A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms Summary and Analysis of Book Four, Chapters XXXIII-XLI

Book Four: Chapter XXXIII:

Henry gets off the train in Milan and goes into a wine shop for some coffee and bread. The proprietor offers to shelter him if he is in trouble. Henry thanks him but rejects the offer. The proprietor warns him that his sleeve shows signs that he has torn off his stars, and offers to sell him leave-paper, though Henry again turns him down. Henry goes to the porter's lodge at the hospital. He learns that Catherine left two days ago for Stresa with Helen. He asks the porter and his wife not to tell anyone they saw him.

Henry finds Simmons, a man he knows who is studying singing. He asks Simmons how he can get into Switzerland; Simmons says it is simple, though Henry's flight from the police may make it more difficult. Simmons offers to give him some civilian clothes, and tells him he needs only to row a boat to get to Stresa.


As Henry switches into a new civilian life, he finds he has many allies. However, it is unclear, for example, if the proprietor of the wine shop earnestly cares about Henry's well being or only wants him to buy leave-papers from him. Even the seeming pacifists, Hemingway suggests, want to profit from the war.

Book Four: Chapter XXXIV:

Henry feels uncomfortable in civilian clothes as he rides a train to Stresa. He vows to forget the war, as he had "made a separate peace." He arrives and takes a carriage to the Grand-Hôtel & des Isles Borromées and gets a good room. He eats and drinks in the hotel bar and asks the bartender, Emilio, if he has seen two English nurses. Emilio tells him they are at a little hotel near the train station. Henry finds Catherine and Helen eating dinner at their hotel. Helen accuses Henry of having gotten Catherine into trouble, but Catherine defends him. Helen cries and tells Henry she hates him. Catherine finally calms her down.

Catherine spends the night in Henry's hotel room. He feels they are never lonely or afraid when together, and that nighttime, which can be a lonely time, is better with her. He thinks the world tries to kill anyone it cannot break. In the morning, he deflects Catherine's questions about his possible arrest, though he admits he feels like a criminal for deserting the army. He tells her his desire to go to Switzerland, and she agrees it would be nice.


Henry tells Catherine "'Let's not think about anything'" and summarizes what the war does to people, especially lovers: it forces them to ignore the horror around them and focus on more pleasurable, simply topics, such as the flirtatious games of love. As he points out earlier in the chapter, the war breaks or kills people; if you are strong, the war will not break you but will instead kill you. For strong people like Henry and Catherine who have weathered great adversity, they must hope they remain "strong at the broken places," as Henry says, or else face death. This is why Henry must make "a separate peace" and escape to Switzerland - if he stays in the war, it will kill him.

Helen's strength is different; she is more responsible than Catherine is and does not have a lover in whom she can forget the war. Hence, her jealousy over Catherine and Henry's relationship finally emerges, masked by her concern for Catherine.

Book Four: Chapter XXXV:

Catherine goes to see Helen while Henry reads up on war news in the bar. Emilio tells him that Count Greffi, an elderly former diplomat of Austria and Italy Henry knows from before, wants to play billiards with Henry. Henry and Emilio go fishing for a little while on Emilio's boat. They have a drink later and Emilio says if he is called to war next year, he will get out of the country - he has fought before.

Henry goes back to the room and waits for Catherine. Henry admits he feels his life is empty without her. They have lunch with Helen, and Count Greffi introduces himself and his niece to the women. Later in the afternoon, Henry joins Count Greffi for billiards. They make a small bet and Henry receives a handicap. They drink while playing but focus on the game, and Count Greffi wins by a little. They discuss the books "'Le Feu'" by a Frenchman, Barbusse, and "'Mr. Britling Sees Through It'"; Henry is apparently not a fan of either work. They talk about death, immortality, valuing life, and being devout, which neither of them claims to be. Count Greffi believes Italy will win the war because it is a younger country. They part.


Henri Barbusse's Le Feu (1916) or, in its English translation, Under Fire: The Story of a Squad, was one of the first critically acclaimed anti-war novels about WWI, while H.G. Wells's 1916 novel Mr. Britling Sees It Through (not "Sees Through It") similarly diagnosed the ills of the war. However, both books, and more importantly both authors, have a predilection for Communism, a system Hemingway critiques most notably in his 1940 novel about the Spanish Civil War, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Rather, Hemingway prefers the individualism of Henry and his other heroes, men who make "a separate peace" but try to bond with others through non-political means.

Henry feels empty without Catherine and, once again, tries not to think at all without her to lessen the pain of emptiness. Count Greffi ably distracts him with another game, billiards, for which, unlike love, they both know the stakes ahead of time.

