A Farewell to Arms

Sex and Religion in A Farewell to Arms

In Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry finds in his relationship with Catherine Barkley – a relationship they think of as a marriage – safety, comfort, and tangible sensations of love: things that conventional religious devotion and practice had been unable to offer him. Frederic does not love God, he is only “afraid of Him in the night sometimes”, the result of guilt felt after indulging in the immoral sexual pleasures of the brothel (72). Frederic and Catherine have no religion save their love for one another, yet he retains a kind of ingrained religious sensibility. Sex is something at the center of both Catholic tradition (in terms of dogma) and Frederic and Catherine's relationship, and is a source of mental conflict for Frederic. Their love for one another becomes like a replacement for religion, their ritual practice being sex; yet, Catherine's death at the end of the novel is a direct result of their pre-marital sexual relations. Though Frederic cannot fully shake religiously inspired sexual guilt and anxiety, he continues to engage in pre-marital sex. At the novel's close, he is blindsided by a great loss and is forced to recognize, too late, that his great love – his religion – could not...

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