Lieutenant Frederic Henry
The novel’s narrator and protagonist. A young American
ambulance driver in the Italian army during World War I, Henry meets
his military duties with quiet stoicism. He displays courage in
battle, but his selfless motivations undermine all sense of glory
and heroism, abstract terms for which Henry has little patience.
His life lacks real passion until he meets the beautiful Catherine
An English nurse’s aide who falls in love with Henry.
Catherine is exceptionally beautiful and possesses, perhaps, the
most sensuously described hair in all of literature. When the novel
opens, Catherine’s grief for her dead fiancé launches her headlong
into a playful, though reckless, game of seduction. Her feelings
for Henry soon intensify and become more complicated, however, and
she eventually swears lifelong fidelity to him.
in-depth analysis of Catherine Barkley.
surgeon in the Italian army. Mischievous, wry,
and oversexed, Rinaldi is Henry’s closest friend. Although Rinaldi
is a skilled doctor, his primary practice is seducing beautiful
women. When Henry returns to Gorizia, Rinaldi tries to whip up a
in-depth analysis of Rinaldi.
kind, sweet, young man who provides spiritual guidance to the few
soldiers interested in it. Often the butt of the officers’ jokes,
the priest responds with good-natured understanding. Through Henry’s conversations
with him regarding the war, the
novel challenges abstract ideals like glory, honor,
A nurse’s aide who works at the American hospital and
a dear friend of Catherine. Though
Helen is friendly and accepting of Henry and Rinaldi’s visits to
Catherine early in the novel, her hysterical outburst over Henry
and Catherine’s “immoral”
affair establishes her as an unhappy woman who is paranoid about
her friend’s safety and anxious about her own loneliness.
American nurse who helps Henry through his recovery at the hospital
in Milan. At ease and accepting, Miss Gage becomes a friend to Henry, someone
with whom he can share a drink and gossip.
Miss Van Campen
The superintendent of nurses at the American hospital
in which Catherine works. Miss Van Campen is strict, cold, and unpleasant.
She disapproves of Henry and remains on cool terms with him throughout his
Italian surgeon who comes to the American hospital to contradict
the hospital’s opinion that Henry must wait six months before having
an operation on his leg. In agreeing to perform surgery the next
morning, Dr. Valentini displays the kind of self-assurance and confidence
that Henry (and the novel) celebrates.
spry, ninety-four-year-old nobleman. The count represents a more
mature version of Henry’s character and Hemingway’s masculine ideal.
He lives life to the fullest and thinks for himself. Though the
count dismisses the label “wise,” Henry clearly values his thoughts
and sees him as a sort of father figure.
An American soldier from San Francisco. Ettore, like
Henry, fights for the Italian army. Unlike Henry, however, Ettore
is an obnoxious braggart. Quick to instigate a fight or display
the medals that he claims to have worked so hard to win, he believes
in and pursues the glory and honor that Henry eschews.
young Italian whom Henry meets at a decimated village. Gino’s patriotic
belief that his fatherland is sacred and should be protected at
all costs contrasts sharply to Henry’s attitude toward war.
opera student of dubious talent. Simmons is the first person that
Henry goes to see after fleeing from battle. Simmons proves to be
a generous friend, giving Henry civilian clothes so that he can
travel to Switzerland without drawing suspicion.
bartender in the town of Stresa. Emilio proves a
good friend to Henry and Catherine, helping them reunite, saving
them from arrest, and ushering them off to safety.
ambulance driver under Henry’s command. Bonello displays his ruthlessness
when he brutally unloads a pistol round into the head of an uncooperative
engineer whom Henry has already shot.