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An Extensive Research on the Novel ‘A Farewell to Arms’

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“A farewell to arms” is a novel written with a clear intention of enlightening the readers of the real events that happened during the Second World War. It depicts a clear reflection of circumstances that happened during that time. The author narrows these events through the experience of a single individual: Henry Fredric.  Henry is both the protagonist and the narrator. The novel is a true reflection of human thinking and way of handling situations. The different characters that are used by the author when the story unfolds depict the different kinds of individual in the society and how they behave in case of difficulties.

The main objective and purpose for this research would be to unravel the mystery behind people’s behavior when they are faced with pressing matters and in this case our focus would dwell upon war.  The assignment would explain the reason behind why people chose to act the way they do despite the fact that   they never intend to act in that manner.

Moving forward, the research would expound on the author’s way of thinking especially when he decides to explain the philosophy behind the different challenges faced by human beings and the choices they make in the long run. It would be wise to state at this particular juncture that after reading the whole novel, the reader is able to comprehend that the whole story revolves upon the analysis and evaluation of Hemingway’s philosophy about life in general. He successfully deploys the characters with different roles so as to achieve his way of thinking. For instance, he vehemently   develops the character Henry to depict the different stages of life as explained by his philosophy.

Hemingway’s philosophy holds that the world lacks a regulator and that there is no God or any other superhuman being that watches over man and so his ways are never ordered or receive any form of justice. It states that the world is unconcerned and at times it goes to the extent of being unfriendly to challenges experienced by man.

In the novel, this form of unresponsiveness is portrayed by war: which is an eventual fruitless struggle of human beings against fellow human beings. As much as people engage in war, there are no definite winners and there is lack of justification for the human lives taken by the same war. Both the Henry and Catherine are channeled to accept this fact of life despite the fact they seem not to agree.

Henry for instance retorts that he will not die since the war has nothing to do with him. He feels that his work only involves driving the wounded back to the hospital and therefore he isn’t linked directly to the war. The opposite of this happens when Henry is in fact sent to the frontline to pick the wounded and falls prey to the war. A metal shell blasts upon where there seated killing one of his co-workers while he escapes death with serious wounds on his legs. He also becomes victim to the war when he is mistakenly confused for a Germany soldier and is captured ready for execution.  Although, he manages to escape, he learns that life is always upon his shoulder even when he is not aware. This forces him to accept the decisiveness of each living thing which is death.  In his other book ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ which is a story about a mission focused on blowing up a bridge during the Spanish civil war, a wounded American soldier has offered to stay behind in order to  impede the Spaniards soldiers while his fellow men flee.  He is in the mountains when the day arrives and he clearly knows that he will be killed in the long run. He his reminiscing about his death:

“You have had much. There are many worse things than this. Everyone has to do this, one day or another. You are not afraid of it once you know you have to do it, are you? No, he said truly… He looked down the hill slope gain and he thought, “I hate to leave it, is all. I hate to leave it very much and I hope I have done some good in it. I have tried with what talent I had. I think it would alright to do it now? Don’t you?” Jordan asks himself. No it isn’t. Because threes something you can do yet. As long as you what it is you have to do it? As long as you remember what it is you have to wait for” (Hemingway, pg 56-76).

This excerpt from the book clearly indicates that Hemingway was a true believer to his own philosophy. He always portrayed the image of death as the destiny of each living being and that it was best if every human being met their death face on rather than sit waiting for it to come. It is evident that the author’s main purpose is to prepare people to their finality.

In an article by Reese (pg 1), it records that Heming was at one point diagnosed with loss of memory and he wanted to commit suicide with a shotgun while at his residence in Idaho. Perhaps he had figured out that his mind was fading away rendering him worthless since major asset of any writer is his or her memory. He probably knew he was not going to write again and therefore the bravest step he had to take was to go to his “death “just as he thought he lived his life. For him there was nothing left to be accomplished nothing that he could remember: his words came back to him when he was still receiving treatment for depression that had interfered with his memory: a vital part of his life.

When Henry arrived from leave, he recalled that it didn’t matter whether he was on leave or not anything had changed while he was away and for that reason there was no point of living at all.

Catherine is also perceived falling prey to this philosophy when she decides to move on from the death of her fiancé by whom she had been engaged for eight good years. She explains that her fiancé was already dead and it was the end of everything. She was not ready to spend time mourning him in fact she was ready to move into another relationship altogether. Life, according to her, is busy doing whatever it pleases to do and by her living it’s merely because she is vehemently struggling against the mysteries of life itself.

Passini is the only character depicted to have made moves to protest the war and it becomes no coincidence that he is the only one who got killed in the same war. He made moves to quit the war but eventually dies for quitting the fight. The author  successfully uses war to symbolize life in the sense that  in order to stay alive an individual is expected to fight back war  till the end of times and the moment an individual decides to quit fighting it  basically imply that he or she is ready to die.

