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.