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Free Study Guide for A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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Catherine went to her hotel to see Ferguson, and Henry waited in the hotel bar and read the papers. Then, the barman came in. The war was not progressing for the Italian army. It had not stood at the Tagliamento and was falling back to the Piave. The Piave looked like a trout stream, flowing swiftly with shallow stretches and pools under the shadow of the rocks. The barman informed him that Count Greffi, an old man of Henry’s acquaintance, was in the hotel with his niece and wanted to play billiards with him. The Count was ninety-four years old, with white hair and a moustache and beautiful manners. He had been in the diplomatic service of both Austria and Italy and his birthday parties were the great events of Milan. His billiards game was smooth.

Then, the barman suggested that Henry should come fishing and he agreed. They got a boat and Henry rowed while the barman sat in the stern fishing. They rowed along the shore; Stresa looked very deserted. They did not catch many fish, so they decided to have a few drinks in a cafe. There, the barman informed him that the war was going poorly and asked Henry why he had joined. He replied that he was a fool. On their way back, the barman rowed the boat. They reached the hotel but Catherine had not returned yet. Henry lay on the bed in his room and tried not to think.

Catherine came back with Ferguson whom she invited for lunch. She sympathized with Henry for feeling bored because he had nobody except her and she went away. He agreed that his life used to be full of everything and if she was not with him, he did not have a thing in the world. Henry said that he was not jealous but was just so much in love with her that nothing mattered much. She asked him to be good to Ferguson. They then went to have lunch with Count Greffi and his niece. Catherine and Ferguson were impressed with Count Greffi.

In the afternoon, Henry played billiards with Count Greffi. The count said that he was feeling well but old and wanted to talk in his native Italian only. They talked of various things, had a little wine, and played the game. The Count asked Henry what he had been reading when he understood that the latter did not want to talk about war. Henry mentioned that he had read Mr. Britting sees Through It in the hospital. Then, the Count asked if he believed in the soul and Henry could not decide one way or the other. The Count said that he had thought that he would become devout as he grew older but that was not the case. Also, the thought that one did not get wiser as one grew older; one only got careful. The Count then asked him what he really thought of the war. Henry replied that it was a stupid war, which would eventually be won by Italy, as it is a younger nation. When nations become older they turn more stupid, the Count observed cynically. He then asked Henry to pray for him when he was dead. He told Henry that he was in love and that in itself was religion.


In this chapter, the plot seems suspended. Hemingway puts the lovers in an almost domestic scene, perhaps to highlight the fact that this brief happiness is going to end soon. Another character, Count Greffi, is introduced here. He is an old gentleman and perturbed by the fact that he is an exception to his family, which is devout. He corroborates Catherine’s idea that love is religion. In this matter, he bears a close resemblance to the priest in his thinking, though he is not religious. Both of them advocate love that is pure and sacred whereas Rinaldi believes in profane love and drunken one-night stands.



That night there was a storm and Henry awoke to hear the rain lashing the windowpanes. The barman wanted to discuss a serious matter with him. They went into the bathroom and Henry asked him if he was in trouble. The barman said that Henry was in trouble and the police were going to arrest him in the morning. They had noticed that Henry was in the hotel before as an officer, but now, he was without a uniform. After the retreat, they seemed to arrest everybody. The barman suggested that Henry go to Switzerland to avoid being arrested. He offered his boat, which would be all right even after the storm. Henry asked Catherine if she would like to go straight to Switzerland in a boat. She accepted and packed their bags. The barman took them out through the servant’s quarters. Catherine thanked him, and he said he was glad to be of help. The porter offered Henry an umbrella, Catherine took hers, and they went out in the pouring rain. It was a cold, wet, and windy November night, and Henry knew it was snowing in the mountains. The barman was at the shore of the lake and handed over the boat to them. When Henry offered to pay for the boat, the barman refused, saying that he could pay after reaching Switzerland safely. He also gave them a packet of sandwiches, a bottle of brandy, and a bottle of wine and accepted fifty lira as payment for them. The barman told him that he should row the boat past Luino, Cannero, Cannobio, and Tranzano and when he reached Brissago, after passing Mount Tamara, he would be in Switzerland, which was thirty-five kilometers from Stresa. Henry asked for a compass to guide them in the rain but the barman assured that it was not necessary and that the wind would guide them. He wished them luck and pushed the boat into the water.


Henry and Catherine’s blissful but brief idyll is over. Till now, they had a vague apprehension that the police would be after Henry, but now, they receive confirmation that they were and that arrest was imminent. Hence, they go to Switzerland because it remained neutral and would offer them sanctuary. It was just a convenient thirty-five kilometers from Stresa. The journey could have been exciting or pleasurable under other circumstances, but now, it was fraught with danger.

The barman is a friendly and helpful man. In fact, most characters in this novel are good, showing that human nature has its decent side too. That is why it surprises us when Henry insists that the world breaks and kills people, particularly the good, brave, and gentle. It seems Henry is not referring to people here but to the world, torn asunder by war.


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