It is World War I. the fighting between the allied and enemy forces throughout Europe has worn on for months. Almost everyone is tired of the fighting but continue to serve for the good of their countries. For an American serving in the Italian Army, who lacks the patriotism for the country he serves, it becomes quite difficult to focus on the importance of the cause at hand. The discovery of love by Fredrico Henry proves to be a major distraction that ultimately affects the remainder of his presence (or lack of presence) in the war and his subsequent lifestyle. Ernest Hemingway left A Farewell to Arms, although with many sub-themes, with a focus on the classic theme of love and war. The focus on these two themes is evident in the way the two affect each other and in the organization that Hemingway used in the novel. Because the main character narrates the story himself the reader has a keen insight on his true feelings on both love and war. We find in the beginning of the novel that Henry has no incredibly strong viewpoint on the war itself, he seems not to like or dislike it. It is not until the presence of a person who creates love and passion in his life that a true standpoint begins to form. It is the desire to return to love that gives him the inspiration to break from his present situation later in the story. The other major character that could be considered more static, as compared to the dynamic nature of Henry's character, is Catherine. With her love and dedication she produces the inspiration in Henry that creates the changes in his character. The presence of the conflict of war in the novel is used to show the changes that it too can have directly or indirectly on a person's outlook on life. The novel is organized in a manner that seems to separate the effects of love on a life and the effects of war on that same person. The primary chapters of the book deal with the terrible images and injuries that Henry encounters during the fighting. Hemingway does an excellent job at painting a picture of the horrifying aspects of war during a specific battle scene early in the story. He also does a great job in later parts of the story at relaying the way that Henry and Catherine feel about each other. He does this with detailed inner monologues on the part of Henry, and complex but easy to understand dialogues between the two lovers. At the very beginning the novel is somewhat hard to get into because the narration starts by trying to pull the reader into an event (the war) that has already started. There is though some action that pulls you quickly into the plot, and is then followed by the basis of Henry and Catherine's romance. The book is organized in to chapters within books one through five. This separation of parts of the book, and the flow of the writing proves to make A Farewell to Arms an easy reader. One difficulty that a reader may encounter while experiencing this reading may be the complex dialogues. Sometimes the dialogues carry on for so long that it becomes hard to keep track of who is talking at what time. At times it may be necessary to go and read back through the text to understand exactly who is speaking in order to retain its significance. The plot overall is not hard to understand or hard to follow and creates a quite rewarding experience in the end. While reading this book it became quite easy to get close to the characters. Characterization is utilized well by Hemmingway to achieve this true knowledge of both Henry, and Catherine at times. The message of the book can be looked at as one that stresses the importance of love in trying times of chaos. This novel also gives an insight to the softer sides of the war. Although brutal at times, it gives outlooks into the slower and less action pact parts of fighting that are not often seen in a war novel, such as time spent with other soldiers in the mess hall, strong friendships, time in the hospital and the bliss of residing in a country neutral to the war.
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