How Marvel’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ Theme Relates to Hemingway’s ‘A Farewell To Arms’

Marvel’s poem to “His Coy Mistress” with its carpe diem theme is cleverly quoted in Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms”. The theme of seduction and living in the moment is apparent through several characters in the novel. Alcohol is also referenced throughout the story and used as a vice by the soldiers to think about the moment and not about the future. Catherine’s character is a perfect example of carpe diem. And war and violence force the mentality to live in the moment. The carpe diem theme is deeply rooted in “A Farewell to Arms”. The theme of seduction and living for today is apparent in Hemingway’s novel in several instances. Seduction occurs at the beginning of the novel, when Henry believes that he cannot fall in love, but becomes increasingly more wrapped up with Catherine. Seduction evolves with them getting to know each other and his wooing of her. Thus, both Henry and Catherine are living in seduction; in the moment. Seduction is also apparent with Rinaldi, whose romantic interest moves from Catherine and wavers to Miss Ferguson after her realizes Catherine is interested in Henry. “I am now in love with Miss Barkley. I will take you to call. I will probably marry Miss Barkley. (p12.)” But after they meet and Rinaldi sees that Catherine prefers Henry to himself, he starts to consider Miss Ferguson instead. “Miss Barkley prefers you to me. That is very clear. But the little Scotch one is very nice. (p21.)” Rinaldi’s reputation as a ladies man living in the world of seduction is clear when he is suspected of dying of syphilis because of all the women he has slept with. We see through these characters that they are living for today

within a world of seduction.

Alcohol provides a vice to the soldiers; to he…

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… run or to be killed. Henry decided

that he should run and does so. “I ducked down, pushed between two men, and ran for the river, my head down (p 225.)” Henry has been exposed to the brutalities of war and violence and is seizing the moment to freedom. War and violence forces the thinking on the soldiers to live in the moment.

Marvel’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” is quoted in “A Farewell to Arms” as a basis of carpe diem. The theme of seduction forces a living in the moment mentality. Alcohol is a vice used by the soldiers to think about today and not the future. Catherine’s character is a prime example of a living in the moment personality. And the war and violence in the novel is a theme that stresses the carpe diem theme. The carpe diem theme is deeply rooted.

Works Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. 1929. New York: Scribner, 2003. Print.

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