A Farewell to Arms

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A Farewell to Arms is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Ernest Hemingway concerning events during the Italian campaigns during the First World War. The book, which was first published in 1929, is a first-person account of American Frederic Henry, serving as an Lieutenant ("Tenente") in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army. The title is taken from a poem by 16th-century English dramatist George Peele.[1]

A Farewell to Arms works on two literary levels. Firstly it is a story concerning the drama and passion of a doomed romance between Henry and British nurse, Catherine Barkley. But secondly, it also skilfully contrasts the meaning of personal tragedy against the impersonal destruction wrought by the Great War. Hemingway deftly captures the cynicism of soldiers, the futility of war, and the displacement of populations. Although this was Hemingway's bleakest novel, its publication cemented his stature as a modern American writer.[2]

In 1998, the Modern Library ranked A Farewell to Arms #74 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It was first adapted to film in 1932, with further versions in the following decades.[3]


Plot summary

The novel is divided into five books. In the first book, Rinaldi introduces Henry to Catherine Barkley; Henry attempts to seduce her, and their relationship begins. While on the Italian front, Henry is wounded in the knee by a mortar shell and sent to a hospital in Milan. The second book shows the growth of Henry and Catherine's relationship as they spend time together in Milan over the summer. Henry falls in love with Catherine and by the time he is healed, Catherine is three months pregnant. In the third book, Henry returns to his unit, but not long after, the Austro-Germans break through the Italian lines in the Battle of Caporetto, and the Italians retreat. Henry kills an engineering sergeant for insubordination. After falling behind and catching up again, Henry is taken to a place by the "battle police" where officers are being interrogated and executed for the "treachery" that supposedly led to the Italian defeat. However, after hearing the execution of a Lt.Colonel, Henry escapes by jumping into a river. In the fourth book, Catherine and Henry reunite and flee to Switzerland in a rowing boat. In the final book, Henry and Catherine live a quiet life in the mountains until she goes into labour. After a long and painful labour, their son is stillborn. Catherine begins to hemorrhage and soon dies, leaving Henry to return to their hotel in the rain.

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