reza's Reviews > A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
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May 23, 2008

Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms" is certainly a landmark in the genre of war fiction. The novel tells the story of Frederic Henry, an American who serves in the Italian army ambulance corps during World War I. He falls in love with Catherine Barkley, a British nurse, and has a number of traumatic experiences.

"Farewell" has a somber, haunting, and quietly compelling feel to it. In its ironic, naturalistic, and decidedly nonheroic presentation of war, the book seems like a fitting companion text to "The Red Badge of Courage," another key American novel of war.

Many of Hemingway's characters in this book express a dissatisfaction with or alienation from traditional notions of religion, morality, and heroism. Their outlooks are often darkly cynical, as exemplified by this quote: "The world [...] kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry." In the midst of war, however, love between two individuals remains a powerful force.

There are a number of compelling secondary characters: Rinaldi, Henry's irreverent comrade; the young priest who champions "traditional" values; and more. As additional companion texts to this book, I would recommend Joseph Plumb Martin's memoir "A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier" and James Michener's Korean War novel "The Bridges at Toko-Ri."
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