A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Analysis of Part 2 (Chapters 6 - 9)

Frederic Henry, the protagonist, falls short of being any sort of hero because he doesn't care about what is happening. When he makes love to Catherine without loving her, he mentions that "I didn't care what I was getting into" and "Nobody had mentioned what the stakes were." This lack of concern diminishes him in the reader's mind. With respect to the war itself, he notes, rather naively, that "I knew I would not be killed. Not in this war. It did not have anything to do with me." To Henry, the world is a just one, and that because he cares little about the war the war will ignore him.

Henry's belief in a well-ordered universe is challenged when the dugout is blasted open and he is severely injured. In chapter 9, the reader is handed an indifferent universe on a platter. It is absolutely absurd that a bunch of men should be blown apart while they are eating pasta. Hemingway makes the absurdity clear by spending more time describing the act of eating (53-54) than the exploding shells overhead. It is worthwhile to note, however, that although he is injured, Henry does not quite accept this notion of an indifferent universe. Instead of accepting his fate at the hands of this universe, he cries out to God for mercy.

Passini is the man who most vehemently protests the war, and it is no coincidence that he is the only character to so far die from it. Passini wishes to end the war by quitting it, noting that if the Italians stop fighting, the Austrians "will get tired and go away." Essentially, he has decided not to fight in the war anymore, and there is an implication that he dies because he has quit the struggle. Hemingway sets up the war as a metaphor for life: it is crude and indifferent to the beings who participate in it. However, all the participants can do is struggle against what is set upon them. Passini, because he refuses to take part in that absurdity, is killed.

A final image of futility in opposing the war is found in the old man with the hernia lying by the side of the road. The man has done everything possible to get out of the army, but his own efforts (as well as Henry's assistance) are futile, and he is dragged back.