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A Farewell to Arms Themes: Love and War

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The theme in the story “A Farewell to Arms” is based on love and war. Ernest Hemingway offered a different account of war that is unromanticized and more practical. Frederic Henry is the main character of the story. Throughout the novel, his character progresses quite a lot. Hemingway uses the war as an instrument to temporarily separate the two and bring them together. The story is told in a first-person narrative to help readers picture the events that take place. The author also uses weather as symbolism throughout the story. Hemingway portrays the cruel realities of war and how relationships can be formed through such a tough time. He shows that the people serving use their hopes as distractions of the harsh reality they are living in.

The story takes place during World War One. World War one was a time full of sadness and disillusionment. The main character in the story is Frederic Henry who serves as an American ambulance driver in italy. The woman he ends up falling in love with is Catherine Barkley who is an English nurse. In the beginning of the story Frederic was a cocky man; a womanizer. When Frederic hurt his leg he met Catherine who was his nurse. The two spent quite some time together and feelings grew quickly. Catherine wanted an emotional connection whereas Frederic did not. This obviously caused problems. But before he knew it he became madly in love with her and gave up his womanizing ways. Frederic became so disillusioned from the war he then said his “farewell to arms”. He no longer wanted to be in the war but he was not allowed to go home. To help maintain sanity he uses Catherine to fill the void. They end up being separated for quite some time by the war and reunite in Milan. From all of the recent trauma he had experienced, his level of maturity grew greatly to match up with Catherine’s. After he spent a summer with her the change was noticeable and forced him to grow up for good. Frederic’s change was demonstrated in Chapter 34. Towards the end of the story his character development was even more apparent. He started to realize things he never did before. But unfortunately, he has to carry that understanding by himself forever.

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From beginning to end, Hemingway uses the weather as symbolism to help enhance the story. In the first chapter, there appears to be rain. The rain portrays death in the story. ‘In the fall when the rains came the leaves all fell from the chestnut trees and the branches were bare and the trunks black with rain,'(Hemingway 1). Catherine made the meaning of rain clear when she says ‘I’m afraid of the rain because sometimes I see myself dead in it,’ she said to him. ‘And sometimes I see you dead in it.'(Hemingway 19). Hemingway kept his audience at the edge of their seat each time rain appeared in the story. When his and Catherine’s baby is pronounced dead he looks out the window and all he sees is rain. We know that Henry will survive the rain because he is the narrator.

“A farewell to arms” is a story based on love and war. Hemingway uses two star crossed lovers to demonstrate how hard the war is mentally, spiritually and physically. He uses a first-person narrative to enhance the audience’s imagery. Not only that but he uses symbolism to create a better plot for the story. Hemingway uses war as an instrument to show how two lovers can use each other to escape reality mentally; and he physically separates them. This story demonstrates how cruel war can be, but how love can conquer all.

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A Farewell to Arms Themes: Love and War. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from
“A Farewell to Arms Themes: Love and War.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022,
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