Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby revolve around one primary character who serves as a vessel that reveals the major theme of the book. The Great Gatsby chronicles Jay Gatsby’s pursuit of love, while Farewell to Arms is the story of Frederic Henry, a man caught in the midst of love and war. Both Fitzgerald and Hemingway portray these characters, respectively, as detached individuals absorbed by one ideal, but each writer does so in his own distinct style. Fitzgerald exposes Gatsby in a sensual, poetic manner primarily through intricately woven prose. Hemingway, on the other hand, reveals Frederic’s character in a realistic and concrete sense through a combination of literary elements such as dialogue, structure, and form, and through events that transpire in the book. The two authors’ styles are revealed immediately upon the introduction of each character in the novel. In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald describes Gatsby as a man who had a “heightened sensitivity to life” but at the same time was so detached from everything that during the lavish parties he threw he “[stood] alone on the marble steps looking from group to group with approving eyes” (Fitzgerald 6, 54). Here, it is immediately established that Gatsby had a sense of vitality within him that did not involve the hedonism and pleasure he surrounds himself with and he himself perpetuates. Furthermore, Fitzgerald describes Gatsby’s smile as one having “an eternal quality of reassurance,” but despite this no one interacted with him, “no one swooned backwards on [him] and no French bob touched [his] shoulder” (52, 55). Through the paradoxical description of Gatsby using poetic and unconventional diction, Fitzgerald establishes an impression of Gatsby that provides the reader a glimpse of his aloof, yet absorbed personality, that persists throughout the book.Hemingway introduces Henry’s character in a different way. The story is written from Henry’s perspective; therefore, there is no explicit or formal description of Henry’s character. Instead, the reader obtains pieces of information through the events that occur at the beginning of the book and the way in which they are constructed. Hemingway gives the reader a deeper glimpse into Henry’s personality as he reveals Henry’s thoughts while he was drunk: “I had gone to no place where the snow was dry and powder [but instead] to the smoke of cafes and nights when the room whirled…” (Hemingway 13). This line serves two purposes. First, it reveals Henry’s guilt over choosing a hedonistic escape over a spiritual one. As Henry describes how he “felt badly” and “could not understand why he had not gone,” Hemingway reveals the slight moral conflict that occurred within Henry as well as how he lacked structure in his life (13). Later on, this lack of structure will result in his strong reliance on Catherine. By revealing the aimless way he lived his life pre-Catherine, Hemingway enhances the importance Henry placed on their relationship. Also, this line reveals how Hemingway employs structure to reveal Henry’s mindset: Henry’s fragmented thought pattern while he was drunk was reflected in the disjointed sentences and words in the passage. In contrast to Fitzgerald, Hemingway uses very simple language-straightforward and concise-in revealing Henry’s thoughts and emotions. He also employs structure to reveal a facet of his character’s mind that is raw and uncensored. Both Fitzgerald and Hemingway provide the reader with glimpses of their characters’ detachment right from the beginning, but Fitzgerald does so in a way that is poetic and emotional while Hemingway accomplishes the task by providing realities such as events and thoughts from which the reader can draw conclusions.Fitzgerald and Hemingway continue to develop their characters throughout the book through various, distinct ways. Fitzgerald reveals Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy numerous times and conveys this obsession to the reader via the character Nick, the narrator and a character who observes the events as they occur. As the book progresses, the reader sees just how much Gatsby loves Daisy, how he was so “consumed by wonder at Daisy’s presence” that he “revalued everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes” (Fitzgerald 97). Nick’s observations provide the reader with a sense of just how enamored Gatsby was with Daisy while Fitzgerald’s lyrical articulation of these observations invokes relative feelings in the reader. Similarly, Hemingway develops Henry’s character much like Gatsby in a sense that both characters’ lives were dominated by one thing: their love for a woman. Henry’s devotion to Catherine is evident in his conversations with where he says that he wants her to “ruin him” and when he repeatedly says that “if [she isn’t] with [him], [he] hasn’t a thing in the world” (Hemingway 250 257). The frequency of these conversations and thoughts of how “he felt faint from loving her so much” reveals to the reader the intensity of Henry’s love for Catherine. Hemingway does not dwell on description to convey the characters’ emotions; instead, he states these emotions directly via dialogue and insight into the character’s minds. Henry’s love for Catherine is reminiscent of Gatsby but each character’s love is exposed in different ways – Fitzgerald’s style is elaborate and poetic, while Hemingway’s is straightforward and realistic. As the stories of both characters conclude, their respective decisions to commit themselves to one sole ideal and disconnect themselves from everything finally takes a toll on them. In The Great Gatsby this toll may first appear to be Gatsby’s death, but upon deeper inspection, that which most affected him was the crumbling of his dream-his loss of Daisy. Even though “the dead dream fought on… trying to touch what was no longer tangible,” Daisy “[drew] further and further into herself,” leaving Gatsby with nothing despite having invested everything (Fitzgerald 142). Gatsby’s death was actually a fitting conclusion to the end of his enormous dream. Fitzgerald reveals how Gatsby “paid a high price for living too long with a single dream” through Gatsby’s eventual corruption and the vivid, profound, and slightly elegiac description of it (167). Henry’s story ended on a tragic note as well, and his fate and Gatsby’s bear a slight resemblance to each other. Both men were left with nothing in the end because they invested everything they had on one thing. When Henry abandoned the war, he did not do so solely for Catherine; however, he poured all his attentions on her, including that which he had already committed to the war. To Henry, “all other things were unreal” except for him and Catherine (Hemingway 249). As Catherine approached death, Henry rambled in his head: “And what if she should die? She won’t die…yes but what if she should die? She won’t die” (320). These lines reveal the vague distortion in Henry’s head and, once more, Hemingway’s style of reflecting the characters’ thoughts in the novel’s structure that provides the reader with an explicit view of what is in the character’s head. Upon Catherine’s death, Henry left her as though leaving a “statue”, then “walked back to his hotel in the rain” (332). Henry being emerged in the rain, a clear symbol of death and grief in the novel, represented the tragedy and pain he was immersed in. Now that Catherine was nothing but sort of a “statue,” he had nothing and was left purposeless. Although the sad ends of Gatsby and Henry occurred in different ways, both are similar in the sense that they were left empty and unfulfilled. Fitzgerald reveals this emptiness through the personification of the death of Gatsby’s dream, metaphoric language and elaborate prose, while Henry enhances this emptiness through the way Henry’s distraught mindset is written and the concluding visual of Henry in the rain. All in all, both Fitzgerald and Hemingway effectively portray their characters as individuals so overly dominated by love that they were no longer in tune with reality. Through each author’s unique style, however, Gatsby and Henry emerged as two clearly distinct characters developed in two different ways: Gatsby in a poetic and emotional one and Henry in a realistic and straightforward manner. As both characters are unraveled in their respective novels, the reader finds himself engrossed in the characters because of their multi-faceted personalities enhanced by each author’s individual style.
In Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, love and intoxication are closely tied to the even grander theme of escape. Although escape is a greater driving force, it exists in its connection to these other themes. This complex relationship is found not only in Hemingway’s use of action and language, but also in the minds and philosophies of most of the major characters. Escape seems a natural preoccupation in a state of war. Hemingway makes it the founding principle in such a situation, and focuses on what is escaped to rather than the skeleton of a war being fought in the meantime. Time and time again, love and intoxication appear in this capacity.Hemingway creates a strong foundation for this relationship in the action of the novel. By presenting characters in the face of a universally threatening situation, there is an understandably survivalist tone in the attitude of his characters towards the war. Escape as a driving theme is a product of this subtle tone. The war is avoided in conversation, in thought, and eventually in participation when Henry and Catherine desert their roles in its development. Both of these characters have also left their homelands behind, and Henry especially has several scenes of physical escape in the story. It is particularly significant that he loses his leave in Milan, because he is actually accused of consciously using alcoholism to escape the front. (144) But beneath the larger, more obvious events of escape in the novel, love and intoxication become the everyday vessels of avoidance. It is crucial that both exist simultaneously for Henry to survive this war.Intoxication and love bear similar characteristics in the novel. Henry’s thought that “the thing to do was to be calm and not get shot or captured,” (212) is representative of the motivation behind all the hedonism and escapism of these characters. They are patiently escaping the war every day in subtle ways. These methods of avoidance involve concentrating on units of the erotic. Hemingway weaves these sensuous moments together in what Professor Fisher calls a “narrative of omission.” This style itself is symbolic of escape. The author’s distinctly modernist goal of representing full moments of experience leads him the center a reader’s attention away from the war. The story is told in a series of erotic moments, all avoiding the horrifying reality of war that should be more central. These moments are especially subtle when they are made “calm” in the forms of love and intoxication.The idea that these are calm sensations is unique to Hemingway, and unique to the context of the novel. In the opening pages, Henry is already “[sitting] with a friend and two glasses,” (6) an arrangement he is found in too often to be called simple social ritual. Rinaldi later classifies this systemic numbing with alcohol as “self-destruction day by day.” (172) It is extremely important to note that the intoxication of this novel includes the consumption of food. Hemingway’s descriptions of eating are strangely sensual, almost drunk in their labored hedonism. He relates the scene of a group of men eating pasta with no forks:I lowered it into the mouth, sucked and snapped in the ends, and chewed, then took a bite of cheese, chewed, and then a drink of the wine…They were all eating, holding their chins over the basin, tipping their heads back, sucking in the ends…Something landed outside that shook the earth. (54)In this case, the men experience a specific erotic sensation with war actually raging in the background. A less obvious juxtaposition of this nature can be found in an interaction between Henry and Rinaldi. Having just been reunited, the two men relate on a level personal enough to be called erotic, with the pet names “baby,” and even Rinaldi’s demand of “kiss me once and tell me you’re not serious.” The eroticism runs parallel to the consumption of alcohol, justified by Rinaldi with “this war is terrible…Come on. We’ll both get drunk and be cheerful…then we’ll feel fine.” (168) The sensuality of this exchange is even embodied by alcohol, as the clinking of cognac glasses provides a substitute for sexual consummation. This is a successful escape, as these two men are coping by both loving each other and becoming intoxicated.Through his feelings for Catherine, Henry comes to understand the importance and difficulty of truly escaping pain. With the necessity for avoidance an accepted state, the lovers are always escaping to each other and escaping together. This activity drives their relationship, from beginning to end. The reader is introduced to Miss Barkley when Henry first hears of her, from Rinaldi. She is immediately, though subtly associated with escape in the language of this moment. When Rinaldi ends his speculation that “Every week some one gets wounded by rock fragments….Next week the war starts again,” with “Do you think I would do right to marry Miss Barkley after the war of course?,” Catherine is established as a way out of the horror and atrocity. When Henry visits her alone for the first time, he has to be reminded by the head nurse that “there’s a war on, you know,” only to “[say] I knew.” (23) This too establishes the nature of their relationship very early in the novel, for both Henry and the reader. In this first meeting, he even responds to Catherine’s hope that “we do get along,” with “yes,…And we have gotten away from the war.” (26) This is in the beginning stages of their love affair, when their interaction still falls in the category of intoxication. Henry does not yet realize that this is not enough.What is at first an indulgent escape from reality develops into a more serious love as the war gets closer and closer to the characters. Initially, Henry incorrectly diagnoses his relationship with Catherine as simply “better than going every evening to the house for officers where the girls climbed all over you….”(30) At this point, he has not realized the capacity of love in running from the larger dilemma at hand. He has yet to understand the powerful role Catherine already plays in his experience at war. It is only when she is not there one night to provide this necessary escape that he understands he “had treated seeing Catherine very lightly.”(40) He now sees that his “nights when the room whirled…when you knew that that was all there was, and the strange excitement of waking and not knowing who it was with you, and the world unreal in the dark and so exciting that you must resume again unknowing and not caring into the night, sure that this was all and all and all and not caring,”(13) were inadequate. Simple intoxication is not enough when there is not also love. Henry survives the war by understanding the necessity for something worthy of escaping to, and being lucky enough to find this in Catherine.Escape not only drives the love affair, but also describes its nature. When they are reunited in the American hospital in Milan, Catherine sneaks into Henry’s room every night. This act in itself is a small escape. In the details of their interaction, such minor examples of fleeing are frequent. Right away, Henry is asking “isn’t there anywhere we can go?,” (30) and complaining “I wish there was someplace we could go.” (31) Catherine says “I wish we could go for a walk,” (102) to get out of the hospital room in Milan. Even in an instance when they escape the monotony of hospital life with a day at the races, they need to get away from their group of friends for a moment. (132) Somehow, their strange relationship grows constantly by new escapes. When announcing her pregnancy, Catherine asks “you don’t feel trapped?,” to hear “Maybe a little. But not by you.” (139) It is precisely this ability of Catherine’s to avoid trapping Henry that makes her the perfect escape, and even secures his love.It is fitting that the central force behind this entire narrative is the desire for freedom, even for a touch of chaos. Hemingway strives to write a war novel that escapes the horrors of war. He succeeds in doing so by establishing two interactive and necessary factors in Henry’s experience of war. There is the absolute necessity for numbing, for any narcotic, that drives the rampant alcoholism. On a deeper level it sets a standard for the strange, almost drunk moments of dialogue between Catherine and Henry. The ending of the novel is itself a final escape. Henry had run to Catherine and found an equal balance of love and intoxication to carry him through the war, and even through escaping the war. But he never displays love for or interest in the child he has created. Catherine too seems to view her pregnancy as a disgusting and annoying state. Thus, the tragic ending provides a final flight from reality. There will be no impending responsibility or hardship to demand structure in this relationship. Even the inevitable consequence of nature is avoided. But this time, Henry has only his sorrow to drown in as he grasps freedom.
