A Farewell to Arms

theme of love and war run side by side in A farewell to arms. comment

theme of love and war (a farewell to arms)

Asked by
Last updated by Aslan
Answers 1
Add Yours

Hemingway repeatedly emphasizes the horrific devastation war has wrought on everyone involved. From the opening account of cholera that kills "only" 7,000 men to the graphic description of the artillery bombardment to the corrupt violence during the Italian retreat, A Farewell to Arms is among the most frank anti-war novels.

But Hemingway does not merely condemn war. Rather, he indicts the world at large for its atmosphere of destruction. Henry frequently reflects upon the world's insistence on breaking and killing everyone; it is as if the world cannot bear to let anyone remain happy and safe.

Indeed, whenever Henry and Catherine are blissful, something comes along to interrupt it - be it Henry's injury, his being sent back to the front, his impending arrest, or, finally, Catherine's death from childbirth. With such misery confronting them at every turn, the two turn to each other. Catherine, especially, plunges almost too easily into love when she first meets Henry. She admits she was "crazy" at first, most likely over the fairly recent death of her fiancé, but Henry, too, succumbs to the temptations of love. Love is a pleasurable diversion (see Games, below) that distracts lovers from the outside world; the two often tell each other not to think about anything else, as it is too painful. Hidden within the shelter of Catherine's beautiful hair, Henry and Catherine feel protected from the cruel outside world.

The major problem with such escapist love is, as Henry and other characters point out several times, one does not always know the "stakes" of love until it is over, or that one does not know about something until one has lost it. Henry hardly allows himself to think of life without Catherine while he is in love, and once he does lose her, it seems unlikely that he will recover.