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The book, A Farewell to Arms, is set during World War One. As a consequence, the events that occur during these battle scenes (Campbell 68-72). It is important to note that the novel's themes are primarily presented in a romantic and ironic setting. The major themes are war, passion, and suffering. As a result, the author presents the protagonists as humanists who believe that war is ineffective. Furthermore, the author emphasizes the vital argument that virtues are lost on the altar of ruling evil. This is presented majorly through the lives of the main characters Henry and Catherine.
The "themes addressed in the novel are that of war, love and pain. The main theme revolving around the novel is that of war (Foulke and Smith 353-370). The scenes in the novel are characterized by instances of violent chaos, senseless brutality and numerous series of conflict. A good example of how the writer brings out the theme of war is during the description of the Italian’s army retreat. As a result, the novel Farewell to Arms remains to be one of the most intense exposition of war in the American literature. Moreover, it is worth noting that based on the tone of the novel, the writer does not explicitly come out to condemn the war. However, the theme of war is brought out by the writer as a punishment to a world that refuses to uphold, acknowledge and defend love. The other theme that comes out in relation to war is that of pain. The pain is born out of the effects of war. As a result, most of the characters are depicted to be in pain.
Love, as a theme, is profoundly expressed by the writer. Hemingway expresses the nature of love especially through the characters Catherine and Henry. Catherine expresses her undying love for Henry moments after announcing to Henry the demise of her fiancé. The writer claimed that the expression by Catherine was a way for her to distance herself from the pain of loss. Due to the love that Henry had, the writer exposes him as one who distanced himself from the talk of going to war. As a result, Catherine and Henry are exposed in the novel as the epitome of love, amid the raging war that prevailed.
The novel centers around many characters. However, Henry and Catherine are the main characters. Henry is the narrator of the events surrounding the novel and plays the role of an ambulance driver of the Italian army during the world war one (Gurko 10-20). Catherine plays the character of an English nurse’s aide who falls hopelessly in love with Henry. Other characters are Rinaldi, the priest, Helen, Miss Gage, Miss Van, Dr. Valentini, Count, Ettor, Gino, Ralph, Emilio and Bonello. All these characters have a role to play to bring out the themes and events captured in the novel.
In every work of literature, symbols are figures or objects distinctively expressed by the writer to represent abstract ideas or concepts. One of the key symbols vividly present in the novel is rain. Rain serves as a symbol of the distortion of joy in life. During the storm, as the rain fell, Catherine admitted that the rain invoked in her emotions of fear since it has the tendency to destroy the plans of lovers (Paul 27-54). Moreover, after the death of Catherine, Henry walks out in the rain, a symbol of the pain, sorrow and sadness that he was going through. The other distinct symbol is Catherine’s hair. However, this symbol is not recurring through the novel. The writer uses it to express how fragile their love was, especially amid the war that was raging through.
The irony in the novel is expressed majorly through Henry, who in the context of the novel, turns out to be an ironic hero. The writer initially introduces Henry as a traditional hero as he describes him as a volunteer to the army and as a solider. However, the irony presents itself when Henry grapples with himself on why he was risking his life to go out to way. Therefore, it comes out ironically that one who was described as a hero in the beginning fails to live up to the expectations.
In conclusion, the novel clearly provides a demonstration of the struggles of a lost society through the characters and the scenes of the novel. It is also worth noting that the key themes of love, pain and war clearly is a representation of some of the events happening in our modern society. Moreover, the novel employs a huge application of irony to bring out the true traits of the key characters. The key character, Henry, reckons that life becomes clearly meaningful when one can live rightly according to their values. Ironically, he also reckons that the world kills those who are brave, gentle and even good in their deeds. As a result, in as a much as the novel upholds values, it also provides a representation that the reality is that the current struggles of our generation can choke some of these good deeds and values that we tend to uphold.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with A Thousand Faces. 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968. Print.
Foulke, Robert, and Paul Smith. An Anatomy of Literature. 1st Ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972. Print.
Gurko, Leo. Ernest Hemingway and The Pursuit Of Heroism. 1st Ed. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1968. Print.
Paul, Smith. The Trying Out Of a Farewell To Arms. 1st ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1990. Print.
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