“You’ve such a lovely temperature.”
“You’ve got a lovely everything.”
“Oh no. You have the lovely temperature. I’m awfully proud of your temperature.”
Such conversations might strike the reader as a silly, indulgent imitation of the way lovers speak to each other. Hemingway, however, rescues these lines from saccharine sentimentality by establishing a complex psychological motivation for them. For Henry and Catherine, such foolishly romantic lines offer a respite from their war-torn world. The frivolity and banality of their dialogue gauge their desire to escape the horror of the war.
Interestingly, in addition to being innovative, Hemingway’s suggestive style of writing served a very practical purpose. The standards of decency in 1929 America would have barred a more explicit version of A Farewell to Arms from appearing in print. Hence, Hemingway hints at Henry and Catherine’s first sexual encounter, demanding that his audience read between the lines. Even though such scenes spared puritanical readers explicit details, the novel was plagued by charges of indecency. A public outcry in Boston, for example, led to the excision of such perceived profanities as “balls” from the novel.