The romance between Frederic and Catherine in A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway parallels humanity’s struggle between superstition and religion. Their relationship starts merely as a façade based on physical attraction, but quickly grows into a deeper love. At its commencement, Frederic and Catherine feel the need for something substantial to cling to in the rapidly changing world around them. They assume that they are in love, much as people in any society cling to their superstitions in times of great difficulty, not truly grasping the fundamentals of the religion on which those superstitions are based.According to Reverend John Nicola, a renowned authority on Catholicism and an adjunct professor of theology at Yale University, superstition “ignores the findings of science, seeing empirical reality as shallow and meaningless; it focuses on unseen spiritual realities,” and interjects “irrational fears and senseless preconceived notions.” On the other hand, religion “incorporates spiritual dimensions of reality through theological and philosophical considerations.” A superstitious person uses a ritual or symbol that denotes an aspect of his religion as an integral piece of worship, when in fact it remains only a small part of that religion. In this way he never takes the time to gain a deeper understanding of what that rite represents. In context, the Italian society does not understand the war. Its people use superstition to ease their fears about the death that surrounds them. They focus on one aspect of the religion and use that to ward off any ill-fated events, choosing to ignore any real religious basis.The fact that their relationship is founded in the heart of a war, as well as that it is constantly faced with the imminent possibility of death, pushes Frederic and Catherine into a romance that neither would necessarily have had under different circumstances. While Italy is changing around them, they use each other to shield themselves from the fear of the unexpected tomorrow. The couple develops rituals in conversation and interaction. Often, Frederic will make a statement then Catherine will follow it. He will repeat himself, each time letting Catherine say something different. One such conversation begins with Frederic saying, ” ‘Maybe I won’t talk.”That’s true, often people don’t talk.”I won’t talk.”Don’t brag darling. Please don’t brag. You’re so sweet and you don’t have to brag.”I won’t talk a word.'” (104)This ‘ritual’ allows them to have a unique method of interaction, spurring their romance on, but also, they use it to block out the rest of the world. They use their rituals to allow themselves to feel that life is continuing as usual much as superstitious worshipers use their superstitions to supplant their true religions. Catherine starts off as one of these; she gives Frederick a St. Anthony medal to keep him safe. She has no concept of the medal’s religious significance, only that it can be used to make herself feel better about the outside world. In a conversation with Frederic, Catherine says, ” ‘You see, darling, it would mean everything to me if I had a religion. But I haven’t any religion.”You gave me the Saint Anthony.”That was for luck.'” (116)Her insistence that the medal has no actual religious meaning to her is contradicted by its offerance as a good luck charm. Though she bestows upon the item some form of power, she does not understand its application to religion. This relationship of superficial understanding versus deep comprehension can be noted in her association with Frederic as well. At first, she uses a ‘romance’ as an escape from the hardships of the war, but eventually it grows into a intimate devotion. Throughout the novel, Catherine slowly ebbs away from her already weak religious beliefs, and turns to her developing love for Frederic instead. She replaces her already shaky convictions with her more tangible feelings for him. Because of this alteration to her perceptions, she is able to understand herself, and so her romance is transformed into her religion. Frederic says to her, ” ‘Then nothing worries you?”Only being sent away from you. You’re my religion. You’re all I’ve got.'” (116)Through Frederic, she grasps the true purpose of religion; she gives up the superstitions she no longer needs in exchange for her love with Frederic. He, though, is more reluctant to put away his superstitions. He insists “I knew I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had I any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards,” (30). Nevertheless, he learns, as well, that there is more to spirituality than St. Anthony medals and rainstorms. He eventually does fall in love with Catherine, just as she falls in love with him. Because neither Frederick nor Catherine needs protection from his or her fears any longer, (love is enough) they forsake the unnecessary accoutrements that bog them down. Not until Catherine is in the hospital dying does Frederic really give over, though. It is there that he breaks down and prays. And finally, he has reason to pray. He prays for Catherine’s life. “I knew she was going to die, and I prayed that she would not. Don’t let her die. Oh, God, please don’t let her die. I’ll do anything for you if you won’t let her die. Please, please, please, dear god, don’t let her die.” (330) Unlike his prayers before, which were never founded in any real expectations of reciprocation, he bares his deepest desire: that Catherine should live. At that moment he finally understands religion.A Farewell To Arms contains a theme that is symbolic of a common human condition. People often accept situations at face value, and refuse to delve deeper into the meanings behind them. This keeps us from knowing life, where nothing is what it seems, and deeper comprehension must be sought to truly embrace any idea. Despite great tragedy, both Frederic and Catherine have an opportunity to realize their love for one another, and through it subrept themselves, elucidating the meaning in their lives.
War, deeply intertwined with human existence, overshadows action with impasse and ideals with sterility. Although war results in the facade of victory for one side, no true winner exists, because under this triumphant semblance lies the true cost of this plague, the magnified suffering of the people. In Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley attempt to cultivate an ideal and loving relationship in the midst of war, “the total, irrational negation of love” (Lewis 118). Yet, even after they abandon the battlefield and the war for halcyon Switzerland, they cannot live in peace because of an ineludible tragedy of life: death. Catherine “[has] one hemorrhage after another,” (331), leaving Henry bereft of love and happiness. Thus, their experience reflects both the futility of World War I and the contribution of this war to Henry’s failure of making a lasting separate peace with this malicious world.Through his observations, Henry depicts the atrocities of war. Instead of alleviating the adverse conditions of humanity, war only catalyzes the advent of death. While on the Italian front, Henry sees his friend, Passini, “biting his arm, the stump of his leg twitching” (55) after a mortar shell hit him. Passini dies needlessly, not in battle defending his beliefs, but while eating “some cheese and [rinses] of wine” (54). Instead of being a heroic Italian soldier who gives his life gloriously on the battlefield, Passini becomes a random casualty of the greed and childishness of both Austria and Italy’s leaders who fail to understand the consequences of war. A mere peon in this game of world domination and self-advancement, Passini represents the many victims “of political incompetence and poor leadership on both sides” (Marthe 109). Each country’s leaders wish to gain territory and pride from this struggle, but after a year’s struggle and the sacrifice of numerous lives, the Italians only manage to capture “the mountain that was beyond the valley” (5). Such a meaningless victory means little to Henry whose experience of “the brutal actualities of war ha[s] taught him to distrust such shibboleths and abstractions as glory and honor” (Grebstein 235). Life and palpable details such as “the concrete names of villages, the number of roads, [and] the names of rivers” (Berryman 271) mean so much more to Henry than the intangible concepts that leaders promote to glorify wars which do little to advance the welfare of mankind.Unnecessary deaths, such as Passini’s, increase the futility of war, changing it from a political disagreement into the reciprocated slaughter and butchery of the common man. During war, deaths result not only from bullets but also from disease and starvation. On the Italian front, “seven thousand died of [cholera] in the army” (4) during the winter rains. These casualties depict war’s augmentation of humanity’s suffering by causing many unneeded and cruel deaths. War also creates exceptional grieving for innumerable people by depriving them of their loved ones. This “utter lack of meaning and… destruction of everything decent that human beings value [in life]” (Bessie 104) leads to Henry’s disillusionment and his attempt to isolate himself from such meaningless destruction of human life.During the disorderly retreat from Caporetto, Henry becomes even more disenchanted after witnessing “the moral chaos” (Donaldson 97) of battle police executing officers for not staying with their men. This leads to Henry’s desertion from the Italian army. The battle police decide to shoot Henry for “[speaking] Italian with an accent” (222) while wearing an Italian uniform, because in their state of paranoia, the battle police see Henry as a German spy in Italian uniform. Henry “is vulnerable on both accounts” (Marthe 109), and with no way to refute this claim, he dives into the river to escape execution. This plunge symbolizes cleansing his soul of any true obligation to the war. By taking this dive, “he has forsaken the war and made his ‘separate peace'” (Marthe 109) with the world. Henry’s “farewell to arms” temporarily emancipates him from the obligations of the world and the problems of society, allowing him to elope with his lover Catherine.Although Henry recognizes that fighting in this war has become a lost cause, his desertion from the army disturbs him greatly. A facet of the duty and the military remains to pester him, causing him to “fe[el like] a masquerader” (243) after returning to civilian life, and thereby upsetting both his seclusion from the war and his attempt to find peace in the turbulent world. Unable to free himself of war completely, Henry comes to “see his [desertion] as an act of truancy – an evasion of the historical realities of the time” (Way 165). His attempts to isolate himself from the war only create haunting memories and the sense of an unfinished task which he must complete one day. Trying unsuccessfully to eradicate all reminiscence of this horrible experience, Henry commands the barman not to “‘talk about the war’ [because it] was a long way away.” (245). However, even attempting to hide mentally while physically separated from the war, Henry cannot liberate himself from his sense of bondage to military life, causing an internal war while he attempts to rationalize his desertion and forget about the war.Henry’s guilty conscience continues to haunt him even after his reunion with Catherine in Stresa, Italy. She serves as a foil to him, representing one who has successfully detached herself from the world and recognizes that “[life]’s just a dirty trick” (331). Not worried about the abstract concepts of life, such as duty, she observes Henry attempting to rationalize his guilt. Instead of fearing for his life or reprimanding him for desertion, Catherine comforts him by telling him, “Darling, please be sensible. It’s not deserting from the army. It’s only the Italian army” (251). Her view shows a clear understanding of Henry’s character and his struggle to achieve a separate peace. She knows that he “is a survivor who volunteered to participate in war but without any burning reason.” (Reynolds 146). As an American, he had no reason to enlist except for youthful caprice and a misconception about the glory of the war. Thus, Henry should feel neither compelled nor bound by duty to continue to serve Italy if he does not wish to do so.Strangely, despite his disbelief of any intangible abstraction such as honor, Henry’s mind reflects both an acute memory and a sense of duty and honor which complicates his ability to come to a tacit understanding with the world. Although physically isolated from the war, he continues to brood about it. Even after realizing that “[the war] was over for [him]… [Henry] did not have the feeling that it was really over” (245). This foreshadows Catherine’s death at the end of the book. It also shows that he cannot forget war and death forever, because these essential qualities of mankind will remain with him throughout his life.As a veteran, Henry cannot hide from the horrors of war that replay themselves in the back of his mind to constantly remind him of his experience. This “turbulence [that] has more presence than actual peace” (Wyatt 291) hovers in Henry’s mind through most of the novel, serving as a constant reminder of the atrocities of war and the eventual demise that each individual faces at the end of his lifetime. These recollections of such a dark and inglorious period of his life plague his daily existence and prepare the reader for the news that the Italian army plans to arrest Henry, forcing him to flee to Switzerland with Catherine in a rowboat.In Switzerland, Henry and Catherine find temporary shelter from both the war and the sadness which plague human existence. Isolated and living idyllically, the couple “[sleeps] well [and] the war seem[s] as far away as the football games of some one else’s college” (291). At the same time, “the narcotic begins to wear off” (Donaldson 106-107) and when Henry “woke in the night [he] knew it was from only one cause.” (291). The memories of war, ingrained in his mind, serve as a constant reminder of the outside world and the suffering which he has temporarily escaped. These reflections resurface “when Catherine urges him to fall asleep with her, he is unable to do so and lies ‘awake for quite a long time thinking about things'” (Donaldson 107). This shows that Henry cannot be fully isolated from the reality which he tries very hard to forget.Even with reality attempting to interfere with Catherine and Henry’s life, it remains fairly peaceful and dreamlike, reflecting their temporary peace and isolation from the moral entrapments of the world. In Switzerland, “the winter was very fine and [they] were very happy” (306) with their life until their baby arrives. This rudely interrupts Catherine and Henry’s ideal life in the snow-capped mountains of Switzerland. They reenter civilization to seek medical assistance, thereby ending their temporary solitude and shelter from the harshness of the world.Upon leaving his shelter, all of the suffering that Henry thought he had escaped comes rushing back to him as Catherine falls victim to “the biological trap” (320). Henry watches “Catherine’s agonies in childbirth, lead[ing] him to conclude that men’s sufferings in life are as pathetically frantic and meaningless as the scrambling of ants on a burning log.” (Grebstein 235). Overwhelmed by this trauma, Henry sees the futility of life and realizes that he can never fully seclude himself from the emotional agonies of human existence. The impossibility of Henry reaching a reconciliation with himself or the world becomes certain when the doctors “couldn’t start [the baby’s] breathing. The cord was caught around his neck” (326). However, the stillborn only begins Henry’s re-initiation into the cycle of “death and destruction [which] are man’s lot in many forms other than war” (Lewis 118). Another farewell remains before Henry is left utterly alone in the world, bereft of all that he values.After the baby’s birth, Catherine dies. She paid the “price that you paid for sleeping together” (Marthe 208), leaving Henry both physically and emotionally alone to deal with the loss of his lover. He had attempted to make a separate peace with the world, but ended up losing Catherine, the only thing that he cared for. This last farewell shows “that life, both personal and social, is a struggle in which the Loser Takes Nothing” (Young 274). Henry can only think back to the wonderful times he had with Catherine. These bittersweet memories are all that remain for him at the end of the story. For Henry, “Switzerland, an ideal land for confinement, offers asylum only. Exquisite for the short run . . . it provides no shelter at all… [and] once the sabbath is over and the game resumes… [Henry has] everything to lose.” (Wasserstrom 78).
