Friday, August 30, 2013

A Farewell To Arms

During First World War Ernest Hemingway has served as ambulance driver for Italian Army. From this experience, Hemingway created a Frederic Henry—the main character of this book—an American Lieutenant who serve in Ambulance corps of Italian Army during First World War, just like him.

The story begins when Frederic was serving on the Italian Front, the battle between the armies of Austria and German against Italy, between 1915 - 1918. His roommate introduced him to Catherine, a Scottish (or English?) nurse served in the same war. One day a mortar shell fell in a ditch where the ambulance drivers were having breakfast. Frederic wounded on his knee, brought to a hospital, where Catherine also joined him, and they fell in love. After their vacation in Milan, Catherine was pregnant, and the couple pretended they were husband and wife (although they never really married). After recovering, Frederic must return to the front. However when Italy was on retreat, Frederic was captured, but managed to get away; and disgusting at the war, decided to desert. Catherine accompanied him in desertion; they went to Switzerland, where she would give birth to the baby.

To be honest, I have expected more about war than the romance from this book. A Farewell To Arms is said to be the bleakest book from Hemingway, maybe it is so, but I don’t feel that way. Anyway, I can’t expect cheerfulness in a war story, can I? However, what annoyed me most is how Frederic and Catherine took their lives for granted. I think it’s not right to rely one’s life only on love; as long as the couple loves each other, everything will be OK. Maybe Hemingway wanted to show us how war makes us depressed and hopeless. After witnessing his comrades died for nothing, it’s natural for Frederic to become skeptical. Still, it didn’t give him rights to deprive life from others. After finding that he loved Catherine, he should have married her and so, provided her and their coming baby with a decent and respectable life.

*spoiler alert* I don’t want to be a severe judge, but I believe that what we did in the past—good or bad—would somehow come back to us, either now or in the future. Seeing Frederic and Catherine, with how they only regarded life as a series of enjoyable moments, I was not surprised with the tragedy they had in the end. It’s clear that Frederic and Catherine were not ready to be parents from the beginning—Frederic wasn’t even touched by his newborn baby(?). And approaching the end, I knew that something terrible must have awaited me, because it’s impossible to have such comforts without suffering something. And the title also speaks about a farewell, doesn’t it? *spoiler end*

Apart from the story, Hemingway’s writing is quite unique. This is the second time I read a stream-of-consciousness novel, and I must say Hemingway’s is much better than Woolf’s—which I have failed with. Maybe it is the stream-of-consciousness, or maybe it’s the lack of moral depth, that made this book felt flat and sometimes boring. After finishing it, I could only ask Hemingway: So, what did you want to say to me? That war is cruel? That life is mortal? (I don’t know about Hemingway, but both Frederic and Catherine here did not have any religion). In short, I felt a hollowness or shallowness from this book, and the only consolation I had is the beautiful way Hemingway wrote about nature, which I also caught in The Old Man and the Sea (my only favorite from him so far).

Three and a half stars for A Farewell To Arms.


I read Vintage Classics paperback edition

*This book is counted as:*

4th book for Baca Bareng BBI 2013: (August) – Books on War


  1. aku baca ini juga mbak
    tapi belum selesai :)

    1. Baca yang terjemahan? Baguslah...kita bisa share opinion :)

  2. I enjoyed reading your review! Hemingway is on my reading list, though maybe not this novel... From what you say, it sounds a bit like A Passage to India in its "hollowness," which I did not care for.

    1. Now I think From Whom the Bell Tolls might be better than this.
      I have Forster too on my list, but I think A Room with A View is more interesting that A Passage to India. And from your comment, I might have chosen the right book anyway :)

  3. Sejak baca The Paris Wife, entah kenapa pandanganku tentang Hemingway jadi agak negatif, hahaha...buku ini kayaknya ada bagian2 yang curcolnya juga soalnya Hemingway memang ketemu sama suster waktu bertugas di PD I kalo nggak salah :) so far baru pernah baca old man & the sea aja..

    1. Memang semi-autobiographical sih, tp entah sampe dimana kesamaannya :D
      Jadi pengen nih baca The Paris Wife!

  4. belum baca Hemingway sama sekali :(

  5. I felt much the same way (even giving it 3 1/2 stars.
    My review:


What do you think?