A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms Summary and Analysis of Book One, Chapters VII-XII

Book One: Chapter VII:

The next afternoon, Henry drives back from his post and picks up a soldier with a hernia (he calls it a "'rupture'"). The soldier confesses he threw away his truss (support for the hernia) to worsen his condition, but the captain doctor at his regiment will be able to figure this out. He thinks that if he gets an operation, he will be put back in combat again. Henry hatches a plan: the soldier will get out, fall down on the road and bump his head, and then Henry will pick him up again and take him to a hospital. They drop him off and drive on, then return. They find two men lifting the soldier into a horse ambulance. The soldier yells "'Nothing to do. They come back for me.'"

Henry goes home. In two days, he will go with the cars to Plava for an offensive. He sends some army postcards to the U.S. He does not think he will be killed in the war, as it seems to him as dangerous as war in the movies. He wishes Catherine were with him, and entertains an elaborate fantasy about making love to her in a Milan hotel room.

At dinner, Henry has a dull conversation with the priest, and one of the men tells a joke about a priest. The men trade more jokes. The major challenges Henry to a drinking contest, but Henry bails out early so he can see Catherine. Rinaldi helps him sober up with some coffee beans. When Henry goes to see Catherine, Helen tells him Catherine is ill and cannot see him. Henry leaves and feels lonely.


The soldier's hernia recalls the war-caused impotence of protagonist Jake Barnes in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. In that novel, Jake's impotence was a metaphor for how the war emasculated men and stripped them of their innocence. Obviously a believer in this theory, Hemingway continues to describe the debilitating physical and psychic effects of war in A Farewell to Arms.

Henry feels empty about not seeing Catherine only after he loses the chance to see her for the night. This is another example of not knowing about the magnitude of something until a tragic, or slightly tragic, event happens to destroy it.

Instead, he has treated seeing her "very lightly," like a game. In fact, he plays a game before seeing her - the drinking contest with the major. In this case, drinking is a double distraction, as it is both a game and inebriation helps the men forget the war.

Book One: Chapter VIII:

Henry rides up to the river with three other cars in preparation for a possible attack. Henry gets out at the British hospital and makes plans to catch up with the cars. He tells Catherine he will be away until tomorrow for a meaningless "'show,'" and she gives him a St. Anthony medal (though she is not Catholic). In the car, Henry clasps the St. Anthony around his neck. He mentions that he was not able to find it after he was wounded. The cars drive through the beautiful countryside to the river.


Henry mentions he will be wounded in the future. This foreshadowing casts a tragic shadow over his relationship with Catherine, as we know she will have to deal with a second injury - though obviously one that is not fatal this time - to a lover.

The St. Anthony's failure to protect for Henry is ironic, not only because as a religious item it does not take care of him, but also because he loses it after he is wounded. Hemingway makes clear that religion has little effect in this chaotic, violent war.

Catherine again exposes her fear of abandonment, a theme that will deepen throughout the novel.

Book One: Chapter IX:

Henry's car parks at a dressing station near the river. He learns from the major what his driving task will be once the fighting starts. Henry drinks with the major and smokes with the other drivers in a dugout. They discuss the attack and the war in general. Henry believes it will not end if one side stops fighting, since "'Defeat is worse'" than war, but another driver disagrees and thinks nothing is worse than war.

Henry takes another driver to find out when the drivers eat. The bombardment starts. Henry receives some macaroni and cheese and runs out with it through the shelling. A shell knocks them down, but they make it to the dugout. They eat the macaroni without utensils while artillery shells blast outside. A huge, hot blast comes through the dugout, and Henry thinks he is dead. He soon returns to his senses. Another driver has been badly wounded and both his legs are amputated or nearly amputated. Henry tends to him, but the driver dies. When Henry gets up, he realizes he has been hit and his kneecap is gone. The two surviving drivers carry Henry to the medical post.

