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Free Study Guide for A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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The narrator returned from his leave with the army still camped in Gorizia. Spring had come and hostilities were on the rise again. He saw that the mountains were now covered with green patches and there were many guns in the town. There were new hospitals with many British men and women in them. The narrator shared a room with Lieutenant Rinaldi, who was a surgeon. When he entered it, he found the Rinaldi asleep, but he woke up as soon as he heard Henry. He asked him how he spent his leave. The narrator replied that he had had a wonderful time. Rinaldi informed him that there were new girls in the brothels and that some other beautiful girls had come to town too. In particular, he was fascinated by Catherine Barkley, an English nurse. Rinaldi told him that nothing important had happened during his absence, except for a few men suffering from frostbite, chilblains, jaundice, gonorrhea, self-inflicted wounds, pneumonia, and other problems. He took a loan of fifty lira from the narrator and went back to sleep.

At the mess that night, the narrator sat beside the priest, who seemed disappointed and hurt that he had not visited his family while on leave. The narrator had spent his leave going from town to town, having casual affairs with girls, going to night-spots, and drinking more than he could take. There had hardly been any difference between night and day and between one day and another. The captain again made fun of the priest saying that the priest loved girls and wanted Austria to win that war. To both charges, the priest pleaded not guilty and took everything in a cheerful manner.


In this chapter, the author allows the reader a few facts of the narrator’s character. He seems to be a person without any strong ties and commitments; he is a drifter. He is a heavy drinker and has a very casual, if not indifferent attitude, towards sex and women. He has never known what it is to be in love. He is a hedonistic, pleasure-loving person without any serious aim in life.

In this chapter, we are also introduced in absentia, to the heroine, Catherine Barkley. According to Rinaldi, she is English, extremely beautiful and works as a nurse. Rinaldi appears to us as good-looking, skillful, and unlike the narrator, a dedicated surgeon. He wants to marry Miss Barkley. He is interesting and is a direct contrast to the narrator.



The next morning, when the narrator awoke, he heard the sounds of an artillery battery fired twice. He assumed that the enemy was firing directly over them, though he could not actually see the guns. He then decided to go out and attend to his duties. He saw ten ambulances lined up side-by-side and mechanics trying to repair one of them. He had imagined that the smooth functioning of removing the wounded and sick from the dressing stations, hauling them back from the mountains to the clearing station, and then sending them to hospitals, depended on him.

Evidently, it did not matter whether he was there or not; things were as they were before. His absence, the narrator felt, did not make any difference to the state of affairs. That day, he visited the posts in the mountains and was back in town late in the afternoon. He realized that a fresh attack was to be launched soon.

When he went up to the room, he found Rinaldi sitting on the bed with a copy of Hugo’s English grammar. He was dressed to go out and asked the narrator to accompany him on his visit to Miss Barkley. They had a drink and set out to the British hospital where she worked. When they reached the hospital, they saw Miss Barkley and another nurse in the garden. Miss Barkley thought it was odd for an American to be in the Italian army. He corrected her, saying that he was in the ambulance corps. He observed that she was quite tall in her nurse’s uniform, was blonde, and had a tawny skin and gray eyes; in short, she was very beautiful. She informed him, during the course of the conversation, that she had once been engaged to a man who had been killed on the Somme. Rinaldi meanwhile was talking to the other nurse, Miss Ferguson. Miss Barkley had started studying nursing, hoping that her fiancé would come into the hospital with a minor but romantic, “picturesque” wound, where she would nurse him back to health. Unfortunately, that was not to be, and he was torn to bits in the battle. She asked the narrator how long the war would last. He replied that it would end soon. When they walked back to the house, Rinaldi remarked that Miss Barkley seemed to prefer Henry to himself although he had found Miss Ferguson nice.


In this chapter, we are introduced to the heroine, Miss Barkley. Her reference to her dead fiancé strikes a pathetic note here. We come to know that she does not really understand the full extent and gruesome nature of battle.


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