Book Four: Chapter XXXVI:

Henry wakes up during a storm to a knock at the door. It is Emilio, who warns Henry he will be arrested in the morning for a war-related crime. Emilio suggests Henry escape across the lake to Switzerland with his boat. Henry wakes Catherine, tells her the news, and she quickly packs. Emilio helps them with their bags and they go downstairs. The porter gives them an umbrella, thinking they are merely going for a stroll. They reach the boat, and Henry promises to send Emilio 500 francs through the mail. Emilio gives them some food and drinks, which Henry pays for, and gives them directions for the eight-hour ride. They shove off into the stormy night.


Hemingway establishes credibility for Henry's escape by using Emilio's boat as the source of a pleasurable diversion in Chapter XXXV. As with the river, a body of water will prove to be Henry's escape route, though he must also deal with water in its more destructive form through the storm.

Book Four: Chapter XXXVII:

Henry rows the boat in the dark. In the darkness they miss Pallanza, the intended checkpoint. He rows all night, his hands growing sorer and the boat nearly smashing against the shore several times. After a while, Henry holds the umbrella so they can sail with the wind, and Catherine steers the boat. But the wind rips the umbrella and blows it inside-out. Catherine finds it humorous, and Henry refreshes with some brandy and lake water. They sail with the oars up, wary of police by the shore, and Catherine takes over the oars. They near the shore by daylight and hide from some police in a motorboat. Henry believes they are in Switzerland.

They continue sailing near the shore. They see a soldier on the road and wave to him, and then land the boat in Switzerland. They are happy to be on Swiss ground, and even find the rain cheerful. They go to a café and have a breakfast of eggs. Henry is still worried about being arrested after breakfast, though Catherine tells him not to think about it.

As Henry predicted, they are arrested after breakfast when they retrieve their bags from the boat. They are taken to the custom house, where Henry lies to a Swiss lieutenant and says he and his cousin have been studying in Italy, and says they took out the boat for winter sport. The lieutenant says he will have to send them to Locarno, but when he finds out how much money they have, he is impressed and eases up on them.

A soldier drives Henry and Catherine to Locarno, where their money helps them to secure provisional visas. Two officials debate the superiority of Montreux and Locarno for winter sport. Henry and Catherine decide to go to Montreux. They are first driven to a hotel in town.


Catherine has been gradually gaining independence over the course of the novel, changing from a submissive, eager-to-please girlfriend to a strong woman who takes over the boat-rowing as she and her lover make their escape. In fact, the whole escape across the lake is a sort of parody of the typical scene of lovers rowing on the lake. Normally, it is a pleasant, easygoing afternoon diversion. Here, it is an arduous nighttime flight; the episode with the inside-out umbrella is the only humorous break from the hard work, and even that can be seen as a symbol of nature's being against them. The lake episode again functions as a symbolic baptism, and it is fitting that Henry eats eggs for breakfast once in Switzerland.

The humorous debate among the Swiss officials over winter sport in Montreux and Locarno showcases how different life during war is in neutral Switzerland from life in war-ravaged Italy; the last time we saw officials in Italy, they were choosing which members of their own army would be executed.

Book Five: Chapter XXXVIII:

Henry and Catherine board in a Swiss mountaintop chalet near Montreux and enjoy a mostly solitary life in the beautiful countryside, the town, and neighboring villages. Since the snow has not yet fallen, he knows that the fighting is still going on in the mountains. He learns from the newspapers that the war is going badly for everyone. Catherine worries about the baby's size, as she has narrow hips. Henry wants to get married now, but Catherine does not want to do so while pregnant with "'young Catherine.'" She says she will become an American citizen once they marry, and they fantasize about places they will travel in the U.S.

It finally snows three days before Christmas. Henry says he sometimes thinks about the front and people there, like Rinaldi and the priest. Catherine is very content with him, though she admits she was crazy when she first met Henry.


This interlude shows the idyllic effects of Henry's "separate peace": a relaxed, peaceful life in a Swiss chalet. However, as Henry admits, he cannot fully divorce himself from thoughts of the war, nor can he ignore his guilt over knowing that he has escaped from it while others, like Rinaldi and the priest, are still at the front. With this weighing on his mind, he and Catherine continue to dive into romance and play flirtatious games for distraction.

Book Five: Chapter XXXIX:

It is January and snow blankets the terrain. Henry, now bearded, has not yet cabled his family to let them know where he is, but has only sent them a sight draft. Catherine plans to cut her hair after she gives birth.


This short chapter is notable mostly for Henry's reference to his contentious relationship with his family: "'...we quarrelled [sic] so much it wore itself out.'" With the war surrounding him and an unsatisfying family life, it is no wonder that Henry seeks romantic escape in Catherine. The snow, too, covers all their worries; frozen water is far kinder to their happiness than is liquid.