At the medical post, where the wounded and the dead are separated, an English ambulance driver promises to return the Italian ambulances to their villa, and says he will talk to the doctors about taking Henry back with them. The Englishman returns, exaggerates the importance of Henry's identity, and has Henry taken to the dressing room. The medical captain reports on Henry's injuries - a skull fracture in addition to his major right knee and foot wounds - and tends to them, causing Henry great pain that alcohol slightly dulls. Henry is taken by stretcher to the English ambulance, and they drive off. The man in the stretcher over him bleeds on to him, and by the time they reach the post on top of the hill, the man is dead and they replace him.


Although Hemingway has hinted at the horror of war, he has not graphically detailed it until this point. Henry's somewhat out-of-body experience when hit by the shell is rendered in the same spare style his narration has previously used, and as such it feels plausible and not overly dramatic.

This chapter also marks the second instance of characters' paying great attention to eating pasta. The difference this time is that the drivers eat the macaroni without utensils, and while a bombardment takes place outside. It is more evident, then, that they exercise such detailed attention to compensate for the chaos outside they are powerless to stop. Moreover, they demonstrate "grace under pressure," the ability to execute an action in the face of deathly conflict.

As an inverse function of Hemingway's stylistic repertoire, he omits pertinent details that ultimately draw the reader's attention to them. A minor example is Henry's discussion with the major of "when it should start," in reference to the fighting. It is almost as if he cannot bring himself to say what "it" is. The more notable example is of the blood dripping on him from the above stretcher: "I felt something dripping. At first it dripped slowly and regularly, then it pattered into a stream." This bloody "it" is far more horrific and mysterious than had he used the word "blood."

Book One: Chapter X:

Orderlies tend to Henry in the ward at the field hospital. Rinaldi visits him and gives him a bottle of cognac. He tells him he will receive a medal for being wounded while doing a heroic act. Henry says he did not do anything heroic, but Rinaldi says Henry's desire not to be helped before others counts. He says the mission was a success, but expresses his displeasure with the girls in town. He promises to send Catherine over, but he thinks Henry handles women the wrong way. They have a small fight, then make up and Rinaldi leaves.


Rinaldi jokes that Henry is homosexual, but his own actions - constantly calling Henry "'baby,'" kissing him, and generally doting on him - suggest he is the one who has homosexual tendencies. They have what is referred to in literary criticism as a "homosocial" relationship, an intimate bond generally between men that sometimes verges on homosexuality. However, Rinaldi differs from Henry in that he is not at all a believer in love, but only in sex.

Henry's nonchalance over receiving a medal is not merely a testament to his stoicism. He simply does not care about the rewards of war.

Book One: Chapter XI:

The priest visits Henry and brings him vermouth and English newspapers. They drink and discuss the war. The priest believes there are people who make war and people who do not make war; Henry believes he helps the first group force the second group to make war. Henry admits he does not love God or anything at all; the priest says Henry will love and, when he does, will be happy. The priest leaves, and Henry thinks about the idyllic Italian countryside the priest has told him about. He goes to sleep.


When speaking about love, the priest echoes the sentiment that Catherine and Henry have expressed: "'You cannot know about it unless you have it.'" Henry, admittedly, does not yet know about love, especially the kind of sacrificial love of which the priest speaks.

Book One: Chapter XII:

Henry describes how screens are put up around a bed if the inhabitant is going to die. He is to be sent to a better American hospital in Milan tomorrow. That night, Rinaldi and Henry's major visit. There is much speculation among the Italians over whom America will declare war on in addition to Germany. Rinaldi tells him Catherine is also going to the hospital in Milan. They leave Henry, who goes to sleep. Henry makes the unpleasant two-day train trip to Milan.


The discussion of whom the U.S. will declare war on becomes a game of sorts for Rinaldi and the major. In an attempt not to consider the actual consequences of what capturing cities and countries means, they carelessly toss off the names as a way to pass the time.

Rinaldi's teasing Henry over his injury and his need to be "cuddle[d]" by Catherine steps over the line. Though Rinaldi is lustful and disdains intimacy, he appears jealous over Henry's potentially loving relationship.