The next morning, it begins to rain, and Henry is diagnosed with jaundice. Miss Van Campen finds empty liquor bottles in Henry’s room and blames alcoholism for his condition. She accuses him of purposefully making himself ill in order to avoid being sent back to the front. She orders his liquor stash to be taken away and promises to file a report that will deny him his convalescent leave, which she successfully does.
Henry prepares to travel back to the front. He says his goodbyes at the hospital and heads out to the streets. While passing a café, he sees Catherine in the window and knocks for her to join him. They pass a pair of lovers standing outside a cathedral. When Henry observes, “They’re like us,” Catherine unhappily responds, “Nobody is like us.” They enter a gun shop, where Henry buys a new pistol and several ammunition cartridges. On the street, they kiss like the lovers outside the cathedral did. Henry suggests that they go somewhere private, and Catherine agrees. They find a hotel. Even though it is a nice hotel and Catherine stops on the way to buy an expensive nightgown, she still feels like a prostitute. After dinner, however, they both feel fine. Henry utters the lines, “‘But at my back I always hear / Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near,’” which Catherine recognizes as a couplet from the poetry of Andrew Marvell. Henry asks Catherine how she will manage having the baby; she assures him that she will be fine and that she will have set up a nice home for Henry by the time he returns.
Outside, Henry calls for a carriage to bring him and Catherine from the hotel to the train station. He gets out at the station and sends her on to the hospital. He begs her to take care of herself and “little Catherine.” There is a small commotion on the crowded train because Henry has arranged for a machine-gunner to save him a seat. A tall, gaunt captain protests. Eventually, Henry offers the offended captain his seat and sleeps on the floor.
After returning to Gorizia, Henry has a talk with the town major about the war. It was a bad summer, the major says. The major is pleased to learn that Henry received his decorations and decides that Henry was lucky to get wounded when he did. The major admits that he is tired of the war and states that he doesn’t believe that he would come back if he were given leave from the front. Henry then goes to find Rinaldi, and while he waits for his friend, he thinks about Catherine. Rinaldi comes into the room and is glad to see Henry. He examines his friend’s wounded knee and exclaims that it is a crime that Henry was sent back into battle. Rinaldi asks if Henry has married and if he is in love. He asks if Catherine is good in bed, which offends Henry, who says that he holds certain subjects “sacred.” They drink a toast to Catherine and go down to dinner. Rinaldi halfheartedly picks on the priest, trying to animate the nearly deserted dining hall for Henry’s sake.
After dinner, Henry talks with the priest. The priest thinks that the war will end soon, though he cannot say why he thinks so. Henry remains skeptical. The priest notices a change in the men, citing the major, whom he describes as “gentle,” as an example. Henry speculates that defeat has made the men gentler and points the priest to the story of Jesus Christ, who, Henry suggests, was mild because he had been beaten down. Henry claims that he no longer believes in victory. At the end of the evening, when the priest asks what Henry does believe in, he responds, “In sleep.”
If Catherine’s behavior in the last section casts a slight shadow over the romantic idealism surrounding her relationship with Henry, her farewell to him casts it into darkness. A sense of doom slowly closes in. Catherine’s observation, as she and Henry pass a young, amorous couple, that “nobody is like us” betrays the pathos at the heart of their relationship. By removing their relationship from the lofty realm of idealized love, Hemingway makes Catherine and Henry’s love for each other more real, more complicated, and more convincing.
The lines of poetry that Henry quotes are from Andrew Marvell’s poem “To His Coy Mistress” (1681). In the poem, a man addresses the young object of his desire and tries to convince her that the social norms that keep her chaste are unimportant in the face of inevitable death. Life is painfully short, the poem suggests; whatever pleasure can be had should be had regardless of fussy, moralistic traditions. The poem plays an important role in shaping the farewell scene between Catherine and Henry. In their hotel room, Catherine says that she feels like a whore; even though she feels no need to marry—and has asked Henry how they could possibly be more married than they are now—the strict moral expectations of society still exert a force strong enough to vex her happiness. She quickly overcomes this feeling and actually wants to do “something really sinful” with Henry. A sin, she imagines, would bring them closer together by throwing them into sharper contrast with the outside world. As she says at the racetrack, she feels she is at her best and least lonely when she and Henry are separated from everyone around them. The final lines of Marvell’s poem evoke this aspect of Catherine and Henry’s relationship:
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball:
And tear our pleasures with rough strife,
Through the iron gates of life.
Given the lack of comforts in a world so ravaged by war, it is little wonder that Catherine wants to unite with Henry against life’s harsh realities.
Henry’s discussion with the priest confirms the difficulties of living in a world in which war has crumbled many of the foundations—God, love, honor—that help to structure human life and give it meaning. Those of Hemingway’s characters who have not yet lost all sense of these beliefs, as Rinaldi has, try to make up for the loss in other ways, as Catherine does. Henry’s conversation with the priest illustrates the numb horror one feels when there is nothing left in which to believe. Without a belief in God or a commitment to the war in which he is fighting, Henry can safely say that he believes only in the oblivion that sleep brings.
The ending was good, but depressing.
8 out of 28 people found this helpful
I personally thought it was okay.
It only got interesting for me towards the end.
Hemingway is my absolute favorite author and A Farewell to Arms is absolutely stunning. A lot of people have trouble reading Hemingway, he leaves a lot up for interpretation and discussion but this is just part of his genius. As for symbols, this SparkNotes page is lacking severely. Some big ones are touched on but read carefully and read it a few times keeping in mind that each word has a purpose. Scene descriptions are not put in there for entertainment, the weather, the trees, the mountains, each description keys in to another aspect of t... Read more→
42 out of 46 people found this helpful