In his novel A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway uses parataxis extensively. With this structure Hemingway avoids making causal connections in his narration; this is one of the most famous aspects of Hemingway’s writing. But the unpredictability that the anti-causal nature of the narrative suggests, is counteracted by another, less apparent, narrative tool of Hemingway’s. The unpredictability is counteracted by the extensive repetition that Hemingway employs in the novel, repetition that finally evinces a world that is somewhat knowable. The central event in the novel is the war, and Hemingway constructs the war to be defined by repeated actions. Just as he constructs the whole war to be comprised of a couple of moves, repeated ad infinitum, Hemingway also designs the narrative so that it is defined by recurring events. This begins with the character’s actions as it corresponds to the war, a war which forces them to complete the same social behavior over and over. Hemingway extends this repetition so that it soon invisibly and quietly pervades all of the character’s behavior, even small private behavior. Eventually even the words of the novel are seen to return frequently. As Hemingway builds this world in which everything returns, he builds a world in which even the reader is able to predict events, dialogue, and descriptions. Hemingway’s technique is not overt, and to see the technique it is necessary to closely analyze the actions of the characters, that Hemingway designed, with no haphazard, at each level. After a thorough exploration of Hemingway’s technique, the reason that Hemingway creates this somewhat knowable world surfaces. Hemingway presents war as a series of repeated actions from the first chapter. The most noticeable action is the marching mentioned in the first paragraph, when the narrator, Frederick Henry, remembers that “Troops went by the house and down the road.” The marching of the troops is so ubiquitous that the narrator oddly makes reference to it twice in the next sentence: “We saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching.” Hemingway’s repeated mention of the action reflects the repeated action of the soldiers, who do not even stop when the sun goes down; as Henry notes, “Sometimes in the dark we heard the troops marching” (3). All of the above mentioned marching has come in the late summer, but it continues into the autumn when “the men, passing on the road, marched” (4). In the two pages of the first chapter the narrator mentions the marching troops no less than five times, and by doing this Hemingway allows the war to be defined by little other than these peripatetic soldiers. Whenever Hemingway brings the reader into proximity with the war after this chapter, he always inserts the anonymous troops making their way to a usually unspecified endpoint. Because of the few actions that the soldiers complete, the reader slowly comes to expect soldiers to be marching each time they are seen. While Hemingway allows his narrator, Henry, to make one reference to an aspect of war outside of these marching soldiers in the first chapterthe “flashes from the artillery” in the distanceit is the soldiers, and their endlessly repeated personal actions, that give the war form in the chapter. So Hemingway makes it in the rest of the novel, where each person involved with the war finds himself with an assigned task that he repeats endlessly. Frederick Henry is sent driving his ambulance back and forth between the front and an ever changing base. Before even putting down his bags after returning from a long leave caused by an injury sustained at the front, Henry is told by his commanding officer, “You can go and take over the four cars on the Bainsizza.” (165). Rinaldi, Henry’s friend who operates on the injured soldiers that Henry delivers, complains that “All summer and all fall I’ve operated. I work all the time . . .I never think. No, by God, I don’t think; I operate” (167). Hemingway, more subtly, makes certain behavior, that is immediately related to these wartime tasks, also repeat itself. The meals that the men eat while on the road is inevitably of two kinds. The spaghetti in the “basin of spaghetti” late in the book (191), is probably eaten in the same methodical way as in the early moments of the book, where Henry explains that the only variation was in the way the men ate the spaghetti, some “lifting the spaghetti on the fork until the loose strands hung clear then lowering it into the mouth, or else using a continuous life and sucking into the mouth” (7). When the men are not eating spaghetti they are invariably eating bread and cheese; both meals are eaten with red wine. Only once does Hemingway allow his characters to eat something besides spaghetti or bread and cheese: when Henry and his men are stuck in a small farmhouse Piani finds a “long sausage,” that they eat (217). Even considering this lack of variety, at one point the gustatory element is the one element that does allow the soldiers to differentiate between different actions in the war. Even nominally different actionsadvances and retreatsbecome the same except for the type of wine that is drunk. During one retreat, an ambulance driver accompanying Henry says, “I like a retreat better than an advance. On a retreat we drink barbera” (191). Hemingway constructs a world in which only the type of alcohol consumed allows the soldiers to differentiate between the two distinct maneuvers. But Hemingway extends the effect of the repetitive nature of war beyond behavior directly related to the war. Henry and the other characters all fall into patterns of behavior that become predictably frequent. The two actions that are the most ubiquitous are the drinking of alcohol that occurs whenever anyone gets a free moment, and the newspaper reading that Henry does whenever he is alone. When Henry is injured, the priest from Henry’s base brings him three presents. It is no surprise that two are “a bottle of vermouth,” and “English papers” (69). When Rinaldi paid Henry a visit earlier that day his gift was a “bottle of cognac” (63). Even once Henry reaches the Milan hospital after his injury at the front, Hemingway forces the behavior of both Henry and Katherine Barkley, his soon-to-be wife, into regular repeated patterns. After Henry describes a few representative days, mentioning the riding in carriages, the eating at the Gran Italia, the return to the hospital, and the nightly trysts, Henry quietly says, “The summer went on that way” (117). By this point in the novel Hemingway can give us one sequence of a pattern and we don’t need to know anymore, we only need to know that it went on that way.’As more and more moments repeat themselves Hemingway fades the lines protecting the uniqueness of moments. Unexpected acts are seen to repeat almost verbatim. When he first arrives at the Milan hospital Henry finds himself looking out the window: “The swallows circled around and I watched them [flying] above the roofs” (87). Katherine soon arrives, and when she does Henry has little time to look out the window, but when he is next alone he looks out the window and “watched the swallows over the roofs” (113). His solitary swallow watching is one of the few diversions from Henry’s constant paper reading, but Hemingway makes even this oddly specific diversion a repetitive action. Hemingway places another unexpected repeated action in chapter 23. The night before Henry is to return to the front after his injury leave, Katherine and he are heading to a hotel in Milan. On the way they see another couple in an alleyway where the soldier was “standing with his girl in the shadow of one of the stone buttresses ahead of [Henry and Katherine]. They were standing tight up against the stone and he had put his cape around her” (147). While Henry responds to the couple by saying, “They’re like us,” Katherine quickly responds by saying, “Nobody is like us,” trying to assert the uniqueness of their union. A few moments later, however, the two find themselves standing “in the street against a high wall,” Henry tells us how Katherine “pulled my cape around her so it covered both of us” (150). This odd repetition seems to be completed with some agency on the part of the characters, but the fact that this overt recurrence of a specific event is not acknowledged by Hemingdway underscores the expectedness of such repetition. Hemingway mixes this repetition with an odd derivative of repetition, foreshadowing. Moments imagined recur in the book’s reality with little agency from the characters. Soon after he meets Katherine in a small Italian town, Henry dreams of the couple having a more romantic and private rendezvous. The imagined event has a few salient characteristics: in the dream they meet in Milan and go to a hotel where they are taken to their room in “the elevator and it would go up very slowly clicking at all the floors and then our floor.” Once in the room they drink wine brought by room service (39). Oddly enough, when Henry is injured at the front, he is taken to a hospital in Milan, the same hospital to which Katherine happens to have been transferred. At the end of Henry’s time in Milan the two go to a hotel for a night. They go up to their room by elevator and “the elevator passed three floors with a click each time.” Once they are in the room, they order dinner and St. Estephe wine (151-153). After all the repetition in the book, the world seems to become a somewhat knowable place; if the essential actions are repeated ones, it follows that there is better chance of guessing future actions. This suspicion that the world that Hemingway created is somehow knowable is confirmed through the just mentioned, and other, less explicit, moments of foreshadowing. After he is injured, but before he meets up with Katherine, Henry speaks of the feasibility of facial hair and one of the officers asks him, “Why don’t you raise a beard?” (77). While this remark is made in passing, and would be impossible as a soldier, once he has escaped from the army, Catherine independently asks Henry, “Darling, would you like to grow a beard?” (298), a plea with which Henry complies. While Katherine is in childbirth Henry eerily sees what will soon happen when he asks himself, “What if she should die?” (321). Henry has no reason to think that Katherine should die, there has been little complication when Henry asks this question, and as he reminds himself, “People don’t die in childbirth nowadays” (320). Yet even with this knowledge he is unable to erase the belief that she will die. In the end she does die, and it is from an unexpected hemorrhage that results from complications that arise only after Henry convinces himself that she will die. Henry and Katherine’s entire relationship is essentially foreseen before there is any reason to even make predictions. Soon after they meet, moments after Katherine slaps Henry for attempting to take the first kiss, Katherine says in half jest, “You will be good to me, won’t you? . . . because we’re going to have a strange life” (27). How right she is. Katherine is able to make this prediction from previous knowledge. It seems that in many ways Henry and Katherine’s entire relationship is a repeat of the relationship Katherine was in that preceded the novel, a wartime relationship in which marriage is held off because of uncertainty. Katherine can predict what a strange relationship Henry and hers will be because of her prior experience with such a relationship. This observation illuminates an important point about the foreshadowing. It does not arise through any prophetic powers. Instead, very simply, it arises because, if actions repeat themselves, it is easier to predict what will happen. Hemingway produces such repitition in the novel that even his characters have some power to see what will happen to them in the future.But this does not explain why there is repetition in the first place. To answer this question it is good to look at the way Hemingway introduces repetition in the words of the novel. The dialogue is rife with repetition such as when, in complementing Henry for a good idea, Aymo, another ambulance driver, says, “That’s Pretty good, Tenente.” In response Henry says, “That’s pretty good” (210). More important than the repetitive dialogue is the repetition of a few simple adjectives. The word lovely’ is used endlessly to describe either Henry or Catherine, such as when Henry notes that Catherine “looked lovely in bed” (258). But it is also used by Rinaldi to describe himself when he says, “I am becoming a lovely surgeon,” (167) and by Catherine when ironically referring to a rainy night: “It’s a lovely night for a walk” (267). The oft-mentioned simplicity of the narrative stems greatly from the excessive repetition of such simple words. The word lovely, like the words good and splendid and nice are used so frequently that the reader comes to expect them anytime an adjectival description is given. It seems that the characters have no choice but to use these words to describe things. This same idea applies to the repetition of actions. Henry did not grow a beard because it was cosmically ordained. He grows it because there are so few ways to reinvent oneself within the spartan lifestyle required by war. Likewise, Henry does not find himself watching swallows because a higher force made him so that he should. Instead he watches swallows because there is little else to do when lying in a hospital bed. The reappearance of the swallows affirms that there are few options for other action above Italian rooftops. Hemingway thus creates a world in which repetition is destined to occur, not because of some larger cosmic scheme, but rather because in the simple world that Hemingway has createda re-creation of the simple world that Hemingway saw around himthe few things that can possibly occur, have a high probability of recurring because there are so few of them.
