‘A Farewell to Arms’ Review

Michael Parke, Staff Writer

A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, is a novel about love during the first World War. It is Hemingway’s second novel.

The story follows an American in the Italian Army named Frederic Henry. He’s an officer and paramedic and joined the conflict on a whim. He meets Catherine Barkley, an English nurse who seems to be a bit crazy due to her past experiences. They fall in love and spend time together (especially in Milan), and Catherine gets pregnant. He returns to the front. The Italian Army soon orders a retreat and Henry, wanting no more, goes AWOL and meets up with Catherine; they go to Switzerland. The story then ends the way Hemingway’s stories usually end.

It’s a good book for people who like the author’s work. If The Sun Also Rises was a hit, then this should probably be read. (I’d have to say that there’s little, if any, humor in this novel though.) It’s also good for those looking for a book that challenges our ideas about love, war and religion like Hemingway’s first novel did. It is re-readable, although I didn’t feel as bad for Henry as I did the first time. However, I did read Bierce and Faulkner before this, and they probably lessened the impact of Henry’s plight considerably. I also knew the ending at the start. But that’s only my experience, and I’m sure that for most people the book will be a thought-provoking novel if studied.

I’m not really an authority on books, especially those concerning love and war. The only thing that comes close to A Farewell to Arms in my opinion is For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Hemingway, because it deals with the same things (in that one the conflict is the Spanish Civil War). In terms of writing style I’d recommend the same people from my other Hemingway review: Conrad and Hammett. Bierce discusses war, so maybe he’d be good. And any person from the Lost Generation (Joyce, Fitzgerald) would probably have to be included also.

A Farewell to Arms is up there amongst my favorites. It is currently my favorite book of Hemingway’s. He wastes no words, and readers will most likely appreciate the economical style he possesses. As a sophomore novel it’s essentially perfect, and as a piece of literature it should be read.