Book Five: Chapter XL:

Henry and Catherine stay in their rented chalet through March. Rain turns the snow into slush. With their child due in a month, they move to a hotel in Lausanne to be near a hospital. They stay for three weeks, and Catherine prepares for the baby's arrival. Henry works out at the boxing gymnasium. He and Catherine cherish their remaining time alone.


Rain again impinges upon the couple's happiness at the start of the chapter, melting the peaceful snow and turning it to grimy slush. Bad weather also breaks into the "false spring" weather and repeatedly turns it bad. Henry says that with the baby's arrival, he and Catherine feel "as though something were hurrying us and we could not lose any time together." This statement applies to the general atmosphere in the book: if there is ever any momentary happiness, the war and the world will do its best to destroy it.

Henry does not like mixing his boxing exercises with his new beard - "it looked so strange to see a man with a beard boxing" - because his secluded and bearded new self is so divorced from the war and real fighting. Henry feels uncomfortable knowing he has left the violent war for the "play"-fighting of boxing.

Book Five: Chapter XLI:

One night, Catherine has contractions, and she and Henry take a taxi to the hospital. She is taken to a room and Henry joins her, but when her labor pains become bad she tells him he should go get breakfast. He has some wine and brioche at a café, and sees a dog burrowing through garbage.

He returns to the hospital and finds Catherine in the delivery room. She demands gas repeatedly to soothe her labor pains. She is still in labor by the afternoon. Henry goes out for lunch, and when he comes back Catherine is drunk from the gas. She assures Henry that she's "'not going to die.'" Henry goes out again and thinks about her pregnancy; he feels this is the price people pay for loving each other, and worries that she might die.

The doctor informs Henry that the pregnancy is stalled, and recommends a Caesarean delivery. Henry agrees and rejoins Catherine, who breaks down at the immense pain. She worries she will die, and demands more gas. She is transported to the operating room, and Henry remains in the hall. The doctor later emerges with the male newborn. Henry does not feel fatherly at all; he tells the doctor that the baby "'nearly killed his mother.'"

Henry goes in to see Catherine. She is all right, but looks nearly dead. When she wakes up he tells her the baby is a boy. He is taken out, and the nurse tells him the baby was born strangled by the umbilical cord. Henry wonders why the doctor had pretended the baby was alive. He thinks this will kill Catherine. He thinks of a time in camp when he watched a burning log full of ants; all he did was throw a cup of water on the log, which probably only steamed the ants.

Henry has a supper in the café of ham and eggs and beer. When he returns to the hospital, he learns that Catherine has had a dangerous hemorrhage. He prays to God not to let her die. He sees her, and she says she will die. They exchange a few words, but Henry has to leave so she can rest. He comes in later after she has fallen unconscious and suffered numerous hemorrhages. He stays with her until she dies. He later leaves the room and talks to the doctor briefly, then goes back into Catherine's room against the wishes of the nurses. But he feels it is like "saying good-by to a statue," and walks back to the hotel in the rain.


Henry's ruminations in the tragic final chapter of the novel sum up Hemingway's central theme about the horrific world: "But they killed you in the end. You could count on that. Stay around and they would kill you." inhabitants. The violence and chaos of war is merely an extension of the cruel world, which is out to break and kill its inhabitants.

The novel also ends in the same atmosphere of sterility and death with which it began. The dog Henry sees foreshadows Catherine's stillbirth and her own death. Picking through the garbage, it finds "coffee-grounds, dust and some dead flowers" - all markers of sterility and death. Recall, too, that dust figured prominently in Chapter I as a symbol of fertility, but was soon turned to deathly mud by the rain. Further symmetry between the two chapters reveals itself when we think back to the image of soldiers with guns under their capes looking "as though they were six months gone with child." The baby's death by choking also recalls Henry's sensation of being choked after his knee operation in Chapter XVII.

It is ironic, then, that Henry eats eggs, a symbol of life, for his supper - or perhaps a sign that he has intercepted a life that could have been, in the same way that he does not seem to mind his son's death. Whatever we make of this, the novel ends on an unequivocally pessimistic note. The final word is "rain," a reminder of the destruction and death the world inflicts upon those who hold out the most hope, and even those who most deeply love.

We have little access to Henry's thoughts on his rainy walk back home, but it is doubtful he will recover from the blow. As he and other characters have noted, one does not always know the stakes of something until it is over. Henry, who has previously tried to ignore thoughts of life without Catherine, must now confront it. He now knows what it means, but only because he has already lost her.