As way of driving the point home, Hemingway exposes a scenario of an old man lying by the side of the road tired from his consistent attempts to get out of the army. The war won’t let him leave unscathed and makes him its casualty that is awaiting death. It is completely clear that in order to survive someone has to be in the war and must also be armed to the fullest so as to live to the next day, failure to this it’s depicted that a person becomes as worthless as the dead.

According to a review made by Lorcher (pg1) on the book “The Old Man and the Sea”, he recalls that Hemingway had a way of instilling his philosophy of life into the minds of the readers, he expounds further to say that Hemingway did put the certainty of death and struggle so that people could demonstrate their value in life.

He successfully manipulates, the character, Santiago to struggle despite his opponents proving unconquerable. Santiago goes ahead to fish for the eighty fourth time despite the fact that all those times he never caught any fish. Even when Santiago finds fish, sharks attack his catch and he resorts to fighting them without any sign of retreating: he clearly doesn’t know when to quit.

When Santiago gets deserted by all his allies, he resorts to isolation and heads for a fishing expedition to catch big fish, this entire struggle fails terribly but Santiago is not ready to quit lest he dies. From this excerpt it is clearly wise to say that Hemingway absolutely admired any struggle made in order to survive the hard times.

Henry’s affair with Catherine is at first depicted as holding no water. Henry explains that ‘it did not matter what he was getting into’ he was only having sex. He later falls in love with Catherine a clear indication that he was also a living human being that needed to enjoy the fruits of the struggle. He enjoys this fruits for sometime until Catherine dies at the hospital while giving birth.

The death of Catherine is used to depict her finality in life: death. While she was still alive, she vehemently struggled hard by treating the wounded from the war but despite all this hardships she succumbs to death. The death of Catherine made Henry loose focus with his own struggles and despite the rain he walks back to the hotel without even noticing that he was being rained on.

Hemingway use rain as a symbol for challenges and sadness. It does only when it rains that bad thing happen. For instance, in chapter one, there is the mention of “permanent rain” that has poured for a long period time bringing casualties with it.

At a time when the Italian army was contemplating defeat a huge amount of rain poured causing mud to spread allover. With this rain came chaos and confusion for both the participants and non participants of war. Vehicles got stuck and Henry with his team decided to use a side road that lead to their arrest and some of his men were later killed by the gun.

Rinaldi a close friend to Henry is a man that does not keep up with the struggle; in fact the moment he got depressed, he did resort to drinking and made numerous sexual encounters so as to relieve his pains and plight. He is portrayed as a man that does not care at all about what the world holds, however; this attitude toward life changed afterwards as Hemingway made sure that the character adjusted to the struggle (Mullik, pg 8).

The relationship between Henry and Catherine stirs a disagreement with Helen (a close friend to Catherine), and even though she greatly disapproves their relationship, she always make an effort to support them. This clearly indicates that she did have high regards for personal values as human being: She did not allow morality to cloud her judgment. This is a clear reflection to Hemingway’s philosophy of life that distorts the existence of such things as morality and justice. He argued that the world was there to take full advantage of man’s inabilities and plights. Morality was never the order of the day and individuals in the struggle were always expected taking the world as it was.

While in Switzerland, Catherine and Henry enjoyed the tranquility of domestication, they felt as if they had been released from the bondage of war. This feeling however does not last when                       

Catherine immediately goes into labor and her baby fails to be delivered normally paving the way for a caesarean to be performed that kills both the baby and the mother (Catherine).  The deeper meaning for this kind of occurrence, as par the philosophy of life was the fact that no one got to enjoy anything while still living in the universe. Goods things were never meant to last for long and therefore individuals were subjects to all forms sad occurrences that happened. There was always to be struggles all along and if there if any proof of an individual trying to quit then war had a way of dealing with him or her.

Hemingway’s novels exhibit metaphysical interests in human beings in relation to nature (Rama Rao, pg 4). And he has profusely used symbolic representations to depict human life and experiences which has vehemently used to convey the philosophy of life messages to the readers from different points of view.

He did not see any interest living in this world where happiness was always outshone by violence and morality replaced with individualistic personal values. The kind of protagonists used in his stories were perceived by him to be heroes out of their individualistic honor, courage and endurance in a life full of anxiety and doubt that  made them  men ( Young, pg 158).

In conclusion, it’s wise to state that Hemingway always had a unique way of presenting his work; he took his choice of style to another level so that his works conveyed the message intended to be passed across. In this research paper were able to successfully explore different works of Hemingway and our thesis statement did in fact prove that the Author always passed the same message (philosophy of life) although in  different point of views and with different kinds of characters and settings.

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