Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms tells the story of World War I through the eyes of Lieutenant Frederic Henry. Henry is an American serving in the Italian Army. In the novel Henry tells the story of his experience in WWI and the story of his relationship with Catherine Barkley. Throughout A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway switches the focus of the novel between the love story and the war story.
Love plays a key role in the novel. It allows you to see a different side of Henry that is not such a womanizer as he begins to love Catherine. At first the relationship is more about flirting but then becomes a fake “loving” relationship because Catherine is trying to heal her wounds from her spouse that died and Henry just thinks she is pretty. Eventually that “love” evolves to the true love you see that changes Henry from a womanizer to a beau. In addition to changing his perception of women, love also changes his perception of war.
There are many examples of love changing the perceptions of war in the novel. In the beginning of the novel, Henry is disinterested in the war. For example, when his fellow officers are bragging about their heroic accomplishments, Henry remains quiet and does not engage in conversation. When he gets injured he strongly insists on not being decorated because he didn’t get hurt protecting anyone or fighting on the front lines. While on medical leave, he grows closer to Catherine. This shows how the war positively affects their relationship.
As he grows closer to Catherine, his feelings about the war change. He goes from being a disinterested observer, to a reluctant participant. At this point, his feelings for Catherine are stronger than his commitment to the army, which causes him to run away with her. They escape to Switzerland to avoid Henry’s arrest so they can continue their life together.
Throughout A Farewell to Arms, Hemmingway manages to tell both a love story and a war story. The relationship between Henry and...