Ernest Hemingway’s novel A Farewell to Arms (1929) uses nature to structure the novel and provide symbols that replace human emotions. Nature serves as a basic structure for the plot and the actions that occur. It also emerges as a source of symbols that replace human sentiment or feelings. Characters die and there is no mention of sadness or pain. Instead, Hemingway writes that it is raining, that it is autumn, or that peace has occurred when people are still at war. The replacement of emotions with symbols allows Hemingway to frequently understate what is really going on in the action. He further uses symbols to completely omit references to sentiments or feelings. Even more unsettling is the fact that these symbols often ironically represent the opposite of their meanings in common parlance. Not only symbols, but also individual words, come to be used in this way. This undermines the use of technical language throughout the novel and causes the breakdown of that language. Thus, symbols and words provide a basis for the structure of the novel and for the loss of the technical language.The structure of the novel occurs largely through natural symbolism, i.e. symbols drawn from nature. This is set up in the first chapter, which shows the rapid progression of the seasons from summer into autumn. Summer is identified with dryness and abundance, a plain “rich with crops” (3). This is immediately contrasted with autumn, where “the branches were bare and the trunks black with rain” (4). This miniature transition of the seasons relates to the larger transitions in the novel as a whole. For example, the first part of the novel takes place in relative dryness up until when Catherine informs Henry that she is going to have a baby. No sooner has she told him this news than the rains start, ending the dry part of the novel: “It turned cold that night and the next day it was raining” (142). Thus the novel is separated into two segments in the same manner that the first chapter is separated into summer and fall.This separation of the seasons helps to set up the transition in the plot from good to bad. “Good” is represented by the dry season, “bad” by the wet season. Thus, the opening scenes describe the bed of the river as being “dry and white” (3), an image that changes drastically by the end, where the river has turned into a raging torrent. This contrast is explicated by the events that occur on hard versus soft surfaces. For instance, the first military operation (in which Henry is wounded) is fast paced, with the wounded are rushed away in trucks, and everything is described as being hard, including the road and operating table. This contrasts with the second military operation, a defeat, that takes place on wet roads, with vehicles stuck in the mud, and where rivers have to be crossed instead of river beds. Thus the world of the first half of the novel is a dry, sterile version of the wet and sickly world that follows it. Within this world, the dry part is the world of success; Henry wins Catherine and the army wins some battles. The wet world is the exact opposite: the army loses and is forced to retreat and Henry loses Catherine. The natural world thereby provides the setting within which Henry’s personal and military experiences can take place. Natural changes from dryness to wetness are paralleled in the plot by both Catherine’s pregnancy and the corrupt horse races. These scenes are juxtaposed onto each other through their side-by-side placement. They define the transition from love to “marriage” and advancement to retreat, respectively. Thus, after Catherine announces that she is pregnant, she and Henry consider themselves “married,” thereby catapulting their relationship from casual to serious. Similarly, the war with Austria goes well for the Italians until Henry describes the corruption of the horse races, a corruption that permeates every level of the Italian army and political machine. After the horse races, the Italian army no longer is able to win battles; instead, the war turns into a retreat and becomes far more serious and deadly. This structure is complemented by natural symbols that substitute for emotions or feelings. The most important of these symbols is that of rain. Rain represents death and all the accompanying emotions of grief, pain, and despair. Death is both brought by rain and can be considered analogous to it. Catherine is the first person to make this analogy explicit when she tells Henry that she is afraid of the rain. “I am afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it” (126). Although Henry dismisses her words at the time, they continue to haunt the novel up until she dies. Indeed, immediately after Henry visits her dead body in the hospital, the novel ends with the passage: “I…walked back to the hotel in the rain” (332). The novel thus ends with rain being used as a substitute for Catherine’s death. Rain is also symbolically used by Hemingway to understate the obvious. For instance, when Catherine dies, there is no emotional outpouring. Instead, the novel ends with the word “rain” as the only hint of the emotional stress that Henry is experiencing. This form of understatement is ironically introduced right at the beginning of the novel:At the start of the winter came the permanent rain and with the rain came the cholera. But it was checked and in the end only seven thousand died of it in the army. (4)In this passage, rain and death are linked for the first time, yet there is no emotional content connected to the fact that seven thousand men have died. This understatement is a key feature of the novel and will be used every time a death occurs. For instance, when Aymo dies after being shot, Henry informs the reader that, “He looked very dead. It was raining.” Those two lines embody the full extent of the emotion that Henry shows. This form of understatement, where a symbol substitutes for emotions, allows Hemingway to omit key facts. A good example of omission occurs right after Henry has been wounded. He is placed in an ambulance and driven to the hospital while the man above him bleeds to death. “The drops fell very slowly, as they fall from an icicle after the sun has gone” (61). This simple description omits all the pain and suffering and replaces them with the image of “drops” from an icicle. Using symbols to replace death or emotions allows foreshadowing. Rain, for example, is frequently used to foreshadow death. Before getting killed, Aymo states, “We drink [barbera] now. To-morrow maybe we drink rainwater” (191). Catherine’s death is foreshadowed in similar manner: she is terrified of the rain and states that she sometimes sees herself dead in the rain (126). Henry comforts her and stops her crying. However, Hemingway shows that this is a false comfort; in one of the very infrequent uses of the word “but”, the chapter ends with the sentence, “But outside it kept on raining” (126). Thus symbols are used to foreshadow the things they substitute for.An unsettling aspect of the novel is that symbols stand for the opposite of what they mean in common parlance. For example, rain is normally associated with growth, healthy crops, and a cleansing of the outside world. Instead, Hemingway uses it to mean death. He does the same thing with autumn and spring, seasons traditionally thought of as abundant in harvest and fecund, respectively. In the novel they come to stand for the rainy season, a time of death, retreat, and loss. The same inversion takes place with language; Hemingway uses words like “peace” to denote someone deserting the army (243). By using the words and symbols in the opposite context of what they are expected to mean, uncertainties are introduced. These uncertainties are caused by the fact that symbols and words do not have an inherent meaning that can be relied upon. This causes Henry to slowly start to mistrust language, and language as a whole is thus slowly undermined as the novel progresses.This causes the language of the novel to retreat away from simple technical language to a more abstract, questioning language. For example, the second half of the novel introduces questions into the text. This has the effect of undermining the manual-like nature of much of the novel, in which skills are constantly taught to others (such as how to eat spaghetti on page 7 or how to fish on page 256). These skills help to make the world understandable and uncomplicated; if there is a problem, someone can teach the other person how to fix it. Questions destroy the purity of this world because they introduce uncertainty into it. This uncertainty results in chaos, both for the army and for Henry’s love affair. The first time a question is asked where no one has an answer is when Henry decides to take his cars off of the main road. One of the Sergeants asks, “You know the road?” and forces Henry to say, “No” (201). This uncertainty quickly takes over the text of the novel, causing Henry to insert his own questions, such as “Which side did [Catherine] sleep on?” (197), or “If you did not go forward what happened?” (216). This climaxes in the hospital scene where Henry almost goes insane with uncertainty:Yes, but what if she should die? She can’t die. Why would she die? What reason is there for her to die? There’s just a child that has to be born, the by-product of good nights in Milan. It makes trouble and is born and then you look after it and get fond of it maybe. But what if she should die? She won’t die. But what if she should die? She won’t. She’s all right. But what if she should die? She can’t die. But what if she should die? Hey, what about that? What if she should die? (320-321)The repetition of the questions in this paragraph hides the fact that this is actually an inversion of a manual. Instead of providing the answers to the questions, as he has throughout the novel, Henry is now posing the questions. This transition is mirrored by the brief but uncharacteristic moments of sentimentality that occur near the end (which I will spare the reader by not quoting), in which Henry “whines” about the fact that everyone eventually dies.The breakdown of language that occurs in the novel eventually leads Henry to state that he has “made a separate peace” (243). This oft quoted line embodies many of the fundamental themes of the novel. Foremost, it relates to the title, “A Farewell to Arms”, a phrase the can be interpreted as running away or deserting the army. Running away is exactly what Henry is doing when he makes his “peace”; after changing clothes, he refuses to read about the war in the newspapers, thus choosing “peace” by ignoring the war. This is a false peace, however, since Henry is soon caught up in fleeing to Switzerland with Catherine. This fake peace is highlighted by several other references to fakeness: for instance, Henry is described as a “fake doctor” (319). This fakeness shows that Henry cannot will’ peace. The reason he fails to achieve a real peace is because the language changes as well.Language, and particularly the use of the word peace, is therefore inverted. Peace is a political term, a term that does not have a technical meaning. Henry realizes this when he overhears the carabinieri questioning the officers during the retreat. They use political language, “It is you and such as you that have let the barbarians onto the sacred soil of the fatherland” (223). Henry cannot adopt that language, and thus he chooses “a separate peace”, i.e. a peace that has nothing to do with politics. This peace can also be interpreted as his choice of language; he denounces the political rhetoric and instead uses the technical language that he can trust. In this sense technical language is equated with peace, political language with war. The word “peace,” (243) is further given an entirely different meaning by the line that immediately follows it. “I felt damned lonely and was glad when the train got to Stresa” (243). Stresa is where Catherine is located, and thus it seems that Henry is choosing love over war. In this case, “peace” merely means that he would rather be with Catherine than be in the war. This is in fact the choice that he makes, both by returning to Catherine and then fleeing with her to Switzerland. However, like the symbols, the word “peace” is falsely interpreted. The flight to Switzerland placed Henry and Catherine in a world where everything seems “peaceful”. This false peace is two-fold: it is an escape from war, and it is an escape from sentimental language. Neither of them notice the falseness of the peace, or realize the impending danger. Catherine comments, “Isn’t it fine rain? They never had rain like this in Italy. It’s cheerful rain” (278). This is the first time that someone thinks of rain as a positive symbol and gives rain its more common definition. Unfortunately, this is a trick; the rain is related to death throughout the novel. Thus the rain, like the peace, is false in Switzerland. Catherine’s complicated childbirth, which takes place during the rain, undermines her statement. Henry’s use of language crumbles around the same time; he becomes overly sentimental and “whiny” and explodes with numerous unanswerable questions. It is therefore the fact that language, in the form of symbols and words, cannot be trusted that causes him to give up on his technical language. The combination of natural symbolism with death and language creates a powerful unity to the events of the novel. The deaths are foreshadowed by the rain, which is used as a substitute for emotion. Thus the rain represents not only death, but also the grief, pain, and despair that accompanies death. It further represents a form of purging, a means of forgetting what has just happened. By having symbols stand for the emotional content of the plot, Hemingway cleverly removes the need to use extraneous language. This allows him to write much of the novel in the dry, technical language that he is famous for while still retaining the emotional content. It is important to notice that the breakdown of language at the end of the novel is not permanent. After having nearly given up his technical language, Hemingway returns to it in the final passage. Hence the novel ends with the word “rain” rather than the expected emotional outpouring. BibliographyHemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1929.
Catherine Barkley, who predeceases the retrospective narration of her bereaved lover in A Farewell to Arms, has nevertheless transcended her untimely death to become immortalized as a frequent and much-debated subject of Hemingway criticism. Since her debut in 1929, Catherine has taken many a turn beneath the critical microscope as scholars have shuffled through various lenses. Catherine has weathered countless critical trends and multiple waves of feminism, throughout which critics have cast her in many roles, from her infamous early days as a “divine lollipop” and “inflated rubber-doll woman” to her later restoration not as Hemingway dream girl, but Hemingway code hero (Hacket, Bell qtd. in Spanier 76). Whether critical darling or demon, Catherine Barkley remains one of Hemingway’s most iconic and well-known characters. And yet, oddly, she is not Hemingway’s only Catherine.
In 1986, another Catherine, Catherine Bourne, made her debut as the female lead of the posthumously published The Garden of Eden. Although Catherine remains a common name, I reject a reading that figures this repetition as purely coincidental. Noting, as Carl Eby points out, that Hemingway maintained a fascination with the name Catherine both within and outside of his fiction—even adopting the name for his own private use later in life—I contend that Hemingway would not repurpose the name of one of his best-known heroines on another leading character in anything other than an intentional move (“Literary Jealousy and Destruction” 104). As David Bourne himself reminds us in The Garden of Eden, “Names go to the bone” (GOE 141). The significance behind the twin names is increasingly hard to ignore as it becomes clear that the female leads of A Farewell to Arms and The Garden of Edenshare more than just a first name. Catherine Barkley and Catherine Bourne consistently and eerily echo each other’s desires, fantasies, and impulses. Most fundamentally, the Catherines mirror each other in a shared desire for a romantic ideal of merged identity, which is intimately related to their twin fantasies of gender play and transgression, as well as to their infamous destructive impulses.
Both Catherines entertain a fantasy of very literal romantic unity in which desiring another means to also desire to becomethe other. Catherine Barkley willfully dissolves her identity within her lover’s, declaring “There isn’t any me, I’m you,” a sentiment she insistently echoes throughout the novel (FTA115). Catherine Bourne acts on similar desires, engaging in gender-bending sexual activities in which she calls her husband “Catherine” and asks, “Now you can’t tell who is who, can you?” (GOE17). Later, in convincing her husband to get matching haircuts, Catherine Bourne fulfills a fantasy of tonsorial twinning earlier expressed by Catherine Barkley to her own beloved: “Let it grow a little longer and I could cut mine and we’d be just alike” (FTA299). Along with their mutual commitment to a romantic ideal of love as shared identity, the two Catherines share a destructive impulse apparently also rooted in this romantic ideal. “I want to ruin you,” Catherine Barkley announces in a declaration that Catherine Bourne later echoes with the assertion, “I’m the destructive type, and I’m going to destroy you,” (FTA305, GOE5). There is, as Eby notes of the latter Catherine’s statement, “something sinister” in this language that becomes increasingly haunting as Catherine Bourne continues to echo and intensify the most bizarre desires of her eponymous predecessor (“Literary Jealousy and Destruction” 99). As she consistently mirrors one of Hemingway’s most famous female characters, dead but not forgotten, Catherine Bourne rises out of the posthumous publication like a ghostly doppelganger.
I propose that neither these similarities nor their eeriness are merely coincidental. Moreover, I suggest that both Catherines can trace the origins of their romantic desires and destructive impulses to yet a third—and no less spectral—Catherine: Emily Brontë’s Catherine Earnshaw, whose famous avowal, “I am Heathcliff,” resounds in the romantic model of merged identity sought by Hemingway’s Catherines (Brontë 82). A novel of doubleness and merger, destructive and self-destructive impulses, and quasi-queer relationships, Brontë’s Wuthering Heightsshares many motifs with Hemingway’s works—motifs that may initially seem better suited to Brontë’s gothic than Hemingway’s realism. Illuminating Hemingway’s position in the gothic tradition, comparisons with Wuthering Heightsauthorize an exploration of darker imagery and motifs in Hemingway’s work through the psychoanalytical lens of the death drive. A pulse many critics have long identified in Wuthering Heights, I propose that the death drive is also a driving force uniting the similarities in A Farewell to Arms andThe Garden of Eden. My reading is interested in highlighting the similarities between Hemingway’s Catherines while showing how thematic and psychoanalytical parallels with Wuthering Heightscan help illuminate and explain their destructive impulses as subversive reactions against patriarchal structures of meaning.
An “enigmatic” text to which even the most authoritative sources still attribute a “peculiar power” that renders the novel a “challenge to both fictional and moral conventions,” Wuthering Heightsremains something of an outlier even within its own generic and historical context (Alexander & Smith 560). A novel that is difficult to figure in conversation even with ostensibly similar texts, Brontë’s gothic masterpiece may strike as a particularly ill-suited companion to Hemingway’s famously stark realism, written a century later and in an entirely different literary tradition.
