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Free Study Guide for A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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The narrator and his companions were living in a house in a village that was situated on the banks of a river. From there, great plains and greater mountains were visible. It was late summer that year and a war was going on in the vicinity. Troops went up and down the road, raising a lot of dust that settled on the leaves. There were orchards of fruit trees on the plain and, beyond them, the mountains were brown and bare. During both day and night, flashes of artillery could be seen from the mountains, signifying war.

During autumn, one could hear troops marching with heavy boots and huge guns, pulled by motorized tractors. The dusty leaves fell from trees, giving them a bare look. Mists came from over the river and there were clouds on the mountains. The troops were muddy and wet and the trucks splashed mud on the roads. Sometimes, the king zoomed past in a car, wishing to see how things were going, but sadly, things were pretty bad. Nearly seven thousand soldiers were already killed and there was more to come since the war showed no sign of abating. To add to it, with the advent of the rainy season, cholera set in. It was checked soon enough, but not before it had taken many victims.


The introductory chapter is very important. It is descriptive but no details concerning the name of the narrator or the battle are given. Perhaps, the author believes that one war is much the same as other, faceless and meaningless and its catastrophic results on the individual caught in it are all the same anyway. More importantly, this chapter describes three seasons: summer, autumn, and winter (the rains). It throws light on the constructive and destructive aspects of nature. As the novel sadly proves, one who goes through a harrowing season cannot look forward to the coming summer. For the “initiated,” the spring can never be the same, let alone better, again.

In this chapter, the reader is introduced to mountains, plains, and rain, which are recurrent symbols in the novel. The mountains stand for life, security, and majesty. The plain symbolizes war, death, and decay. The most significant and prominent symbol is that of the rain which is not life-giving and sustaining but life-taking.



War brought many victories the next year. The mountains, that were beyond the valley and the hillside where the chestnut forests grew, were captured. There were many victories beyond the plain on the plateau. The narrator and his companions moved to the town of Gorizia and lived in a house that had a fountain and many thick shady trees and a walled garden. Now, the fighting was only a mile away, beyond the next mountain.

The town of Gorizia was on the banks of a river and was very nice. The house in which the narrator lived was also fine. The Austrians seemed to like the town, for they did not destroy it. The town had two brothels, one for the officers and the other for the troops. Often, the king passed throughout the town in his car, long-necked and with a gray beard like a goat’s chin-tuft.

Then, winter came and entire oak forests were covered with snow. The ground became invisible, buried as it was, under the snow. The mountains up the river were not yet captured; all that was left for next year. The narrator and his friend watched the priest passing by in the street, as they were drinking wine in the officer’s mess. The narrator’s friend signaled him to come in but the priest refused.

Later on, during dinner, the captain began picking on the priest. The priest was young and blushed easily and wore a military uniform but with a cross in dark red velvet above the left pocket. His vulnerability made him an easy target of his colleagues’ ridicule. They teased him because he loved the company of girls and spent a lot of time with them. The priest refused to take offense at the joke and let it pass. Then, a lieutenant remarked that he was an atheist, to which, the major replied that all thinking men were atheists. The narrator was asked by the others to go on leave, which was due him. He could visit Rome, Naples, Sicily, Amalfi, Palermo or Capri. The priest offered the narrator a chance to go to Abruzzi and visit his family at Capracotta. Again, several officers cracked jokes at the priest’s expense, but he took them all in his stride.


Even in this chapter, no clues are given about the identity of the people involved in the war. It is hinted that one group is Austrian with Franz Joseph as its king and with the Italians as its enemies. Since he is given the liberty to vis Free Freealian cities during his leave, we assume the narrator fights on the Italian side. In this chapter, Hemingway throws light on the routine life of the officers. They drink and eat well, visit brothels, and crack good-humored jokes at the priest. Their jokes are often bawdy and vulgar. The priest strikes us as a cheerful, friendly person, (he offers the narrator the chance to visit his family) god-fearing, and good-hearted. The narrator, we gather, is due for some leave and as fighting ceases due to snow, he intends to go on a vacation.


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