A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway: A Book Report

A Farewell to Arms is a historical novel which incorporates romance into the story line. Ernest Miller Hemingway wrote this story through his own experience in World War 1.

The story is about a man who is American but is serving as an Italian ambulance driver who falls in love with a nurse. He gets wounded in the war and resulting in him returning and spending even more time with his girlfriend. He finds out she is carrying his baby but finds he has to leave for war again. After a while, the officials accuse him of treason, so he escapes. He goes to find his wife and after he does, they both seek refuge somewhere else. In the end, when his wife is delivering the baby, not only does the baby die but so does his wife. And he stands alone in the world. As the story is wonderful to read for the modern age especially when we still have wars in many countries today, it is important to see how people lived during these times and even ask ourselves if someone in this huge world would still has to experience something like this.

If a historian or scholar were to read this book, it would certainly give insight to what key issues were present in the certain period of the book. The book shows the daily life of the people during the WW1, and the roaring twenties. A historian could use this novel as a first person source and examine Hemingway’s personal experience but to create a concise work on WW1, he\she must look at other looks before judging the events of WW1 and of the time period. Before the description of the WW1, and the roaring twenties; it is important to look at the author and the book itself.

He was enlisted in the reserves for World War One stationed in Italy. After the war, he spent many years of his life as an emigrant between France, Italy, Spain, and Cuba where his wife lived after his death. His first famous novel, The Sun Also Rises, was published in 1926. His father, who had spent most of his life wrestling with depression, committed suicide in 1928. Hemingway was divorced and married several times and sired a couple of children. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954 for The Old Man and the Sea. Seven years later, after a few accidents and sicknesses, Ernest Hemingway took his own life at the age of 62 in 1961. Hemingway lived during a tumultuous time period of international conflict (World War I and World War II). Hemingway was close associate of Fitzgerald, who often commented on his books. He was also an admirer of Joyce and a financial supporter for an aging Ezra Pound. While other authors, such as George Orwell, were social commentators, Stephen Cooper maintains that “Hemingway seemed to resolutely pursue his own interests” because to him literature was more important than politics. His other novels and short stories such as For Whom the Bell Tolls, and To Have and Have Not, support this focus on the individual.

Hemingway flaunted his interest in big game hunting and bullfighting; this was part of what Peter Messent calls “that public persona which the writer himself was only too keen on occasions to foster.” A Farewell to Arms was first published as a series in the United States in 1929. The series was banned in some cities, most notably Boston, for its sexual content. This banning, however, did not affect Hemingway’s growing popularity. A Farewell to Arms made its film debut three years later, a debut which Hemingway refused to attend. Hemingway crafted this novel from a wealth of personal experience. He was stationed in Italy in 1918 and wounded that July. During his Hospital stay, he began and ended a relationship with a nurse. Later, when he was free-lance writing in Greece and Turkey, he witnessed the retreat of the Greek army and its civilians. This does resemble most of the events in the book.

Recent scholarship has criticized Hemingway for narrow-mindedness and misogyny, but his work remains indispensable for understanding an important period of our history. As Raymond S. Nelson says, “Hemingway tried to tell the truth about his times, to correct the ‘lies’ which former generations told, whether wittingly or unwittingly.” It was certainly his greatest commercial success to date with 80,000 copies sold within the first four months. The money earned for the novel, though, came too late to prevent his father from committing suicide due to financial stress and a losing struggle with diabetes. The main point for his writing was to bring a new and different take on WW1 though his writing which would have changed and influenced many to think about questioning the methods of making peace through war. Hemming only present his life story, and leaves the reader to make his own judgment and opinions on war; rather than being persuasive and convincing.

Although it doesn’t show much historical data which is a limitation, but it tells the reader about much of the life around the time and more specifically of someone not directly in the front line but still seeing the events that occur which is key to his unbiased view on the war. In other words, there is no heroism. But there is certainly an American bias still involved. Now that, the purpose for this piece is known, the issues or events being involved or displayed can be analyzed.