Discordant as the comparison may initially ring, I am not the first to note traces of Brontë in Hemingway. In fact, Lisa Tyler goes as far as to provide a reading that convincingly figures A Farewell to Armsas “a retelling” of Wuthering Heights. In defense of this “fairly unusual reading,” Tyler points to a 1935 Esquirearticle in which Hemingway ranks Wuthering Heightsfourth on a list of favorite books (81, 79). As Tyler proposes, and I agree, “Hemingway’s inclusion of Brontë’s novel in his list of important works suggests that…it may, in fact, have influenced his writings in ways we have yet to fully acknowledge” (79). Tyler goes on to outline the various similarities between the two seemingly disparate texts, arguing that such allusions are at once so numerous and often so obvious that they can constitute nothing less than “deliberate signals to the reader of the underlying thrust of the book” (80). Tyler provides a fairly comprehensive overview of the similarities uniting the two texts, many of which are worth reviewing here.
Tyler begins, as I have, with “the most obvious and superficial similarity:” both heroines are named Catherine (82). However, as Tyler shows—and I plan to elaborate on by extending a reading of this “superficial similarity” to yet another Hemingway text—the shared name is far from truly superficial, in fact signaling an important thematic connection to Wuthering Heightsthat figures Catherine Earnshaw as something of a literary foremother to Hemingway’s Catherines. The connections that allow us to hear Wuthering Heightsin the underlying pulse of A Farewell to Armsand its echoes in The Garden of Edenbegin with the nominal allusion to Brontë’s gothic heroine.
Such similarities continue to crop up, some obvious, others in minute detail. Both Catherines die in childbirth. Both give birth to children named Catherine, although, as Tyler notes, Catherine Barkley’s stillborn son only bears this name in utero (Tyler 82). In Catherine Barkley’s first appearance in A Farewell to Arms, she somewhat inexplicably carries “a thin rattan stick like a toy riding-crop, bound in leather” (FTA 18). Pressed for explanation, Catherine Barkley responds only that it belonged to her late fiancé. Tyler, however, provides a more satisfactory explanation, noting that the article is “reminiscent of the whip that Catherine Earnshaw asks her father to bring her in her first appearance in Wuthering Heights” (82).Of course, Catherine Earnshaw never actually receives such an item; instead of the gifts promised, Mr. Earnshaw returns with the child Heathcliff, much to the chagrin of his own children (Brontë 37). Heathcliff becomes a symbolic substitution for Catherine Earnshaw’s lost whip, while inversely, “the little stick…returned with his things” is the substitution Catherine Barkley receives in place of her dead fiancé (FTA 19).
Rain is another seemingly superficial shared motif to which Tyler points, noting that in both novels, “rain functions as a poignant and pointed symbol of separation and death” (82). While, as Pearl James notes, the reading of rain inA Farewell to Arms as either symbolic or historical remains a subject of debate, the “over determined” presence of rain in the novel, whether historically accurate or not, can hardly help but underscore the gothic undertones present in Hemingway’s text (James 136). Considered alongside a parallel motif in Wuthering Heights, this traditionally gothic symbol helps illuminate other dark and seemingly inexplicable or bizarre aspects stained through the realism of A Farewell to Arms.
Unsurprisingly, Catherine Barkley is most often the harbinger of the novel’s most jarring and bizarre images. Even before her long, agonizing death brings the novel to a dark, gothic close (set, no less, against a backdrop of rain), Catherine peppers the novel with strange ideas and imagery that border on the traditionally gothic grotesque. In one such image, she expresses a desire to possess a fox tail with little explanation, conjuring a perverse bestial image (FTA 303). She also entertains a bizarre and vaguely eerie fantasy of twinning with Frederic, imagining them with matching haircuts. Taking an even darker turn, Catherine also wishes to have had gonorrhea, so, as she explains to Frederic “to be like you” (FTA299). All of these jarring images have their roots in Catherine’s ultimate desire to literally beFrederic: “Oh darling, I want you so much I want to be you too” (FTA 299). It is no coincidence that this desire is also at the heart of the similarities between A Farewell to Arms and Wuthering Heights. Both Tyler and I point to the heroines’ passionate declarations of love, which echo each other unmistakably in a shared fascination with merger. As noted earlier, Catherine Barkley’s repeated insistence that she and Frederic Henry are one extends to the point of entire self-dissolution: “There isn’t any me, I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me” (FTA115). Catherine’s declarations that she isFrederic cannot help but parallel Catherine Earnshaw’s famed avowal, perhaps among the most famous lines in Wuthering Heights: “Nelly, I am Heathcliff—he’s always, always in my mind—not as pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself—but as my own being” (Brontë 82).
Tyler suggests that comparisons between Catherine Earnshaw and Catherine Barkley can help the latter escape the “geisha girl” reading that has long plagued her and instead cast her as a “Romantic heroine,” rendering her “a more comprehensible and better realized character, one with whom feminist readers can more comfortably sympathize” (80). My reading of these parallels, however, does not explicitly seek to portray Catherine Barkley as a feminist heroine—work which, I would argue, has been better accomplished by the likes of Sandra Whipple Spanier and to which comparisons with Catherine Earnshaw add little—but rather a gothic one. Like Tyler, I hope to render Catherine Barkley “more comprehensible.” However, having established gothic undercurrents at work in A Farewell to Arms via parallels with Wuthering Heights, my approach seeks to explain Catherine’s bizarre and destructive behavior through the darker psychoanalytical lens of the death drive.
In her seminal feminist reconsideration of Catherine Barkley’s character, Spanier identifies and challenges a pervasive binary approach to Hemingway women which finds them invariably resigned to one of two types: “those who destroy men and those women men could only dream of” (76). While early criticism tended to figure Catherine Barkley as what Spanier calls “the prototypical dream girl,” her character does display some unmistakably destructive behaviors. In perhaps the most notable example, Catherine herself states in no uncertain terms that she wants to ruin Frederic. “What do you want to do? Ruin me?” Frederic asks, to which Catherine responds simply, “Yes. I want to ruin you,” (FTA 305).
Of course, taking Catherine at her word, there is no “separate” Catherine to ruin a separate Frederic. Her identity is intertwined inextricably with her beloved’s. In this sense, then, her desire to “ruin” Frederic becomes not simply destructive, but rather self-destructive. As noted earlier, the self-destructive impulses at the heart of Catherine’s willful self-abnegation appear at various points throughout the novel, often manifesting physically. Upon hearing that Frederic’s experience with gonorrhea was “very painful,” Catherine’s immediate response is to wish that she’d also had it (FTA 299). While here, Catherine explains her desire for gonorrhea as parallel to her desire “to be like” Frederic, other manifestations of her self-destructive impulses receive no such explanation. Throughout her painful and ultimately fatal labor, Catherine expresses a perverse desire for pain, referring to the more painful contractions as “good ones.” When the pains are less severe, Frederic notes that “she was disappointed and ashamed” (FTA 314). I suggest that Catherine’s obsession with pain and self-abnegation is ultimately symptomatic of her death drive.
Returning again to Tyler’s parallel reading of A Farewell to Arms and Wuthering Heights, she calls on the work of Ernest Lockridge, whose analysis of A Farewell to Armsrests on the claim that, “It is Catherine’s effort to resurrect her lost love…that is the whole novel’s primary mover” (qtd. in Tyler 82). According to Tyler, this reading “establishes a profound thematic parallel with Wuthering Heights, in which it is Heathcliff’s effort to resurrect a lost love that is the whole novel’s primary mover” (82). In psychoanalytical parlance, which Tyler borrows from William A. Madden, both novels structure their narratives around a character trapped in a classically Freudian “repetition compulsion,” through which they repeat their trauma in an attempt to restore “psychic wholeness” (qtd. in Tyler 89).
This desire to return to an earlier state of wholeness comprises the heart of the Lacanian conception of the death drive, in which psychic wholeness belongs exclusively to the domain of the pre (or post)-linguistic realm. In Lacanian theory—as outlined by Robin DeRosa in her analysis of the death drive in Wuthering Heights—it is language, a system based on separation and difference, that is responsible for the psychic rupture that renders wholeness impossible. The move from the pre-Oedipal, pre-linguistic “imaginary” into the symbolic realm necessitates a departure from this original wholeness, resulting in a system in which “language and desire are both positioned around loss” (Derosa 28). The repetition of trauma and self-destructive behaviors, then, can be read as an attempt to return to this earlier state of wholeness, a “desire to attain a kind of fullness outside the range of discursive signification” (Derosa 32).
While Tyler, referencing Madden, presents Heathcliff as the primary enactor of the repetition compulsion in Wuthering Heights, Derosa instead presents a reading that figures Catherine Earnshaw as the novel’s main embodiment of the death drive. In light of parallels already drawn between Catherine Earnshaw and Hemingway’s Catherine Barkley, I hope to extend this reading of Earnshaw’s death drive to illuminate a similar pulse in Catherine Barkley’s character. According to DeRosa, “Catherine [Earnshaw]’s death drive involves two foundational desires: the desire to merge with Heathcliff and the desire to return to an innocent state of childhood” (33). I propose that Catherine Barkley’s death drive likewise involves two parallel desires: the desire to merge with Frederic and the desire to return to an earlier state of wholeness.
The desire to merge with the beloved is, for both—or, as I plan to show later, all three—Catherines, rooted in the desire for wholeness sought through the death drive. Perceiving themselves as fractured, split-off halves of divided egos, the Catherines seek wholeness through merger with another. For both Catherine Earnshaw and Catherine Barkley, the beloved with whom they hope to merge embodies the desired state of pre-linguistic wholeness and childhood innocence. Raised together as children, Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff are childhood playmates turned sweethearts. Moreover, as the illiterate “gypsy boy” who first arrives at Wuthering Heights repeating “some gibberish that nobody could understand,” young Heathcliff effectively embodies the pre-symbolic, pre-linguistic realm to which Catherine desires to return (Brontë 37). For Catherine Barkley, meanwhile, the desire to merge with Frederic is a death-driven attempt to recreate the earlier sense of unity she enjoyed with her fiancé. Others, whether or not engaged in a psychoanalytical reading, have noted that Frederic functions as a replacement for Catherine’s deceased former lover, often pointing to Frederic’s own hope that Catherine will employ him in such a role: “Maybe she would pretend I was her boy that was killed” (FTA 37). Like Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Barkley and her fiancé “grew up together” (FTA 19). Like Heathcliff, then, the fiancé represents “the sexual and necessarily language-less innocence” inherently associated with childhood in Lacanian theory (DeRosa 28). While Catherine’s fiancé is presumably not illiterate, he resists language in other ways, embodying—like Heathcliff—the pre-linguistic phase to which the death drive aims to return. Nameless and therefore not represented by a linguistic sign, Catherine’s fiancé predeceases Frederic’s narrative, effectively leaving him outside the linguistic realm represented by the narrative structure itself. Catherine’s attempt to recreate that earlier wholeness through a merger with Frederic, then, represents a desire to return to the pre-linguistic, pre-symbolic realm.
What my own language here betrays, however, is the sheer inescapability of the symbolic order. Even those characters whom I have here identified as “representative” of the pre-linguistic realm thusly remain trapped in structures of representation that are inherently symbolic. Addressing this quandary, DeRosa explains that the novel, as a form, is an inherently linguistic structure eternally moored in representation. The novel, then, is in direct opposition to the death drive, and cannot help but “save its own life,” as well as “the lives of the characters desperately trying to die within it” (34). Indeed, although both Catherines literally succumb to their death drives, dying in childbirth, their deaths hardly constitute a transcendence of the symbolic order. As Tyler notes, both Catherines’ stories are told only after they die, imprisoning them in narratives in which they are both “grievously misunderstood and misrepresented” by their retrospective first-person narrators (83). Misrepresentation, of course, still constitutes representation, and both Catherines are left eternally imprisoned within the symbolic, despite their best death-driven efforts to escape it. In fact, it could even be argued that it is death itself that ultimately thwarts these characters’ attempts to escape the symbolic. In his reading of A Farewell to Arms as a trauma narrative, Trevor Dodman figures Catherine’s death as the trauma Frederic hopes to revisit and overcome through narrative representation: “Looking back on events, reconstructing his memories, Frederic reveals a desire for a whole and perfect retelling of the past; his narration functions as a prosthesis meant to stave off a sense of the self as a disarticulated scar” (250). In this way, then, Catherine’s attempt to transcend the symbolic in death is in fact the very action that leaves her immortalized in the symbolic realm of Frederic’s narrative.
In a shared attempt to escape the symbolic and return to a state of psychic wholeness, both Catherine Earnshaw and Catherine Barkley follow the death drive to its literal end, only to become eternally imprisoned and immortalized in the very structures they sought to escape. In the wake of her failed predecessors, Hemingway’s second Catherine, The Garden of Eden’s Catherine Bourne, emerges to avenge the thwarted attempts of her literary foremothers. Unlike Catherines Earnshaw and Barkley, Catherine Bourne does not succumb to her death drive. Instead, her destructive impulses successfully issue a challenge to the phallocentric structures of meaning inherent in the Lacanian conception of language, signaling a subversion of the patriarchal order.
