A Farewell to Arms

Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  A Farewell to Arms

author  Ernest Hemingway

type of work  Novel

genre  Literary war novel

language  English

time and place written  1926–1928; America and abroad

date of first publication  1929

publisher  Charles Scribner’s Sons

narrator  Lieutenant Frederic Henry

point of view Henry narrates the story in the first person but sometimes switches to the second person during his more philosophical reflections. Henry relates only what he sees and does and only what he could have learned of other characters from his experiences with them.

tone As the autobiographical nature of the work suggests, Hemingway’s apparent attitude toward the story is identical to that of the narrator.

tense  Past

setting (time)  1916–1918, in the middle of World War I

setting (place)  Italy and Switzerland

protagonist  Frederic Henry

major conflict While there is no single, clear-cut conflict, friction does arise when Henry’s love for Catherine cannot quell his innate restlessness.

rising action Henry and Catherine’s flirtatious games prepare and sometimes foreshadow their love for each other; their last days together before Henry’s return to the front zero in on the demands of love versus Henry’s life outside his relationship with Catherine.

climax  Broadly speaking, the Italian retreat, but more specifically, Henry’s capture and near-execution by the battle police

falling action Henry’s decision to flee and quit the army marks his farewell to arms and his commitment to Catherine.

themes  The grim reality of war, the relationship between love and pain, feelings of loss

motifs  Masculinity, games and divertissement, loyalty versus abandonment, illusions and fantasies, alcoholism

symbols  While Hemingway avoids the sort of symbol that neatly equates an object with some lofty abstraction, he offers many powerfully evocative descriptions that often resonate with several meanings. Among these are the rain, which scares Catherine and into which Henry walks at the end of the novel; Henry’s description of her hair; the painted horse; and the silhouette cutter Henry meets on the street.

foreshadowing  Catherine’s conviction that dreadful things are going to occur; the rainfall that scares her in the night; the doctor’s warning that Catherine’s hips are narrow; Henry’s musing on how life kills the good, the gentle, and the brave