Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms - Apathy or Self Preservation?

1037 Words Jun 22nd, 2018 5 Pages
A Farewell to Arms: Apathy or Self Preservation?

Lieutenent Frederic Henry goes through hell in Hemingway's celebrated pacifist novel, A Farewell to Arms, yet as each crisis sweeps him along, it doesn't seem to quite register. He tells the story a decade later which could partly explain the baldness of statements like this one: "But [the cholera] was checked and in the end only seven thousand died of it in the army" (4). He describes the horrors of war in bare and matter-of-fact tones while waxing most eloquent about the countryside or food and drink. He often even recounts times spent with Catherine in a flat and uninflected voice. Is he simply a passive observer, content to let the traumas of war buffet him from one place and
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True to his training, Henry does his best to keep his drivers and cars together, even shooting a deserting Italian sergeant in the back. But during the ensueing nightmarish attempt to escape both the oncoming German army and the panicking Italians who are now shooting anyone not obviously Italian (and this certainly includes Henry), the man who does his job and doesn't ask questions, emerges from the river having "made a separate peace" (243).

Frederic Henry walks away from the war, finds Catherine and escapes to Switzerland where they spend the winter playing chess, eating and drinking and making love. Catherine delights in their isolation and if Henry chafes at the inactivity, he never admits to it. He describes their wintertime of sanctuary in great detail; sharing the weather, the tastes and smells and sights of this last oasis. The story is now told predominantly through dialogue; the two lovers talking about when they should get married, how they are hungry all of the time and where Catherine would like to go in the United States after the war. The war has returned to background status and is only mentioned as something that is read about in the papers; Henry's feelings about this are mentioned, but not extensively.

In the tragic closing of the story, as he comes to realize that Catherine is dying, again he retreats to recounting meals, drinks, who he sees in the tavern, in marvelous detail. Even as he agonizes "But what
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