Despite a considerably younger and shorter critical lifespan than her eponymous predecessor in A Farewell to Arms, Catherine Bourne’s critical reputation is scarcely less controversial than Catherine Barkley’s. To return to the binary approach Spanier identifies and challenges, critics are easily and understandably tempted to resign Catherine Bourne to the cast of Hemingway women “who destroy men” (76). Taking the Biblical bait set out in the title, criticism of The Garden of Edenreadily casts Catherine as “Eve and serpent rolled into one” (“Literary Jealousy and Destruction” 99). In a less canonical approach to the Garden of Eden mythology, Tamara Powell even figures Catherine Bourne as Lilith, “the archetypal woman-as-destroyer” (78).
Of course, these comparisons can hardly be called unjustified. Catherine herself invites if not demands them, unabashedly declaring herself “the destructive type” in her very first appearance in the novel (GOE 5). As noted earlier, such declarations of destructive impulses are among the key ways in which the Catherines of A Farewell to Arms and The Garden of Eden echo each other. However, while Catherine Barkley’s desire “to ruin” Frederic remains a mere wish, Catherine Bourne’s destruction is given as a promise—one she pursues with much greater intent than her predecessor—solidified in her final, infamous destruction of David’s manuscripts. While Catherine Barkley merely expresses a desire to destroy — “I wantto ruin you” —Catherine Bourne makes it clear that she has no intention of seeing her own desire go unfulfilled, instead promising, “I’m going todestroy you” (emphases mine, FTA 305, GOE 5). Moreover, Catherine Bourne continues to elaborate, promising to enact such a memorable—however unnamed—act of destruction that it will warrant “a plaque up on the wall of the building outside the room. I’m going to wake up in the night and do something to you that you’ve never seen or heard of or imagined” (GOE 5). Certainly there is, as Eby identifies, “something sinister” at work beneath this “playful and loving” banter (“Literary Jealousy and Destruction” 99).
However, unlike the many critics that have cast Catherine as the successor to serpentine evil in the Garden of Eden mythology, I see this “something sinister” as not so much Satanic as it is Lacanian. As Eby contends, “Almost the entire psychosexual content of The Garden of Edencan be found in A Farewell to Arms, only expressed more subtly” (“Reading Hemingway Backwards” 109). Among these psychosexual parallels, I again point to the death drive as the underlying force through which to trace and explain Catherine Bourne’s destructive impulses, uniting her with Catherine Barkley in their shared pursuit of psychic wholeness.
Just as Catherine Barkley’s insistent desire to merge with Frederic renders her destructive impulses toward him in fact self-destructive, so does Catherine Bourne’s insistence on twinning and merger with David transform her acts of destruction into those of self-destruction. Like Catherine Barkley, who loves Frederic so much she wants to be him, Catherine Bourne longs for a total merger with her husband in which “you can’t tell who is who” (GOE 17). Catherine Bourne’s insistence on matching haircuts and even referring to David as “Catherine” suggests that, like Catherine Barkley, Catherine Bourne wants to beher husband. And, according to some interpretations, she is. Eby presents a reading that figures Catherine and David as two halves of a divided ego—namely, Hemingway’s ego. According to Eby, “Both David and Catherine are, of course, reflections of Hemingway’s imagination and different aspects of his psyche,” with Catherine Bourne representing “Hemingway’s split-off other-sex alter-ego” (“Literary Jealousy and destruction” 104). Significantly, Eby repeats almost this exact parlance in his analysis of A Farewell to Arms as “a book about the onset of Hemingway’s fetishism and the birth of ‘Catherine’ as the split-off other-sex half of his ego” (“Reading Hemingway Backwards” 109). This reading, as Eby elaborates, “helps us to understand why Catherine and Frederic want to ‘be’ each other—for on some level, as emblems of two halves of a divided ego, they already are” (111). Thus, Catherine’s destructive actions—though certainly more egregious than those of her predecessor—do not constitute acts of vengeance or jealousy against her husband so much as they do a desperate attempt to escape the symbolic and restore unity through merger with the other half of her divided ego.
Whether or not we accept Eby’s biographical approach, the figuration of Catherine and David as two halves of a divided ego—Hemingway’s or otherwise—can help align Catherine’s destructive impulses with the death drive. As one half of a divided ego, Catherine belongs to a world of separation and fractured identity. Like Catherine Barkley, who desires to return to the earlier state of wholeness she enjoyed with her fiancé by merging with Frederic, Catherine Bourne’s death drive manifests in her desire to restore psychic wholeness through merger with the other half of her fractured identity. For Catherine Barkley, this earlier state of wholeness is represented by her relationship with her late fiancé, who predeceases the novel and evades symbolic participation in Frederic’s narrative. For Catherine Bourne, this “earlier” state of psychic wholeness has a more literal Freudian parallel, corresponding to the androgyny of infancy.
Queer experimentation and androgyny are among the most notable motifs that first appear in A Farewell to Arms, where they are stunted by “a greater degree of condensation, displacement, and symbolization,” only to resurface relatively uncensored in The Garden of Eden(“Reading Hemingway Backwards” 109). Pointing to Catherine Barkley’s fascination with merger, desire for twin haircuts, and momentary allusion to lesbianism — “I wish I’d stayed with all your girls” — Debra Moddelmog notes that “there is more than an implication in A Farewell to Arms that gender transgressions and reversals of traditional male and female roles during sex lie beneath the androgynous fusion of two parts into one whole” (FTA 299, Moddelmog 18). What is perhaps “more than an implication” in A Farewell to Armsbecomes a blatant portrayal in The Garden of Eden, with Catherine Bourne actually completing many of the queer experiments to which Catherine Barkley only alludes. Catherine Bourne “changes from a girl into a boy and back to a girl carelessly and happily” (GOE 31). She successfully convinces David to get the matching, androgynous haircuts that Catherine Barkley proposes, with little response, to Frederic. In her sexual relationship with Marita, Catherine Bourne even “stays with” one of David’s girls.
In Freudian psychoanalysis, androgyny is pre-symbolic, reflective of the infant’s pre-linguistic state of “polymorphous perversity.” Thus, Catherine’s desire for androgyny becomes a manifestation of her death drive. Her queer experimentation constitutes an attempt to return to an earlier, pre-symbolic state of wholeness and unity characterized by androgyny. This death-driven fascination with androgyny can also help explain Catherine’s ultimate act of destruction: the burning of David’s manuscripts. The honeymoon narrative that Catherine prefers, and which she played some role in the creation of, is “androgynously conceived,” while the African narrative that she destroys is a “masculine narrative” from which she is excluded (Burwell 199). Catherine destroys the masculine text in order to restore and preserve the androgynous wholeness of the honeymoon narrative.
Catherine’s death drive also surfaces in her almost overtly Lacanian fascination with mirrors. A recurring motif throughout The Garden of Eden, the use of mirrors has notable parallels in related Hemingway texts as well, including A Farewell to Arms and the short story “The Sea Change.” In The Garden of Eden, Catherine expresses a desire for a bar mirror at the hotel: “A bar’s no good without a mirror…Then we can all see each other when we talk rot and know how rotty it is. You can’t fool a bar mirror” (GOE 103). In basic Lacanian ideology, the mirror stage is a pre-symbolic state in which infants respond to a seemingly coherent image of wholeness reflected in the mirror. Catherine’s obsession with mirrors reflects her desire to return to this earlier state. Seeing herself as the split-off half of a divided ego, Catherine—like the pre-symbolic infant—responds to and craves the image of wholeness in the mirror. Incorporating French feminism, Kathy Willingham perhaps best outlines Catherine’s relationship to mirrors in the Lacanian register:
Catherine’s inability to access language, or to enter into the Symbolic smoothly, in the Lacanian sense, is further reinforced by Catherine’s obsession for gazing into mirrors. She is so fascinated with observing herself that she suggests purchasing a mirror to hang in the bar so that the three of them “can all see each other when we talk rot and know how rotty it is. You can’t fool a bar mirror.” Cixous repeatedly speaks of alienation from the symbolic as advantageous, and Catherine’s interest in mirrors shows a similar satisfaction with existence in the imaginary or pre-symbolic condition. (52)
For Catherine, then, mirrors are a way to transcend the symbolic and access the Lacanian “real.”
For David, however, mirrors are a source of distress and dissociation. “It’s when I start looking quizzical in one that I know I’ve lost,” he tells Catherine (GOE103). Indeed, like the unnamed young man in “The Sea Change,” who looks into the bar mirror and sees “a different man,” David often finds himself “looking quizzical” in mirrors (“The Sea Change” 401). David resists mirrors because, as pre-symbolic, they challenge patriarchal constructions of meaning. As a writer, David deals in the symbolic, and recognizes that Catherine’s death drive is in direct opposition to linguistic creation. Calling on Sarah Webster Goodwin and Elizabeth Bronfen’s argument in Death and Representation, DeRosa explains the conflict between the death drive and symbolic representation: “‘Representations are fantasies of wholeness, invented to protect each human being from confronting an initial traumatic experience that installed them in the first place as split-off meanings, as re-presented.’ Thus, any encounter with the real is an encounter with the realm outside of representation; representations and death are always in direct opposition” (DeRosa 28). For David, then, merger with Catherine is a threat to the symbolic order, which of course includes his own writing. He wants to resist merging with Catherine and instead maintain the separation that, in Lacanian theory, makes language possible. For this reason, David is compelled to dissociate when he looks into mirrors, seeing “someone else” and resisting the psychic wholeness of the imaginary that threatens the male symbolic order of separation and difference (GOE 84). Frederic, too, experiences similar instances of dissociation when confronted with mirrors in A Farewell to Arms. While Catherine Barkley expresses her desire “to do something really sinful” as she combs her hair in front of the mirror, Frederic shows resistance and dissociation around mirrors, at various points throughout the novel regarding his own reflected image as “strange” or “fake” (FTA153, 258, 311, 319). For Catherine Barkley, like Catherine Bourne, the mirror is a way of accessing the death drive. For the men with whom they seek to merge in order to reclaim the imaginary, however, mirrors pose a threat to the male symbolic order. Unlike Catherine Barkley, Catherine Bourne thwarts this male resistance with the successful installation of the hotel bar mirror, foreshadowing her consummate challenge to the patriarchal order through her destruction of David’s manuscripts.
This reading has alluded to a number of ways in which Catherine Bourne successfully consummates the unfulfilled desires of Catherine Barkley. In The Garden of Eden, Catherine Bourne fulfills Catherine Barkley’s haircut fantasy and engages in physical acts of twinning and gender bending instead of mere verbal expressions of metaphorical oneness. Finally, in her most infamous act of destruction, Catherine Bourne destroys David’s manuscripts, successfully issuing a challenge to the symbolic order in which her predecessor remains imprisoned.
While Catherine’s destructive impulses are infamous, they cannot entirely obscure her creative ones, however stunted. Catherine frequently expresses a frustrated desire for creative output, comparing her inability to paint and write to an insatiable hunger she is powerless to quench (GOE 53). Despite Catherine’s own doubts, critics have noted that her creativity is not simply abortive, but rather seeks other outlets. Eby explains that “Catherine and David’s creativities work very differently—largely in different psychological registers” (“Literary Jealousy and Destruction” 101). Taking a Lacanian approach, Eby claims that Catherine “creates in the register of the imaginary; David in the symbolic. Her imagination is driven by identification; David’s by representation. She stresses the signified; David the signifier” (100). What Eby neglects to emphasize, however, is that these creative differences are not merely personal, but gendered. As Willingham points out, Catherine lacks “full access to the traditionally male-controlled tool of literature” because of her gender (47).
In Lacanian theory, entry into the symbolic is made possible by the “law of the father” or the “father’s no.” When the imaginary is disrupted by threat of castration in Lacan’s refiguring of the Oedipus complex, the father’s opposition to the son’s incestuous desire for the mother thrusts the child out of the imaginary and into the symbolic. Thus, the symbolic realm is inherently patriarchal. As a woman, Catherine Bourne is excluded from male-centric structures of meaning, and instead “employs a language which clearly opposes phallogocentric discourse” (Willingham 59). In destroying David’s manuscripts, Catherine seeks to both annihilate the patriarchal order of language from which she has been excluded, as well as to abolish the male text that separates her from David and thwarts her efforts to merge with him in pre-symbolic wholeness. What is often viewed as a jealous attack on the husband is actually a desperate, self-destructive act intended to thrust both Catherine and David out of the symbolic so they can merge and restore the wholeness of a single, undivided ego.
In this physical attack on the symbolic order, Catherine Bourne exhibits some influence from her earliest predecessor, Catherine Earnshaw. In Wuthering Heights, DeRosa notes Catherine Earnshaw’s “aversion to to the printed word,” pointing to a scene in which a ghostly Catherine pushes aside a pile of books Lockwood has assembled in an attempt to prevent her entry into his bed: “While she can manage to thrust the books protecting Lockwood aside, thereby demonstrating her control over the texts, she is also in thrusting them aside destroying the barrier that separates her from Lockwood; and Lockwood, as stand-in for Heathcliff, is precisely the ‘other’ to whom Catherine wishes to connect” (31). Like Catherine Earnshaw, who violently thrusts aside text in an attempt to merge with another in the pre-symbolic, Catherine Bourne’s destruction of David’s manuscript is an attempt to destroy the story that has literally created a fissure in their marriage, as well as to destroy the patriarchal system of language that ruptured the psychic wholeness of the imaginary to which she wishes to return.
