Arts Books

A Farewell to Arms


A Farewell to Arms is a novel set during World War I.  It was written by Ernest Hemingway and published by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1929.  It was a global success and Hemingway’s first best-seller.  The story was adapted for the stage in 1930.  Two films and a television miniseries were released.  A Farewell to Arms is considered one of Hemingway’s best works and the book that made him a household name.

Lieutenant Frederic Henry describes summertime in Italy during World War I.  He is an ambulance driver.  Troops pass by on their way to the front lines.  A cholera epidemic kills seven thousand soldiers.  Henry’s unit moves to Gorizia.  The town is further from the last and the battlefront.  The officers talk and discuss their upcoming leave.  Time passes.  Henry talks to his surgeon roommate Lieutenant Rinaldi about their time away.  Frederic meets with a nurse named Catherine Barkley.  He is struck by her beauty.

The two meet a few days later.  Catherine expresses her love.  Henry kisses her and realizes he does not love her in the same way.  He picks up a soldier with a hernia the next afternoon.  He gets drunk with Rinaldi in the evening and goes to visit Catherine.  She is sick and unavailable.  He feels hollow and lonely.  The following day he says goodbye to Catherine before a battle.  She gives him a St. Anthony medal to protect him.  He is wounded by a mortar shell and admitted to a hospital.  Some of his comrades are killed.

World War I Ambulance – Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


Rinaldi visits his roommate and tells him he will get a medal for his service.  Henry protests that he did nothing.  Rinaldi leaves him with a bottle of cognac.  A priest stops by and hands him vermouth, English newspapers and some mosquito netting.  Henry thanks him and the two drink.  They discuss life and the injured falls asleep.  The holy man leaves.  The doctors prepare Henry for a move to Milan where he will receive better care.  America declares war on Germany.  Henry vomits on the train ride and argues with his new nurse Miss Gage.  They reconcile later.

Henry requests a barber.  He receives a shave.  Catherine visits.  He realizes he is in love with her.  They make love for the first time.  A short doctor removes shrapnel from Henry’s leg and gives him an X-ray.  The opinions are mixed on how long they should wait to perform surgery.  Another doctor agrees to do it in the morning and has a drink with the injured.  Catherine spends the night.  The two grow closer.  Henry is sick after the operation.  He recovers while Catherine rests.  They reunite in three days.

Henry learns to walk with crutches.  Catherine is always around.  They talk about marriage and bet on horse races.  The crowd wears them out.  They leave and find comfort alone.  Henry gets notice that he will need to return to the war.  Catherine tells him that she is three weeks pregnant.  The news pleases him.  They discuss the upcoming obstacles together.  Henry is diagnosed with jaundice.  One of the nurses decides it is self-inflicted through alcoholism.  His liquor is confiscated.   

a farewell to arms
A Farewell to Arms book jacket – Photo Credit: rauter25

War Again

Henry says his goodbyes and spends one last romantic night with Catherine.  He departs and tells her to take care of little Catherine.  A farewell to arms, he boards a train and sleeps on the floor.  He arrives in Gorizia and talks to the major.  He moves on and finds Rinaldi.  They drink and go to dinner.  Henry goes to Bainsizza in the morning.  A soldier named Gino tells him about the Austrian weaponry.  Night and rain and bombs fall.  Fear spreads within the ranks.

The Italian line breaks.  A retreat begins.  A slow drive to town.  Soldiers and vehicles and vehicles and soldiers.  Henry dreams of Catherine.  Peasants join the evacuation.  They stop at an abandoned farmhouse for breakfast.  One of the cars get stuck.  They continue on foot.  A German staff car is spotted.  They leave the main road.  Someone is shot and killed. Henry is taken to be interrogated.  Another officer is executed nearby.  Henry jumps into a river and escapes.  He floats in the cold water.  He gets out and hides on a military train.

The train enters Milan.  Henry leaves and gets some food and wine.  He learns Catherine is in Stresa.  He goes to Stresa in civilian clothes and finds his lady.  They board a boat and flee to Switzerland.  They arrive and receive provisional visas.  The two live a quiet life the mountains.  They move into a wooden house in the village of Montreux and are happy.  They move to Lausanne to be closer to the hospital.  Catherine goes into labor and is told she needs a Cesarean.  The pain is immense.  The baby is delivered and does not survive.  Catherine dies in Henry’s arms after the operation.  He leaves in the rain.  A Farewell to Arms ends.  

Stresa – Photo Credit: Old Fogey 1942
Milan – Photo Credit: Epsilon68 – Street and Travel Photography

2 comments on “A Farewell to Arms

  1. Love this! A few years ago, I decided to read all the classics, however, I missed this one. It sounds like a great love story 💕which is my favorite. I’m off to find my Kindle. Thanks for sharing such a great review. Kellye

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