A Farewell To Arms Symbols
by Ernest Hemingway

Motifs are images, objects or situations that keep reoccurring throughout a story. Symbolism deals with metaphoric substitution.

A Farewell to Armsis strongly saturated in images of nature, many of which serve as recurring motifs throughout the work. Most of them can be found in the first chapter, where Hemingway juxtaposes images of fertility and life against those of death, and this juxtaposition reoccurs in many places throughout the novel. Perhaps the two most prominent symbols in this work are rain and mud. It is raining outside almost every time something bad occurs, such as the army's retreat or Catherine's death, and serves to mark these events as random occurrences (just like rain itself). Similarly, the mud serves as an obstacle to the army in both offensive and retreat, thus demonstrating nature's hostility to man.

Rain also serves as a life-affirming symbol, one which baptizes Henry when he decides to desert the Italian army. In this dual purpose, Hemingway places all control, both curse and blessing, into the hands of the world and not of man. Other symbols include the snow and winter, which contrast the hot, dust-filled battlefield, and the act of drinking alcohol, found in characters who have abandoned social conventions.

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