Catherine Bourne, of course, does not succeed in abolishing the symbolic order. In fact, in the novel’s uncharacteristically optimistic ending, both David and the text appear to make a full recovery, with David rewriting the stories in a triumphant blaze of reclaimed authority. Catherine’s challenge to the symbolic, however, does seem to authorize her participation in the patriarchal discourse she seeks to subvert. Despite an earlier lamentation that she “can’t even write a letter,” Catherine does write a letter to David at the end of the novel, one he even acknowledges as moving (GOE 53, 237). Conversely, Catherine Barkley remembers on her deathbed that she meant to write Frederic a letter, but “didn’t do it” (FTA330). Once again, Catherine Bourne succeeds where Catherine Barkley fails. Through her subversive efforts, Catherine Bourne successfully navigates the symbolic in a way that neither of her predecessors—whose deaths render them imprisoned in the symbolic realm of narrative—manage.
Catherine Bourne’s literal survival, then, emerges as another key way in which she triumphs over her predecessors. As noted, both Catherine Earnshaw and Catherine Barkley die in childbirth. By contrast, Catherine Bourne not only survives her narrative, but in fact struggles to conceive. Viewed in light of the Lacanian significance of dying in childbirth, Catherine Bourne’s failure to conceive becomes yet another way in which she triumphs over the patriarchal systems that lead the other Catherines to their demise. In basic Lacanian ideology, as outlined by Doreen Fowler, a child enters the realm of the symbolic and acquires language by becoming aware of difference and separating from the mother. If separation from the mother is the key to the symbolic realm, then “the murder of the mother is constructed as positive step toward establishing identity,” (317). This Lacanian tradition of symbolic matricide can help explain why both Catherine Earnshaw and Catherine Barkley die in childbirth. Catherine Bourne, however, escapes this fate. While critics often figure Bourne’s failure or inability to conceive as symptomatic of her other creative failures: “She finds that she can’t even have what she calls ‘a damned baby’” (“Literary Jealousy and Destruction” 100), I read Catherine’s childlessness as yet another way in which she successfully thwarts the patriarchal order.
As a survivor, Catherine Bourne is able to successfully exit the narrative. Her last appearance in the novel is in her letter, through which she briefly takes control of the narrative before fleeing it. She does not remain imprisoned in the symbolic order via a man’s first-person narrative, like both Catherine Earnshaw and Catherine Barkley, whose death-driven attempts to escape the symbolic only render them immortalized in the writing of male narrators. Catherine Bourne does not literally succumb to her death drive—at least not in the current published edition of the novel. She does not become yet another ghostly Catherine trapped in a haunted text. In her successful navigation of the symbolic, Catherine Bourne manages to both escape and survive.
It would be easy enough to write off Hemingway’s repetition of the name Catherine as mere coincidence. It is, after all, a common name. It could even be argued that Hemingway was only using the familiar name as a place holder, and would have changed it before the novel’s publication. However, as Eby points out, it is clear that Hemingway spent a lot of time thinking about the name Catherine, both within and outside of his fictional pursuits. It was the name he used for himself when exploring his own other-sex alter-ego, and he also considered repeating the name yet again on another character in theGarden of Eden manuscript, even toying with the working title “The Two Catherines” (“Literary Jealousy and Destruction” 104).
Clearly, the name Catherine implied an inherent doubleness for Hemingway, one that I think can perhaps trace the whispers of its origins to Emily Brontë’s original tale of two Catherines. As alluded to earlier, Wuthering Heightsis itself a novel of “two Catherines” —Catherine Earnshaw and her daughter Catherine Linton. And just as Catherine Earnshaw “is” Heathcliff, Hemingway’s Catherine Barkley “is” Frederic, and Catherine Bourne, in turn, “is” David. Thus, if Catherine Bourne is the serpentine destroyer of Eden, it is not out of jealous vengeance against her husband. Her destructive impulses echo a long literary tradition of desperate attempts to reclaim the other half of the self.
Alexander, Christine and Margaret Smith. “Wuthering Heights, A Novel.” The Oxford Companion to the Brontës. Oxford UP, 2003. pp. 553-561.
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Eby, Carl P. “Reading Hemingway Backwards.” Teaching Hemingway and Gender ed. by Verna Kale (review).” The Hemingway Review, vol. 37 no. 1, 2017, pp. 104-114. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/hem.2017.0025
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World war one is a defining part of history worldwide, lasting from 1914 to 1918. Although America only joined the war in 1917, its effects were inescapable, and consequently the war is alluded to in many works of literature from the time. The war was actually economically good for America – profits from munitions production and technological advances actually raised the living standards of many ordinary Americans. However, for those experiencing the true horror on the front line, the war was far from beneficial, creating emotional scars far deeper than physical battlefield wounds.
Many authors writing in America after the war were able to draw on their own first hand experiences to influence their writing. For example, F.Scott Fitzgerald trained to be a soldier and whilst doing so, met his future wife Zelda. This undoubtedly influenced his writing of ‘The Great Gatsby’ where, with the invisible cloak of his uniform draped across his shoulders, Gatsby was able to met Daisy. Other authors had similar war-time experiences, but reflect this far more negatively in their own works of literature, such as Ernest Hemingway, an ambulance driver during the war, and, Edith Wharton who provided relief for wounded soldiers and army personnel in Paris.
In the Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton makes subtle reference to the war and its effects that will follow the setting of the novel. Although written in 1920, the book is set in 1870, allowing Wharton to reflect with hindsight on the period before the world wide devastation what would soon follow. Arguably, this helps to explain the books title – Wharton, reflecting and experiencing the legacy of world in “A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway presents a similar view. Through metaphors of natural imagery, the people, had their innocence tarnished by the war. For example, the water had previously been “clear” and “blue” and “sparkling”, but the war left behind its legacy of “mud” and “cholera”.
In the “Great Gatsby”, Fitzgerald presents the war as a positive thing for Jay. Gatsby had “done well out of the war”, experiencing may opportunities such as going to Oxford and meeting Daisy. Although this does not necessarily work out well in the end, Hemingways portrayal of the legacy of the war in “A Farewell toArms” is arguably more realistic. The war is spoken about very matter of factly, including details not explored in Gatsby. Rather than providing opportunities, the war is totally destructive. Catherines fiancée was “blown all to bits”, and whilst the protagonist gets to meet Catherine, she is soon whisked away by an Italian officer, leaving us with the impression that the war may not be as good for individuals, as it is for the country as a whole.
Wealth is an inescapable theme within America Literature linking closely with many others, such as the American Dream, class and freedom. Books such as “The Great Gatsby” and “The Age of Innocence” written in the roaring twenties, when consumerisom was booming, living standards were rising and Americas economy was on the up. However, there was still a large divide between the “haves” and the “have nots”, who were still struggling to survive.
In “The Great Gatsby” wealth is an extremely poignant theme. The divide between those already wealthy and those in poverty is explicitly shown in the differences between those in the valley of Ashes and those in East and West Egg. For example, George and Myrtle are desperate to obtain wealth and escape the “eyes” of T.J Eckleberg in the valley of Ashes. Surrounded by cruel reminders of the lives of the rich, such as the “railway” that passes through the garage, both work hard to better themselves. George in the garage and Myrtle with Tom. Tom and Daisy represent the alternative lifestyle. Rather than struggling to make money, they are so inherently rich that Daisy’s voice is “full of money” and the couple can “retreat back in their money” when things aren’t going well. However, in the novel, Fitzgerald also expresses the divide between the wealthy – those of the “new money” in a west egg and the “old money” of East egg. Consequently, although Gatsby has struggled and worked to make his money, he will never be seen as being as inherently wealthy as Tom and Daisy by some.
Similarly, in the Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton represents money and wealth as being a continuing presence and factor in the lives of her characters in 1870’s upper class New York. However, whilst characters such as Newland Archer are in the same position as Tom and Daisy and have not had to struggle like Gatsby to obtain their wealth, they must instead fight to maintain it. “The New York of Newland” Archers day was a small and slippery pyramid full of “hypocrisy” and as a result, the characters must fight to stay on top of the “pyramid of Wealth” or risk being excommunicated from their high society. This alludes to Edith Whartons and overall message as being one that money and the struggle for wealth is detrimental in society. A similar message is also presented by Mark Twain in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. The novel makes multiple connections to the Californian Gold Rush of the 1800’s, in which many men took great risks to try and obtain the rewards of wealth that come with finding gold. In the book, money is presented as being largely negative, with gold being described as “looking awful all piled up”. The concept of the desire to get wealth is also shown as being bad for society, with there being a “reward of 200 dollars” on certain members of society, encouraging others to betray other members of society for their own economic gain.
.In this era of American Literature, freedom was something with a different meaning of many Americans in different groups of society. For example, black Americans struggling to escape the fetters of slavery and its legacy, lower class Americans fighting to escape poverty, or ordinary Americans just wanting to break free from the entrapments of society along with its class systems and social codes. Consequently, this underlying desire for freedom and the search for the meaning of it has found its way in to many great works of American Literature.
In “The Great Gatsby”, F.Scott Fitzgerald presents almost every character as having their own individual struggle to attain their own personal definitions of freedom. For example, Myrtle and George’s desire to escape the Valley of Ashes and Daisy’s desire to be free from Tom, or arguably just the social class and stigma that she became a part of when she married him, Daisy expresses these feelings to Nick at their reunion very early of the novel, telling him her boredom of the entrapments of her gender and class “will show you how I’ve gotten to feel about things”. However, no characters reach these ideals suggesting Fitzgeralds view is that most meanings of freedom are unreachable. It is also interesting that freedom in the novel takes many forms, e.g. from gender, from society.In the “Age of Innocence”, Wharton presents similar view. Newland feels so entrapped by the rules of his society he feels “already dead”. “Archer felt like a prisoner” so much so that he marries May, someone who he does not genuinely love and forsakes his affair with Ellen Olenska, his true desire. In “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, Twain presents a similar view on freedom Huck wants to be free from his father and describes feeling “free and easy and comfortable on a raft”. This idea suggests the meaning of freedom is to escape from him personally, which can translate to American Literature as a whole.
Ernest Hemingway is praised for his mastery of language and descriptions but his shortcomings are prevalent in his portrayal of female characters that are constantly defiled by his male ideals. In his novel A Farewell to Arms, his female characters are shown as subordinate objects who are helpless without a man by their side. The main female role, Catherine Barkley, is used as a major plot element for the development of the main character, yet, she is portrayed as a desperate and frail woman, making her a representation of sexist beliefs. Throughout the story her ultimate goal was to be in love with and be loved by Frederic Henry, the main protagonist. She sacrificed much of herself for the promise of being with him. However, Henry only saw her as an escape from his troubles and used her as a distraction to avoid his problems throughout the novel. In this way, Hemingway sought to create a picturesque relationship between a man and a women but in doing so he disregarded feminist ideology to create his own perfect woman. Hemingway’s masculine view of “the perfect woman,” shown through A Farewell to Arms by the weak and underdeveloped character Catherine Barkley, was a product of his failures with women in his life and his quintessential vision of a woman’s role towards a man.
Hemingway’s paragon women for men were characterized with weak traits as shown through Catherine. According to Hemingway’s ideals, a perfect woman is one who is “unduly coy, whose posture of trembling helplessness is simply a way of disguising what she… ought to want” (Fetterley 58). This states, women act weak in order to get what they “ought to want,” or, a man. This ideal points out that a woman’s ultimate goal should be to get a man so they will not be helpless anymore. She will be able to serve some use with a man by their side so she must act accordingly to obtain a man. When Hemingway writes Catherine explaining, “You’re my religion. You’re all I’ve got,” he supports the point that women want and need men by their side (Hemingway 116). Catherine is the portrayal of this ideal woman because, as shown in this quote, she willingly sacrifices herself in order to devote herself to Henry, like a religion where one would sacrifice for a god. Henry is able to act like her knight in shining armor and ultimately rescue her from herself because, as she has shown, she is nothing without him. Many demeaning traits including helplessness and submission were shown in Catherine’s character to reflect Hemingway’s paragon. He portrayed that women need a man to depend on so, in turn, they do not mind being subordinate. Hemingway made Catherine weak and submissive in order to satisfy his fantasy since the modern women in his life could not achieve these standards.
Hemingway tried to convey Catherine with purity by giving her redeeming qualities that reflected feminine concepts but her submissive traits ultimately made her look desperate. Hemingway describes Catherine as a hardworking nurse and even explains that she was once engaged. Being unmarried builds on her image of purity even though she grieves her fiancé’s death. Additionally, being a nurse subjects her to being a noble woman who is always dressed in white. The image of pureness is supported by this white attire as it serves as “a symbol of her purity” (Recla 14). Recla notes, “The women are constantly reassuring their men that they are good girls and normal. Catherine Barkley wants to be the good wife and Frederic’s other half” (Recla 21). She was always trying to prove to Henry she was a “good girl” which made her noble but desperate for Henry’s acceptance. This is shown when she states, “I know I’ve made trouble now. But haven’t I always been a good girl until now?” (Hemingway 138). Her constant pursuance of Henry makes readers see her as desperate rather than pure as Hemingway intended. She feels she has to be prove her worth for Henry which eliminates her purity of being a “good girl” and highlights her persistently needy nature. Catherine puts all her energy into pleasing Henry and disregards her well being as shown when she overworks during the night-shifts just to be with Henry. This makes her seem obsessed in winning Henry’s affection as she neglects her well being to be with him. Although the counter points out this is intended to set up a romantic mood, this belittles Catherine into nothing more than a prop for the progression of romance. Thus, even with this conjecture, Catherine symbolize the masculine ideal of a female that views women as objects of affection and distractions whose purpose is to sacrifice for men. Although Hemingway used pure qualities to characterize Catherine, her desperation and submissiveness further made her an idealized women of his masculine view.
