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Free Study Guide for A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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The narrator went to see Miss Barkley again the next afternoon. As she was on duty, he could not see her. Instead, he spoke to the head nurse who chided him for joining the Italian side. He told her that since he happened to be in Italy when the war began and since he spoke Italian, he had enlisted. The day was hot and the narrator went to survey the area near the waterfront. The Italian soldiers were in trenches whereas the Austrians had barbed wire on the other side of the hill to protect themselves. A new wide road was being laid which would go over the mountain and zigzag down to the bridge. When this road was finished, the offensive would start. The narrator climbed so high up the road in his car that looking down through the woods, he could see the line of the river that separated the two armies. As he drove back to the town, three shells exploded on the way. He escaped unhurt and reached his villa safely.

After dinner, he went to the British hospital and found Miss Ferguson and Miss Barkley off duty and in the garden. Miss Ferguson addressed the narrator as Mr. Henry, excused herself, and went away. He tried to hold Miss Barkley’s hand and she did not object. When he tried to kiss her, she slapped him. Immediately, the narrator offered his apologies to her, though his face hurt where she had slapped. Though she was angry at first, she cooled down. He remarked that they had gotten away from the war, which made her laugh. He tried to kiss her again and though she resisted at first, she yielded. She called him darling, cried, and then asked him to be good to her. She said that they were going to have a strange life. When the narrator walked back to the villa, Rinaldi was waiting for him. He remarked that the narrator looked like a dog in heat and seemed to be making progress with Miss Barkley.


This chapter introduces the theme of love, while war occupies the forefront. We now have the name of the narrator, Mr. Frederic Henry. He has a casual attitude towards Catherine at this stage, whereas she starts to genuinely love him. In fact, Henry seems to be confused about his own feelings. By the end of this chapter, we know the nationalities of several characters in this novel. Henry is an American, serving in the Italian ambulance unit. Catherine is English, Miss Helen Ferguson is Scottish, and Rinaldi is an Italian surgeon. With a deft stroke, Hemingway makes his protagonist an ambulance driver, so that he can report events of the battle with a dispassionate calm.



Henry was away for two days, attending his duty near the front. As soon as he returned, he went and met Catherine. He had to wait for her in the hospital. He had carried his gun as if it were mandatory to carry one. He kept it flopping against the small of his back and almost never had to use it. When Catherine came, they went out into the garden. She blamed him for going away without notice and staying away for a long time. He replied that it was the third day since their last meeting. Catherine asked him if he loved her and he lied that he did. She asked him to repeat the line, “I’ve come back to Catherine in the night,” and promise her not to go away again. She expressed her own deep love for him. Henry kissed her twice. He wondered if she was a little crazy. He found that it was better, coming to Catherine, rather than going every evening to the brothel house for officers. He was quite sure that he did not love Catherine, nor could he say, at that moment, that he would love her in the future. For him, love was a game; a game of wits like chess and a game of bridge, which one plays for stakes. In this case, however, nobody mentioned what the stakes were, nor did Henry care. Meanwhile, Catherine was immersed in her own thoughts and presently, she came back from where she had been. She startled him by saying that they are both playing a dirty game, a rotten game: she was truly in love and he was only pretending. Henry asked her if she was usually so perceptive and she replied no. He kissed her again and promised her that he would visit her often and he would be very good to her. Then, she went inside the hospital and he returned to his Villa, to be again teased by Rinaldi, who said that he was thankful that he did not get involved with the English.


As the story starts taking brisk steps, the reader is made aware of the protagonist’s dilemma. He has a casual, even lackadaisical, interest both in love and in war. At this stage in the novel, he is just an average man. And Catherine also makes the reader uneasy at this juncture; she is still a puzzle. Her sudden outbursts of weeping, followed by laughing, and her “crazy” way of talking make us wonder if she is mad. She is bordering on paranoid about her beloved leaving her. She often lapses into daydreams. Emotionally, she is a frail woman and when she suffers from a physical trauma (like pregnancy), she is sure not to recover from it.


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