody had mentioned what the stakes were. It
was all right with me.
But this is where Frederic made his mistake. He kept his distance from right and wrong regarding war and love. He had separated himself from war and seemed to have no place in it at all, mentally or physically (for example when he is in the hospital in Book Two). But when Aymo is killed by his own army, Frederic discovers the reality that he is not really separated from this event at all. He is very much part of this war whether he likes it or not.
At this point, he seems to go a little crazy himself and gets scared. He needs a way to escape immediately and ends up separating himself again through love. Frederic had not been prepared for the stress and pressure of the reality he had faultily deluded himself from.