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Free Study Guide for A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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Henry reached Gorizia when winter was in its nadir. Unfortunately, it did not feel like a homecoming. He was informed that summer had been bad for the Italian army. The major asked Henry if he received his medal and whether he felt strong enough to work. Henry wanted to know where he should start his duty. The major informed him that there were four ambulances in Bainsizza commanded by Gino, who was tired. Henry could go and relieve him. He said that Henry was lucky to be hit and removed from the battlefield because conditions at the battlefront were horrible. He predicted that if that year was bad, the next year would be worse. He asked Henry if any more Americans were going to join the army. Henry said that ten million people were being trained for the army, but the major said that the French army would absorb most. The major confessed that he was tired of the war and if given a chance of getting away from it, he would never come back.

Henry went to his room but could not find Rinaldi. He undressed, unpacked, and feeling tired, he laid down. Rinaldi came in and inspected his knees. He said that his knee was as stiff as a board. He said that Henry should not have been sent back. He lamented that the war was killing him and that depressed him. He had operated upon so many people that now he didn’t think, he just operated. To escape these depressing thoughts, he suggested that they should get drunk and be cheerful. Henry informed him that he had jaundice and could not drink. Rinaldi said that a small drink did not destroy one’s liver; he suggested that Henry’s liver should be replaced with an Italian one, so that he would be a man again. Henry was glad to see Rinaldi and enjoyed his teasing. Then Rinaldi asked him if he was married to the English girl and Henry said no, though he was in love with her.

They proceeded to the dining room, but the meal was not quite ready. They started to have another drink when the major came in. They predicted that the priest would join them too, for he knew Henry was there. The mess was unusually quiet, and Henry missed the noise. Then the priest came in. Since the priest-baiting captain was not in, Rinaldi played his role. He said that St. Paul has said a little wine could be taken for one’s stomach. The priest, as usual, refused to engage. Rinaldi called St. Paul a “rounder and chaser” who preached what he did not practice. Henry said that they should not discuss saints after dark. Rinaldi was very drunk. He was under much strain not only because he was overworked but because he thought that he had caught syphilis and was treating treatment himself for it. They believed that the Austrians might be launching a fresh offensive but the major hoped not. After this, they all said goodnight and left.


They say that home is where heart is. In Henry’s case, his heart was not in war but with Catherine, whom he left behind in Milan, but to whom he does consider himself “married.” Therefore, coming to Gorizia does not feel like a homecoming to him. His spirits also droop when he sees many familiar faces in the mess missing, obviously killed in the offensives. He notices that the soldier’s morale is very low. Everyone confesses his disgust and disillusionment with the war. In such a background, love plays no role at all.



The rain stopped for a while and Henry invited the priest to his room upstairs. He told Henry that the summer was very bad and everyone was feeling the strain of the war. He expressed the hope that both sides would realize their folly and stop fighting. The Austrians had brief victories. Nevertheless, the war could not go on much longer. It was in defeat that one became a Christian, even the humility of Jesus Christ was because of a feeling of defeat, said Henry. The priest was happy to say his prayers and hope for the best. During war, ordinary and average life was disturbed and that in itself was a defeat. Henry said that such thoughts tired him so he never thought about them. He believed only in sleep, which to him meant nothingness.


War has a depressing effect on everybody. Henry’s talk with the priest remains inconclusive because he cannot match the latter’s faith; it (and by extension, religion) fails to give him solace in times of distress. Crumbling religious faith and eroding moral values are among the offshoots of war.


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