A Farewell to Arms: Summary, Characters and Themes

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Table of contents

  1. Summary
  2. Characters
  3. Themes:

World war1 that caused death to million of military and civilians fought between United states, France and Russia on one side and Germany on other and bloodshed everywhere. The main aim of Italian’s were prevent the German troops from reinforcing the Austrian troops on the front as they were an ally of Germany and Austria. The most important event shown in the novel is the Italian retreat that happened on October 24, 1917. Fredric Henry is a volunteer who has to protect his Italian army as an ambulance driver and when all the soldiers arrived at the front, many became disillusioned and few who survived the war were also horrified by their experience. The novel also talk about the love that comes in one’s life and drives them away from the ruthlessness of the world but at the same time due to the same reason they lose people as during war so many innocent people lose their lives.


The story is based on an American man named Fredric Henry who is working under the Italian as an ambulance service during WWI and he meets Catherine Barkley who is a nurse in the English hospital. She is in depression as her husband is dead due to the war and later Henry gets wounded on his knee and is sent to hospital in Milan for the treatment, where Catherine is kept to look after him and operate him and soon they start to give enough time to each other and develop feelings for each other and soon they fall in love with each other. Catherine turn out to be pregnant by Henry but does not agree to get married and later Miss Van Campas notices that he hid alcohols in the hospital due to which he is sent back to the front, where Italian forces are at war and losing power and soon it is said that German troops are coming closer, so Henry leads his team with the ambulance drivers to evacuate. Later it’s known that he manages to escape the execution by the military police and jumps into the river and reaches to Milan by train and feels peaceful as he thinks that he is no longer connected to the military and soon he starts looking for Catherine and later they meet each other and spent quality time. They escape to Switzerland with a help of a boat and enjoy a beautiful and happy life as they leave the war life behind also they promise to love each other forever. And soon Catherine goes into labor, which results in painful and long surgery due to which she starts to hemorrhage and later dies while Henry sits beside her and tries to say her goodbye to her but cannot, later he comes back to their hotel alone in the rain.

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Lieutenant Frederic Henry is the narrator of the novel as well as the protagonist, who is an American ambulance driver in the Italian army at the time of WWI though he is least interested into his work. He dislikes the war and soon falls in love with Catherine Barkley which helps him distract the brutal world. But the same time he is cool-headed person and is selfless in nature and under real pressure he can do his best at the battle and also remains loyal to Catherine.

Catherine Barkley is an English nurse, who eventually falls in love with Henry and she is beautiful and is described to have the most amazing hair. In the beginning of the novel, she mourns for her dead fiancé, which describes her nature as reckless and longs for love to remove her emptiness and so she accepts Henry’s love and they both escape the devastating world and stay away from war.


Love has been the prominent theme of the novel as it describes both for the country and for a person but it’s rare to find love in this destruction of the world. As mentioned in the novel Henry always saw war and killing which made him disbelieve in love and happiness. However, when he fell in love with Catherine, they underwent through many situations but never gave up and it seems the world could not see them happy as each time they seemed to be blissful, something negatives comes along to destroy them and soon he gets injured, is sent back to front or his arrest order and eventually the death of Catherine.

The novel is covered basically about war and how it affects different lives in different ways and makes the reader think about how war can leave a person devastated and realize that war is nothing but just a senseless loss of life. In the novel, Henry always disliked war but the same time stood for his people to protect them though at times he and his team soldiers are broken down due to the violence they are part of it but soon he realized that this does not lead to anything and so he runs away from the damaging world and settles with Catherine.

Masculinity has also been shown through to the story in the strength needed for war, fight for the country and loyalty and also as being men, they drink, smoke and be heroically brave. But as in the end we are human, they too suffer, love and hurt and Henry has all the qualities of masculinity. He ends the end for his love and escapes the army to live peaceful and as an individual refuses to contribute in senseless war and brutality.

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A Farewell to Arms: Summary, Characters and Themes. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/a-farewell-to-arms-summary-characters-and-themes/
“A Farewell to Arms: Summary, Characters and Themes.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/a-farewell-to-arms-summary-characters-and-themes/
A Farewell to Arms: Summary, Characters and Themes. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/a-farewell-to-arms-summary-characters-and-themes/> [Accessed 16 Jul. 2024].
A Farewell to Arms: Summary, Characters and Themes [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2024 Jul 16]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/a-farewell-to-arms-summary-characters-and-themes/

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