A Farewell to Arms

Hemingway’s Catherines: Death Drives and Destruction in A Farewell to Arms and The Garden of Eden College

Catherine Barkley, who predeceases the retrospective narration of her bereaved lover in A Farewell to Arms, has nevertheless transcended her untimely death to become immortalized as a frequent and much-debated subject of Hemingway criticism. Since her debut in 1929, Catherine has taken many a turn beneath the critical microscope as scholars have shuffled through various lenses. Catherine has weathered countless critical trends and multiple waves of feminism, throughout which critics have cast her in many roles, from her infamous early days as a “divine lollipop” and “inflated rubber-doll woman” to her later restoration not as Hemingway dream girl, but Hemingway code hero (Hacket, Bell qtd. in Spanier 76). Whether critical darling or demon, Catherine Barkley remains one of Hemingway’s most iconic and well-known characters. And yet, oddly, she is not Hemingway’s only Catherine.

In 1986, another Catherine, Catherine Bourne, made her debut as the female lead of the posthumously published The Garden of Eden. Although Catherine remains a common name, I reject a reading that figures this repetition as purely coincidental. Noting, as Carl Eby points out, that Hemingway maintained a fascination with the name Catherine both within and...

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