At the field hospital, Henry lies in intense pain. Rinaldi comes to visit and informs Henry that he, Henry, will be decorated for heroism in battle. Henry protests, declaring that he displayed no heroism, but Rinaldi insists. He leaves Henry with a bottle of cognac and promises to send Catherine to see him soon.
At dusk, the priest comes to visit. He tells Henry that he misses him at the mess hall and offers gifts of mosquito netting, a bottle of vermouth, and English newspapers, for which Henry is grateful. The men drink and discuss the war. Henry admits to hating it, and the priest theorizes that there are two types of men in the world: those who would make war and those who would not. Henry laments that “the first ones make [the second ones] do it . . . And I help them.” Henry wonders if ending the war is a hopeless effort; the priest assures him that it is not, but admits that he, too, has trouble hoping. The conversation turns to God, and the priest defends his beliefs against the other officers’ teasing. A man who loves God, he says, is not a dirty joke. Henry cannot say that he loves God, but he does admit to fearing Him sometimes. The priest concludes by telling Henry that he, Henry, has a capacity to love. He makes a distinction between sleeping with women at brothels and giving fully of oneself to another human being, and assures Henry that, eventually, he will be called upon to love truly. Henry remains skeptical. The priest says goodbye, and Henry falls asleep.
The doctors are anxious to ship Henry to Milan, where he can receive better treatment for his injured knee and leg. They are eager to get the wounded soldiers fixed up or transferred as quickly as possible because all of the hospital beds will be needed when the offensive begins. The night before Henry leaves for Milan, Rinaldi and a major from Henry’s company return for a visit. America has just declared war on Germany, and the Italians are very excited and hopeful. Rinaldi asks if President Wilson will declare war on Austria, and Henry responds that Wilson will within days. The men get drunk, discussing the war and life in Milan. Rinaldi reports that Catherine will be going to serve at the hospital in Milan. The following morning, Henry sets off for Milan. He describes the train ride, during which he gets so drunk that he vomits on the floor.
Two days later, Henry arrives in Milan and is taken to the American hospital. Two ambulance drivers carry him inside clumsily, causing him a great amount of pain. In the ward, the men are met by an easily frazzled, gray-haired nurse named Mrs. Walker, who cannot get Henry a room without a doctor’s orders. Henry asks the men to carry him into a room and goes to sleep. The next morning, a young nurse named Miss Gage arrives to take his temperature. Mrs. Walker returns and, together with Miss Gage, changes Henry’s bed. In the afternoon, the superintendent of the hospital, Miss Van Campen, appears and introduces herself. She and Henry take an immediate dislike to each other. Henry asks for wine with his meals, but Miss Van Campen says that wine is out of the question unless prescribed by a doctor. Later, Henry sends for a porter to bring him several bottles of wine and the evening papers. Before Henry goes to sleep, Miss Van Campen sends him something of a peace offering: a glass of eggnog spiked with sherry.
Henry’s unemotional reaction to being wounded further displays his stoicism: he exhibits neither despair at the wound itself nor excitement at Rinaldi’s promise that the wound will bring him glory. As his conversation with Rinaldi makes clear, he has no interest in being decorated with medals. Despite Henry’s aloofness, however, his chat with Rinaldi furthers a sympathetic impression of how men behave toward, and care for, one another. While allegiance to their countries is, in a way, voluntary—after all, no one wants to fight this war—men are expected to show unconditional loyalty to their friends. This expectation adds to a code of conduct partially expounded upon earlier when the officers harass the priest for his lack of sexual exploits. Loyalty, strength, resilience in the face of adversity, and a healthy sexual appetite—these are the traditional tropes of masculinity that the novel celebrates.
In light of Henry’s indifference to war medals, it is interesting to note the arguable connection between Hemingway’s Henry and another Henry—Stephen Crane’s Henry Fleming, the initially overzealous and glory-seeking protagonist of The Red Badge of Courage. Toward the end of Crane’s Civil War masterpiece, which Hemingway greatly admired and included in his 1942 collection Men at War: The Best War Stories of All Time, Fleming’s self-absorption dissolves into a mature and quiet dignity. One can make a strong case that the stoic Frederic Henry is an outgrowth of this newly self-possessed and respectable Henry Fleming.
Rinaldi, with his endless talk about “pretty girls” and frequent trips to the brothel, embodies the overactive male sex drive. But, as the priest suggests in his conversation with Henry, sex is not enough to satisfy a man. The priest believes that Henry lacks someone to love and, when Henry protests, draws a distinction between lust for prostitutes, of which there is no shortage among the soldiers, and true, profound love. Love, in the priest’s estimation, makes a man want to give of himself, to make sacrifices for the sake of another. Although Henry remains unconvinced, his increasing affection for Catherine hints that he will inevitably experience the kind of passionate and meaningful connection that the priest describes.
The characters in A Farewell to Arms are constantly seeking solace from a world ravaged by war. This solace, most often and most simply, comes in the form of alcohol. Throughout the novel, vast amounts of wine and liquor are consumed. Henry depends upon alcohol, and goes so far as to consider it a necessary part of his convalescence: when Miss Van Campen refuses him wine with his meals, he immediately arranges to have some smuggled into the hospital. This sort of escape is understandable, given the reader’s growing impression of the folly of war. Just as Henry is scornful of medals and the honor that they supposedly bestow, the novel questions whether war is truly an appropriate forum for such lofty and romantic distinctions. As evidenced by the preposterous purpose for which Henry risks his life in battle—getting some cheese to top his pasta—the novel severs any traditional association between battle and glory. Similarly, once Henry arrives at the hospital in Milan, the reader witnesses an equally pathetic and ludicrous world in which clumsy ambulance drivers cannot manage the weight of a wounded soldier and inept nurses cry rather than care for their patients.
The ending was good, but depressing.
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