Catherine’s most prominent trait, being submissive to Henry in order to win his attention, striped her of any individuality she had. Catherine wanted to be with Henry so she let go of all she knew to be solely focused on him. She readily gave up her own will as shown when Hemingway writes, “I want what you want. There isn’t any me anymore. Just what you want.” (Hemingway 106). Catherine gave up the ability to make her own choices and promised obedience to Henry. This submission made her dependent on Henry’s will and proved even she saw herself as lesser than him. Furthermore, Hemingway writes of Catherine always wanting to be associated with Henry as she says, “There isn’t any me. I’m you. Don’t make up a separate me,” (Hemmingway 115). Catherine sacrificed herself and her individuality when she said “there isn’t any me.” She did not consider herself her own person, rather, a belonging of Henry’s. Additionally, she preferred to be referred as a “we” which supports the idea that she wanted only to be with Henry. She was content giving up her individuality in hopes of receiving Henry’s love. This submission gave Henry full control over Catherine which reflects another one of Hemingway’s ideals in a woman.
Another flaw in Hemingway’s portrayal of Catherine was that he did not fully develop her as a character. Much of Catherine’s personality was based on the general image of women which included stereotypes and gender roles. Other traits had to be interpreted by the reader rather than having a clear grasp of her character. Recla states, “Catherine Barkley’s appearance is rarely described” and, “the lack of detail about the appearance of Catherine Barkley helps to create the shallow, half portrait of a woman” (Recla 16). The reader had to assume many things about Catherine’s appearance and personality because we were not given insight into her thoughts and opinion. Additionally, since Henry was the narrator and our window to Catherine’s character, his biased view only provided this “shallow” view of her. He never described her thoughts or specific traits and only pointed out her beauty and loveliness. Recla also points out, “characters maintaining gender specific roles of male provider and female nurturer” (Recla 25). By using generalized roles of the female to characterize Catherine, she did not have distinguishing traits separating her from the common woman. In turn, she was a stereotypical women who wanted to be in love. Catherine was not a fully developed character due to Hemingway’s use of gender roles and stereotypes which contributed to her poor portrayal.
Catherine’s portrayal is heavily based on Hemingway’s masculine values because his negative encounters with women inspired him to create a woman who expressed his ideal standards. Hemingway had many wives and affairs with some of his affairs lasting longer than his marriages. So, Hemingway did now have a positive outlook on women in general, they were replaceable and good distractions at best. Sanderson states, “Hemingway’s fictive women may be seen as his wishful makeover of modern women” (Sanderson 176). Hemingway incorporated the ideals he wished in a women in order to create his own perfect woman because the women in his life failed to meet these standards. Thus, his female characters turned into a “wishful makeover,” since the women in his life left bad impressions on him. For example, Sanderson describes, “His father’s suicide… reminded him of the failure of his parent’s marriage, a failure Hemingway blamed on his mother’s bullying and on his father’s inability to stand up to her”(Sanderson 182). His mother’s authoritative manner, which had caused his father’s demise, made Hemmingway dislike power in women. Instead, he felt the male should be dominant and in control of a relationship. This swayed him into wanting a weak and dependent woman who obeyed male authority. These ideas, along with many others, are reflected into Catherine to make her the ideal woman in Hemingway’s eyes. The women in his life were not able to satisfy what he glorified as womanly so, instead, he embedded his ideal traits into Catherine.
One explanation to why Hemingway portrayed women so poorly could be because he did not grasp the feminine concept of women yet. Hemingway had endured much heartbreak in his love life and he did not look kindly on strong women as shown by his negative attitude towards his mother. His failed marriages prompted him to develop ideas of what a woman should be like rather than what they can be like. By favoring the weak traits in women so men could assume control, Hemingway began to form his masculine ideal by neglecting the feminine approach. This resulted in his inaccurate portrayals of women. Catherine Barkly’s simplistic traits support that Hemingway did not know how to create a proper female character yet. Recla states, “Hemingway had not yet developed the insight into the feminine he needed to truly create a complex characterization of Catherine Barkley” (Recla 15). His use of generalized roles and flat traits of submission supports that Hemingway did not know how to portray a woman yet. Instead, he used society’s portrayal since he could not develop his own. However, this societal view ended up making Catherine frail and submissive. He was not able to create a full and strong character because he did not appreciate the feminine view which resulted in a negative portrayal of Catherine Barkley. Hemingway used his masculine ideas of the ideal woman to create Catherine because he did not understand the feminine perspective yet.
In summation, Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms shows us his portrayal of the ideal women with the character of Catherine who was shown as weak and not fully developed. Catherine not only expressed traits that belittled herself like desperation and submission, but also left the reader guessing about her personality and appearance. This made her and underdeveloped as a character. This may have been due to the fact that Hemingway did not understand the feminine scope enough to portray her correctly. Additionally, he was heavily influenced by society and people in his life. His inability to stay with a woman made him give Catherine traits he wished in a woman. Plus, his mother’s traits made him dislike women of authority which explains why Catherine was so submissive. Overall, Catherine was portrayed as frail because she was the outcome of Hemingway’s ideas of the perfect woman for a man.
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Sanderson, Rena. “Hemingway and gender history.” The Cambridge Companion to Hemingway (1996): 170-196
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In 1929, Ernest Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms. During this era, there were many books centered on the Great War. Percy Hutchinson, a contemporary writer for the New York Times, predicted that Hemingway’s book “[…] is to be given classification, [it] belongs to the rapidly crowding shelf of war novels.” While many other authors, however, focused on the bravery and sacrifices of war, Hemingway wrote his novel from a different perspective. Hemingway broke away from the norm and instead used literary forms to shed light on different aspects of war. Hemingway’s use of irony in A Farewell to Arms gives valuable insight into the reality of war, from the perspective of an apathetic soldier. Frederic Henry, the main character in Hemingway’s story, is an enigma. His dialogue and actions are constantly contradicting each other, and he frequently finds himself in surprising situations. For example, Henry seems to give little thought to the Italian army or even the war itself. He carries himself nonchalantly, yet he volunteered to be in his current situation. The audience would expect a volunteer to be zealous and dedicated, but it appears that Henry is only there for the booze and women. This contradiction is even more unusual when one considers his role in the army. Henry was an officer in the ambulance corps. He was responsible for those injured and wounded on the battlefield. More than this obvious role, ambulances played a greater charge in the war. Moss and Wilson clarify: “The immediate and effective evacuation of the wounded not only avoided the permanent loss of many soldiers’ battlefield services, but also helped the morale of those who remained fighting.” More than a medical taxi service, the ambulances served as a beacon of hope and faith for the men on the front lines. Henry obviously had an important part in the war, but still seemed uncaring about the events around him. Henry and Catherine enter into a relationship, and at one point in the novel, Catherine gives Henry a St. Anthony medal to protect him while he is on the battlefield. Not long after, Henry is injured while in the trenches. Regardless of Catherine’s attempts to keep Henry safe, he is nonetheless injured. Even in the midst of this debilitating injury, however, Henry still cannot seem to take the situation seriously. He jokes with his doctors about amputating his leg so that it can be replaced with a hook. Ordinarily, people react to near death experiences with a somber and earnest attitude. Henry’s attitude is the complete opposite of what the audience would expect in this kind of situation. Dodman speculates that there is more to Henry’s manner than indifference. He writes that, “His perceptions of his wounding experience emphasize the passivity and helplessness of his situation.” It is probable that Henry’s attitude was a mental defense mechanism against the horrors of his current environment. His apathy was not just created in order to contrast the seriousness of the world around him. After becoming involved with Catherine, Henry is all too eager to escape the war he volunteered for. This change of heart initially seems extreme – after all, he fought in the war by choice, not because of a draft. As demonstrated, however, Henry had no real, personal stake in the war, regardless of the important role he played. He and Catherine exhibited some semblance of guilt and responsibility, but brushed off their feelings of remorse. They excused their abandonment by rationalizing that it was only the Italian army. Their blasé demeanor, however, does not settle well with the audience, giving the impression that there is more than what meets the eye. In her article, Heather Lansdown speculates, “Henry’s need to escape the cruel reality of the war in A Farewell to Arms also depicts his need to escape the cruel reality of life.” There is truth to this insight. After Henry’s knee was injured, he discovered what it would be like, being with Catherine, without the backdrop of the war. It is entirely plausible that after this small taste of “what if”, Henry looked for any excuse to take him away from the war. By escaping the war, he also escaped the sight of bloodied and injured soldiers. Catherine escaped the memories of her fiancé dying. By understating Henry and Catherine’s reactions to abandoning the war, Hemingway emphasizes the grand impact of their action. Hemingway is known for his distinct style. Cynthia Giles writes, “He always stressed the importance of providing ‘facts’ and allowing the readers to fill in the emotions. By selecting just the right facts and then presenting them with apparent objectivity, Hemingway’s narrators often frame events to create a camera-like effect.” The “Hemingway Effect” in A Farewell to Arms is apparent in some of the ironic situations Henry finds himself in. Early in the story, Henry promises Fergy that he will not get Catherine into trouble. By the end of the novel, however, they abandoned the war, lied to policemen in order to enter Switzerland, had a child out of wedlock, and Catherine died. Henry may have fully intended to keep Catherine out of trouble, but once again, a series of events occurred and Henry contradicted what was expected to happen. Regardless of good intentions, Henry was unable to keep his promise because of the world around them. If not for the war, the couple could have married and lived happily, without having to worry for their lives. Hemingway uses small instances such as this to illustrate the magnitude of the Great War and the power it has over Catherine, Henry, and their lives. The brutality of war is also demonstrated during the time Henry is recovering from his leg surgery. It is at this point in time that Henry and Catherine’s mutual interest blooms into an abounding relationship. As previously stated, the couple got to be together without worrying about the war around them. This is the only time in the novel that Catherine and Henry get to be together, without overwhelming complications. While they are enjoying their bliss, however, the war raged on and grew in intensity. By the time Henry returns to the front, the Italian army is much weaker and the future is murkier. Ramos concludes, “In Book Three, Henry goes back to the front and understands his place in the war. He saw the true vision of the war, and he becomes sick of it and finished with fighting for a nation that is not even his own; Henry is well content to make his ‘farewell to arms’ and to desert his post in the Italian army.” No longer is the Great War just a backdrop to the novel; the war becomes a character and force in itself, opposing Frederic Henry’s resolve to leave. The irony in this section intensifies because Henry comes closest to death after he has decided to leave the war for Catherine and Switzerland. The final source of irony in A Farewell to Arms lies within the birth of Henry and Catherine’s child. The couple, who overcame so much, were finally happy and safe. However, a complicated labor and delivery leaves Henry with a stillborn son and Catherine dead. The day his son was born should have been the happiest day of his life. Instead, it was filled with more pain and anguish than he ever could have imagined. As A.E. Sundstrom so eloquently phrased it, “While the two survived the war and escaped the country, it was the birth of a child – an occasion that should bring joy – that ended their love.” The ultimately irony of Catherine and Henry’s love is that in the end, it died, just as Catherine did in that hospital bed. Despite everything that the pair went through, it was meaningless in the end. Hemingway never sought to romanticize the Great War or imply that each of his characters would receive a happy ending. By the end of the book, Henry seems to be surrounded by a war that will never leave him. He changed from being a carefree army officer to a broken man. He has no honor because he deserted the army. He no longer has Catherine’s love because she died. The war was the cruelest character in the story; it brought Henry and Catherine together, and yet destroyed them in the end. The ending of the narrative causes the audience to wonder whether or not Henry would have been better off not joining the Italian army in the first place. Whether the pain and suffering of the war had been worth it for a few moments of beautiful bliss and happiness. In this daunting conjecture, however, the reader comes to the realization that this was Ernest Hemingway’s intention from the beginning. Experiences and tragedies are not something that can be run away from. They stay with us, and they leave a lasting mark on us. The ending also has something to say about the specific nature of the Great War. Even those who didn’t care about the war suffered in indescribable ways. The war was far reaching in the emotional and physical damage it caused. While so many of Hemingway’s contemporaries wrote about the glory and honor of the Great War, Hemingway painted the war as it really was – a heart-breaking force that permanently scarred all involved. “A Farewell to Arms.” Literature and Its Times: Profiles of 300 Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events that Influenced Them. Joyce Moss and George Wilson. Vol. 3: Growth of Empires to the Great Depression (1890-1930s). Detroit: Gale, 1997. 112-118. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 June 2014.Dodman, Trevor. “‘Going all to pieces’: A Farewell to Arms as trauma narrative.” Twentieth Century Literature 52.3 (2006): 249+.Literature Resource Center. Web. 14 June 2014.Hemingway, Ernest, and Cynthia Giles. “A Farewell to Arms.” The Literature of War. Ed. Thomas Riggs. Vol. 3: Impacts. Detroit: St. James Press, 2012. 134-137. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 June 2014.Hutchison, Percy. “Love and War in the Pages of Mr. Hemingway.” Rev. of A Farewell to Arms. The New York Times 29 Sept. 1929: n. pag. Print.Ramos. “Literature.HTML.” Literature.HTML. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2014.