Note: This post is part of The Hemingway Collection, an archive of essays, images, and hyperlinks to interesting articles about the great American author.
An essay on A Farewell to Arms by Nathan Kotas
The overall tone of the book is much different than that of The Sun Also Rises. The characters in the book are propelled by outside forces, in this case WWI, where the characters in SAR seemed to have no direction. Frederick’s actions are determined by his position until he deserts the army. Floating down the river with barely a hold on a piece of wood his life, he abandons everything except Catherine and lets the river take him to a new life that becomes increasing difficult to understand.
The escape to Switzerland seemed too perfect for a book that set a tone of ugliness in the world that was only dotted with pure love like Henry’s and Cat’s and I knew the story couldn’t end with bliss in the slopes of Montreux. In a world where the abstracts of glory, honor, and sacrifice meant little to Frederick, his physical association with Catherine was the only thing he had and it was taken away from him long before she died.
The love that Frederick and Catherine had for each other was more than could be explained in words and Frederick makes it known that words are not really effective at describing the flesh and blood details. Their love during an ugly war was not to be recreated or modeled even as much as through a baby conceived by their love. The baby could not be born alive because their love was beautiful yet doomed so that nothing could come out of it.
Hemingway’s language is effective in leaving much to the readers interpretation and allowing a different image to form in each readers mind. The simple sentences and incomplete descriptions frees your imagination and inspires each person to develop their own bitter love story.