The protagonist and fairly aloof narrator, Henry is a young American ambulance driver with the Italian army. However, he does not feel strongly about the cause, and certainly is not out for glory. He turns from the horrors of war to a passionate, escapist love affair with Catherine Barkley, and the all-consuming love helps distract him from the brutality around him. Still, he is good at his job; a cool-headed, unselfish man who exercises grace under pressure when he is injured and when he must shoot a deserting engineering officer, Henry fulfills the code of the "Hemingway hero." He makes his "separate peace" when he decides that he no longer has any obligation to the army and that his loyalty is to Catherine.
A British Voluntary Aid Detachment (a second-tier nurse), Catherine is in grief over her fiancé's recent death at the start of the novel. Henry offers a tempting rebound, and she dives into this new diverting love. She later admits that she was slightly "crazy" when she first met Henry, and her behavior backs this up: she gives herself so readily to a near stranger, and her games of flirtation and teasing border on the juvenile. However, she gains some measure of independence later on, as when she helps Henry row the boat across the lake for their escape, but she is typically submissive and eager to please with Henry (thought, to her credit, so is he with her). Like Henry, she believes the world is out to destroy people's happiness.
Henry's Italian surgeon roommate, Rinaldi is an alcoholic womanizer who does not believe in romance and love as Henry does. Instead, he proclaims himself in love with nearly every woman he meets, then quickly discards the idea as he finds the next one. He appears to have something of a crush on Henry, or at least engages in what literary criticism refers to as a "homosocial relationship," a bond between men that borders on homoeroticism.
The unnamed priest in Henry's unit is the butt of all jokes by the others, but Henry, though he is not religious, treats him kindly. They have several deep discussions, and the priest encourages Henry to find love and be happy.
A Scottish nurse, Helen is Catherine's best female friend in the war. She is also friends with Henry at first, but later grows jealous of his and Catherine's relationship and fears Catherine will abandon her.
An Italian ambulance driver, Bonello happily kills off the engineering sergeant that Henry shoots. Bonello, like his fellow drivers, does not believe in the cause of the war, and he leaves the group during the Italian retreat to become a prisoner.
An Italian-American soldier in the Italian army, Ettore boasts of his medals and rank while insulting others. In this regard, he is the opposite of Henry, who does not care at all about personal glory.
A brash, fast-talking doctor who successfully operates on Henry's knee, Dr. Valentini is a good example of the masculine Hemingway hero, especially in comparison to the effete, incompetent doctors who first diagnose Henry.
An Italian ambulance driver who is shot and killed during the retreat.
An opera singer Henry knows, Simmons gives Henry food and civilian clothing after Henry escapes from the army.
A young, pretty nurse Henry befriends with while he recovers in the Milan hospital. She appears to be attracted to Henry.
Miss Van Campen
The shrewish superintendent of the Milan hospital, she takes an immediate disliking to Henry.
The bartender at the hotel in Stresa, Emilio warns Henry of his impending arrest and provides him with his boat to escape.
A rich elderly man Henry knows who plays billiards with Henry at the hotel in Stresa. Count Greffi does not believe in the war, and Henry values his other mature opinions.
The Captain of Henry's unit frequently mocks the priest.
The Major of Henry's unit frequently mocks the priest, as well.
A Farewell to Arms Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for A Farewell to Arms is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Frederick Henry is the protagonist, main character, and narrator is A Farewell to Arms. The title "Tenente" is most often used in regard to Henry. Henry is reckless, he drinks too much, and as a result, suffers needless injuries. He is, however,...
I wouldn't say that Henry is unpatriotic, as he certainly fulfills his patriotic duty. He does, however, lack Gino's commitment to the cause. Gino believes his involvement has to mean something..... that they haven't fought in vein. Henry fights...