A Farewell to Arms
- Willms, Janice
- Date of entry: Feb-05-2001
One of Hemingway's war and love stories, this novel takes place in Italy during World War I and is tied closely to the author's own experience as an American Ambulance Driver for the Italian Army. The story opens during a lull in the action and the reader meets a group of men who work with the wounded during battle. In the course of waiting for action, the protagonist, Henry, meets and courts an English nurse stationed in Italy.
The core of the tale is the evolution of the love of these two in the face of increasing military involvement, including an engagement in which Henry is wounded and after his return to the front, an Italian retreat from which he barely escapes with his life. Ultimately, he and Catherine, his English love, defect and enter Switzerland to await the birth of their child. Baby and mother both die and Henry is left alone, his future left by the author unplotted.
Charles Scribner's Sons
For the reader of medical humanities literature, both the horrors of war and the effect war has on the humanity of physicians are explored. There are humane and skilled physicians presented, and there are horrific experiences in the military stations and hospitals in which the physicians seem more like crude animals than human caregivers.
The spectrum of medical encounters presented by the author is consistent with his apparent ambivalence about physicians--an ambivalence that harkens back to his early short stories--and is evident in much of his long fiction. The prose is terse, in characteristic Hemingway style, and the evolution of the love story is no exception.