Matt's Reviews > A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
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's review
Feb 20, 2008

it was ok
Read in February, 2008

I just finished it, and I'm disappointed. And not only disappointed; I'm also bothered by it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised at Hemingway's one-dimensional, sexist portrayal of Catherine Barker, having read much of his other work, but somehow I still am. Put simply, Catherine is a ridiculous figure, and it's no fault of her own. Hemingway gives her no opportunity to sound like anything more than a half-crazy, desperate, fawning caricature with no real desires or opinions of her own. How many times must I read lines like, "I'll say just what you wish and I'll do what you wish and then you will never want any other girls, will you?" issue from her lips? Does Hemingway believe women think and talk like this, or does he mean to make his female characters sound like would-be wife-pets?

(I just read a review below that describes Henry and Catherine's dialogue as 'incantations,' the point being that the two, especially Catherine, are trying to will themselves to be happy despite an over-whelming sense of despair. It's an interesting point,and definitely makes reading the scenes with the two of them more palatable. But as much as I'd like to think that that was what Hemingway was going for, I don't know...)

As for the rest of the book, I suppose an argument could be made for its "ground-breaking" sexual frankness or for the necessarily graphic depictions of the front, and I'll buy that. There are, after all, a number of great moments. Still, it's hard to accept the canonization this book as THE central WWI novel and ignore the fact that one of its main characters is very poorly written, perhaps intentionally so.
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Reading Progress

01/31 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Scott (new)

Scott Hey I have a question. Is this book explicit? Moreover, sexually explicit? Thanks


Matt No. Not at all.


Yoana Does Hemingway believe women think and talk like this, or does he mean to make his female characters sound like would-be wife-pets?

I think his portrayal of the mindless nurse is wish-fulfillment. Which tells me very sad things about him as a man.


message 4: by Simon (last edited Aug 09, 2014 02:31AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Simon I couldn't agree more. Not being an aficionado of Hemingway, I spent the first half of the book wondering if the misogyny was some sort of ironic device.


Jessica I'm glad I'm not alone in this. I couldn't agree more.


message 6: by Richard (new)

Richard Lawrence Only her name is Barkley


message 7: by Ben (new) - rated it 2 stars

Ben Lariccia "Catherine is a ridiculous figure." My feeling completely.


message 8: by Justin (new)

Justin Ward Yeah, just finished reading this. The dialogue, which makes up the majority of the book, is just atrocious. At times, Hemingway breaks into some meditations about the human condition that are very poignant but nevertheless stand in stark contrast to the overall mediocrity of the book as a whole.


message 9: by Kyc (new) - rated it 2 stars

Kyc "The dialogue, which makes up the majority of the book, is just atrocious." Midway through the book and I can't agree more.


Aishath Thuhufa Couldn't agree more! Even that first time he tried to kiss her made me so uncomfortable because he kept trying to "persuade" her when she very clearly kept saying no. The way she is written is so blatantly sexist and ridiculous.


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