Violet's Reviews > A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
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Feb 16, 2012

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bookshelves: books-to-film-and-plays, books-for-school, classic, historical-fiction

** spoiler alert ** I already wrote an essay for this book, so I’ll just keep these nice and short…or at least I’ll try. Anyway, for a classic it was fairly good. Although not my favorite, there were some amazing parts and aspects of it that I really enjoyed.

I’ll start with the things that I really didn’t like so I can end on a good note. God knows everyone need something pleasant in their lives; especially after studying this book and the whole philosophy behind it (the philosophy is called the Hemingway’s Code Hero if you want to look it up). I won’t go into any further detail because like I said, I already did that for school and I’d rather not do it again. There’s only so much I can take of analyzing before I scream and go kill someone. Unless it’s a really awesome book…but this one doesn’t exactly fit this description.

Anyway, I was actually kind of looking forward to this book because of my fascination with WWI and the sheer impact that it had not only on the landscape and society of Europe, but also on the people both physically and mentally. That was what made All Quiet on the Western Front so interesting to me and I hoped that this would be something equally as reflecting the mental shift that happened during this time period. And I do have to say that I was satisfied.

However, there were times that Hemingway’s writing really bothered me. His writing style isn’t the most eloquent I’ve ever read, instead everything is stated simply and plainly, and sometimes it was a tad vexing to read. But I really can’t blame Hemingway for that; it’s just the way he writes. And it wasn’t all bad really and I can definitely see the literary appeal of it (especially when you factor in his philosophy which is similar to existentialism), and in truth it wasn’t the most annoying part about the book.

Really, the most infuriating part was Catherine Barkley, Lt. Henry’s object of love. She was so damn needy and clingy what with the whole there’s-no-me-only-you and I’ll-do-whatever-will-make-you-happy crap. And as an independent 21st century female, I feel completely offended by her portrayal. She acted so much like a stupid child that I just want to hit her and tell her to grow up and become your own woman. I realize it was the middle of WWI and she’s still not right after her fiancée death, but still, come on please show some backbone here! After reading this, I agree with my English teacher in saying the Hemingway is a complete misogynist. And while she does have some redeeming qualities what with showing dignity in the face of death, she’s still a mostly one-dimensional, needy woman that just should to grow up and find herself.

However, she doesn’t really get a chance to do that (not that Hemingway would have her do that anyways), and that is where the book holds it power…save all the literary magnitude discussed in English classes in America and beyond. Here let me explain:

The most moving parts of the book come when things are most dire. The scene during the retreat when they are shooting the officers only because they spoke Italian with an accent, for example, is one of those parts that really got me. It was extremely stirring and I could just feel the collapse of order and the chaos the war was turning everything into. It was brilliant. Truly.

And then there was the chapter of Catherine’s death. Even though I absolutely didn’t hold a care for Catherine, I still was touched by her passing. She didn’t deserve to die, especially in such an ironic way. I mean dying during WWI by complications of childbirth in a neutral country is just plain wrong. To make everything worst, the baby didn’t even survive either. It’s such a caustic and harsh way to kill her off that it’s almost painful to think about it. And poor Lt. Henry…He’s love, the object of his development and change is taken away from him so cruelly and unexpectedly, that you can’t help but feel extreme sorrow for him. But the oddly sad thing is that this bitter irony and heartbreaking ending is really what Hemingway’s philosophy is all about. It’s about how death is inescapable and unreasonable and meaningless and that the only way to live is through actions that give pleasure and reason and order even though death will eventually take it all away in the end. There’s more to it of course, but you can look that up for yourself if you’re that interested.

Anyway, that’s really all I have to say. I could write more, but I’m tired from staying up writing an essay about this damn book and I really don’t want to do that again thankyouverymuch. Okay, on that note I’ll sign off and continue on to the next book for school which ironically (or not so much) is also about war, though a completely different one: The Vietnam War.

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