A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Analysis of Part 4 (Chapters 13 - 17)

Many happenings in A Farewell to Arms seem to be absurd, yet are treated as normal occurrences. One such event is the doctor's absence from the hospital. To the reader, it seems outrageous that the doctor should be missing from the hospital at war time. On the other hand, the nurses find nothing unusual here-he is simply at another clinic. It becomes apparent that what the reader expects, i.e. that the doctor be present, is not a natural occurrence so much as a coincidence. In truth, the world is indifferent to such matters.

Catherine recognizes the indifference of the universe, and takes joy in the fact that Henry and herself are both alive and out of immediate danger. "Feel our hearts beating," she says when she sees Henry again for the first time. But Henry does not see the coincidence-to him it is natural that he survive the accident, as he has no real part in the war: "I don't care about our hearts, I want you." Catherine also reminds Henry that they are alive in an effort to ensure that his love is genuine. Out of the war, there is no longer a need to role-play, to pretend they are lovers for sport.

Catherine is, in many ways, the Hemingway code hero of this novel (see Discussion of Themes). This is particularly apparent in chapter 16, when Henry denies sleeping with anyone else and she says "It's all right. Keep right on lying to me. That's what I want you to do." Catherine knows the truth, yet at the same time denies it. She is perfectly capable of holding simultaneously two conflicting thoughts in her head, such as accepting the futility of life while struggling against it. They are, in a sense, role-playing. However, they are also jumping head-first into a relationship and making it work, in a sense fighting the indifferent world. This is especially clear when Catherine notes that "I want what you want. There isn't any me any more." She is giving selflessly to Henry, which, as the priest noted earlier, is true love and the way happiness is achieved.

A final note with regards to a piece of symbolism Hemingway uses to separate two types of characters. In the hospital, the "initiated" (i.e. those that understand the futility of the universe yet struggle against it) and "uninitiated" are separated by their drinking habits. The house doctor and Miss Van Campen do not drink, whereas Miss Gage, Catherine, Rinaldi, and Dr. Valentini all do. Drinking is denounced by most religious and moral institutions and by refusing to drink, the doctor and nurse demonstrate that they adhere to a strict set of principles and beliefs which simply do not exist in the world. Those that do drink adhere to a more personal set of values, such as integrity and companionship. Henry and Catherine must watch out for the former group of people, who will have them thrown out if they are caught having sex. On the other hand, the pair represents the latter-Catherine doesn't think much about the convention of marriage.

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