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A Farewell to Arms Novel Notes: Reader's Reflection

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A Farewell to Arms Novel Notes

1) How does the author begin the novel?

A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, portrays the complicated relationship between two devoted lovers, Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley, during the Italian campaign of World War I. The novel begins with the author describing what daily life was like since the war was the most important thing happening during this time period. He explained the degree of fighting going on extremely nearby and how people’s lives revolved around the war. The season was also changing from fall to winter, making the weather rainy and gloomy. The author then sets the scene with Lieutenant Henry, an ambulance driver, taking a winter leave from the battlefront as the war begins to slow down. When Henry returns, one of his friends, Rinaldi, introduces him to a lady that he was interested in named Catherine Barkley. Catherine was described as a beautiful English nurse’s aide that worked in a British hospital close by. Henry is immediately intrigued by her, and Rinaldi soon steps away from the relationship after he realizes that Catherine finds Henry more desirable. Catherine’s fiance perished in the war a year before, leaving her with lasting grief and sorrow. This emptiness makes her eager for someone’s affection, and Henry’s trauma and emotional scarring from the war makes him open to finding a partner. The beginning of their relationship starts at this point, and they have to face many more challenges with their relationship and war throughout the book.

2) What is the novel mostly about?

The novel is mainly about the strong relationship between Catherine and Henry as they embark on their journey to survive through the hardships of World War I. The novel portrays character development for both of the characters and shows how they struggle to maintain their relationship despite the difficulties that distance them throughout the war. As Henry and Catherine fall madly in love with each other, they must fight to stay together and preserve through the obstacles presented by the war. When Henry went to serve in the military, he was badly wounded, suffering a severe injury to his knee. He was transported to a hospital in Milan where Catherine ended up meeting him shortly after. Here he began rehabilitation, and his relationship with Catherine advanced and became more serious. When his leg was healed, he was scheduled to return to the front which meant he would have to leave Catherine once again. However, this time, it was harder for him to leave her because she revealed that she was pregnant. Even though Henry was going to be a father, that did not matter to the people in the military, and he was forced to fight in the war. When he returned to the front, the Italians had to make a retreat, so Henry picked up people on his way out of the area. Everything was going smoothly until he was discovered by a German officer, and he made a desperate escape by fleeing into the river. After drifting away with the current for a long period of time, he finally leaves the river and boards a train to Milan. Henry planned on reuniting with Catherine when he arrived, growing more impatient to see her. Catherine and Henry both meet up again and were more than happy to see one another. The two finally felt relief since they were together, and their relationship continued to grow a stronger bond.

3) How does the novel end?

The novel ends with Henry believing he is not attached to the military anymore when he flees to Milan to be with Catherine. When Henry arrives in Milan, he reunites with Catherine in the town of Stresa. However, the couple must escape quickly so they use a boat to get to their new destination. They row all night and they eventually arrive in Switzerland. In Montreux, a town in Switzerland, the couple spends their last winter alone together preparing for the arrival of their newborn baby. Although Henry is thrilled to become a father, he still bears the numbing guilt of leaving behind his fellow companions when they needed him at the battlefront. In the following spring, the couple makes the decision to move closer to the hospital in another town called Lausanne. After feeling some initial pain, Catherine goes into labor and it does not go as planned. Catherine experiences extreme agony and her labor becomes complicated. They give her a substantial amount of gas to relieve the pain, but Catherine still suffers. After a long labor that ultimately resulted in a Caesarean delivery, Catherine gave birth to a baby boy. However, Henry states that he is not proud of his son because he put his beloved wife’s life in danger. Henry is relieved to know that it is over, but what he does not realize is that the baby was stillborn, crushing Catherine’s dreams. Later that day, she endures many hemorrhages and slips into a coma, passing away quickly. This is the most devastating thing that Henry could have imagined, and he has a difficult time accepting that his only true love is gone. The novel concludes with Henry walking back to his hotel room in the rain, heartbroken and full of immense sorrow.

4) Examine important themes in the work.

One of the major themes in the book is that love comes with loss. Hemingway portrays many instances in the book where love ends up leading to a tragic loss. For example, at the beginning of the novel, the author states that Catherine’s fiance died in the war. This shows how Catherine’s first love ended in the devastating loss of her loving partner. This also foreshadows that the relationship between Henry and Catherine will also result in a horrible way. At the end of the novel, Catherine births a stillbirth baby boy, leaving them both extremely heartbroken. To add to this pain, Catherine ends up passing away after suffering fatal hemorrhages. By incorporating the idea of love and loss going hand in hand, it shows that love is not perfect and it comes with its downfalls. Another important theme in the book is that love has the power to overcome difficult situations. The effects of war have a tremendous burden on Catherine and Henry’s relationship, but this does not stop them from loving each other immensely. Their love gives them the power to overcome the tough hardships of the war. This proves that when a relationship goes through negative times, it often strengthens it, rather than tearing it apart. In addition to the themes about love, another main theme is that war takes a major toll on people’s lives. Whether someone was actually participating in the fighting of the war or they were part of the medical team, everyone’s lives were affected in one way or another. It was almost impossible for people to live normal lives with the war being such a protruding burden to society. Henry was affected both physically and mentally by the war, and it left a lasting impact on his personality. No matter what position characters took in the novel, the war changed their lives in different ways. All of these themes also transfer over into the real world and go beyond the words in the book.

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5) Include one important quote/passage with parenthetical reference (your quote should illustrate theme, style or both). What does this quote illustrate? Why did you choose it?

“Often a man wishes to be alone and a girl wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others … But we were never lonely and never afraid when we were together” (Hemingway 249).

This passage illustrates the strong bond between Catherine and Henry and it shows that even though they may feel alone individually, they never feel lonely when they are with each other. They have such a passionate love for each other that they are able to overcome the feeling of being alone while they are together. This quote implies that just the presence of each other is enough to satisfy their loneliness and worries. The author uses repetition in this quote by stating the word “alone” repeatedly. This demonstrates the author’s style and how he uses it to make a greater impact on the reader. By repeating this word, it helps the reader understand that Catherine and Henry do not feel alone when they are with each other, and their love overcomes their own loneliness. In addition, the use of repetition reinforces the message the author is trying to convey and emphasizes a detail that is important to the story. This quote also illustrates the theme of love overcoming hardships. The love that the two possess for one another is so strong that it is able to conquer their feelings of solitude to complete the empty void they feel. I also chose this quote because it allows the reader understand that Catherine and Henry’s love was the driving force that kept them from feeling alone and afraid. If they had not met each other, both of them most likely would have suffered through a dreary life, distanced from the people around them.

6) Analyze the literary techniques the author uses. (How does the author craft the novel?)

Ernest Hemingway uses different techniques throughout the book to create a unique and intriguing novel. One major technique that he uses is short lines of dialogue that go back and forth between characters. Hemingway uses this strategy to make the situation seem more real to the reader because it is easier to envision how the scene is happening. He also uses a lot of repetition in his writing style because it enforces the main idea of the passage and emphasizes the importance of whatever is being repeated. The author also makes his writing simple and straightforward so it does not leave the reader questioning what they read. He is very direct and does not make people guess what is going to happen next. Another technique he uses in the book is he keeps everything in chronological order, meaning things do not occur out of order. This makes the book easier to follow since you do not have to continually refer back to past events. Along with these techniques, Hemingway also incorporates some other literary devices such as imagery, diction, and tone to craft the novel. Imagery helps set the scene and the tone affects the overall mood of the story. These literary devices help the author convey some of the important themes in the book, such as the power of love, by providing emphasis and clarity. By combining all of these strategies, the novel is crafted in a more alluring and easy to comprehend way.

7) Discuss one excerpt of literary criticism written on your author. You should paraphrase the critic’s comments in your own words and include a parenthetical reference.

Many people say that Ernest Hemingway is one of the most influential writers America has seen. However, some critics have different opinions. Hemingway experienced and wrote about World War I, making numerous people think he is the best American author. But, critics have said that he is not technically an American author because a majority of his novels were written in places outside of America during the war. They believed that this made him look like he was on an opposing side, from an American’s point of view. He was not portrayed as a true American author and scholarly experts have critiqued him about this. In addition, many people believe that he has a boring writing style that does not keep the reader engaged. A critic from the Hemingway Preservation Foundation states that Hemingway, “is known for creating novels that usually follow a basic chronological order, which some critics deem as boring and ‘typical’ for such a great American author” (Hemingway Preservation Foundation). This means that although his novels convey important messages and life lessons, they may sometimes be boring for the reader since he does not put a twist on the order of his writing. Even though Ernest Hemingway was born an American citizen, many people do not believe he is an American author because of his dull and international writing.

8) How successful is your author in your personal opinion?

In my personal opinion, Ernest Hemingway is extremely successful. He uses a combination of his unique style, emotion, and organization to craft beautifully written novels that have made a lasting impact on history. Ernest Hemingway is one of the most recognized authors and has written books that most people have either read or heard of. His books convey important life lessons and cause the reader to think deeply about what they have just read. Specifically in A Farewell to Arms, he kept the book interesting by creating scenarios that drove the plot forward. There were also many important messages that could be taken away from the novel and incorporated into real life. The novels he wrote were so prodigious that he went on to win a Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. His success also lead to a fairly large accumulation of money. Although he wrote books that went on to make him successful, he sadly ended up commiting suicide in 1961. Despite his tragic death, he is still seen as one of the best novelists of the twentieth century and his legacy continues to inspire others. Hemingway’s works have influenced a variety of people and inspired them to write novels of their own. Overall, Ernest Hemingway is arguably one of the most influential and talented novelists the country has seen.

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A Farewell to Arms Novel Notes: Reader’s Reflection. (2022, March 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 22, 2023, from
“A Farewell to Arms Novel Notes: Reader’s Reflection.” Edubirdie, 17 Mar. 2022,
A Farewell to Arms Novel Notes: Reader’s Reflection. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Sept. 2023].
A Farewell to Arms Novel Notes: Reader’s Reflection [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 17 [cited 2023 Sept 22]. Available from:
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