The main plot in the story is World War One. It was also known as the Great War since it was war on a scale that was unimagined in modern history. The war broke out after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand ignited an already tense territorial feud between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. France, Great Britain, and Russia joined together as the Allied powers against the Central Power alliance of Austria-Hungary and Germany. Eventually, America joined the war on the side of the Allies after Russia had withdrawn and the Lusitania, a British passenger ship carrying 128 American citizens, had been sunk. The conflict lasted four years, cost $350 billion, and claimed the lives of twenty-two million. Technologically, it was the most advanced war ever seen because of the number of new inventions introduced: biological weapons, mortar, improved artillery, machine guns, and barbed wire. In the novel A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry was in the Italian army. The role of Italy in World War I was a decoy. Customarily, Italy was a partner of Germany and Austria. However, the partners promised Italy the land, it had requested from Austria; the area of South Tyrol, several islands in the Adriatic, and assistance with expansion of its colonies in Africa; if it would switch sides. The only role of Italy’s unprepared army was to attempt to divert the force of the Austrians from helping the Germans in France, a role which caused the death of 500,000 Italians in 1916 alone. It was the year that Frederic Henry was wounded. Surprisingly, Italy was able to turn back the Austrians and rightfully claim their share in the spoils of victory with the Allied cause. The 1920’s were marked as the roaring twenties. In the book this is displays by the couple’s night out together and when they visit shops together. This is also the reason was an American might have been in Italy. The 1920s were marked by what Joseph Wood Krutch labeled as The Modern Temper. This was a “temper,” or zeitgeist (spirit of the age), which viewed traditional beliefs of progress, perfectness, and the success of democracy as dead on the battlefield. There was also the growing popularity of Freudian psychoanalysis. This new method of treating the self reinforced a belief in individualism in the United States. For the same insistence on the self it was banned from Communist Russia. The decade of the twenties is also often seen as a wild decade of jazz, flappers, and the “speakeasy,” gathering places which served banned alcohol. Jazz became popular music throughout America. Women finally gained the vote on August 26, 1920, with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. Prohibition and the Eighteenth Amendment made alcohol illegal in 1920, but organized crime invented the “speakeasy” (with the many bribes it involved) to provide a place for Americans to find the outlawed drink. The economy, both legal and black-market, was stable, and unemployment low. Things were almost too good; after the Great War, Americans were ready to enjoy themselves. Few could forecast or believe what loomed ahead for the United States. There are some other noteworthy details to be described but there play a minimal role in the novel. The only major point this tells the reader is how the people would have felt during the war without substantial bias as an American involved.

A Farewell to Arms is a novel by Ernest Miller Hemingway; this is a semi-autobiographical novel about his own personal life with World War One. As discussed, his life played an important role in shaping this story. He presents only the truth of his own personal experience and especially since he is from another country that is desolated from the main conflict in WW1, there is a clear slate that the author writes on. He only shows the events that actually happened to him but he does include events to form drama which just makes the book more appealing. The novel could certain be used as a first person source but we provably should forget that there is a still an American point of view which unfortunately is a limitation. The book shows how people in the army were force to be in frontline by the government, and some soldiers hate to serve their country and would rather just farm their family’s land. It also show the relation ship between the different races and how sometimes there would be no authority since your origin is a different country. The source could be used for insight in the daily life of people and the events that happen to Henry could have been anyone during the time. People would have died. Suffering, people could have lost their whole family because the army hit their house or how soldiers were lost in these epic but unknown battles that they all fought.

It’s kind of sad how we just learn about the leaders and the kings when some one like Henry lost everything in his life cause of such a thing called war. The people who have bleed and sweat for their country, get no credit. Now there are might only be a few hundred books on him in a city compared to the thousands upon thousands of books on the leaders of the wars. This book shows how history is not about the accomplishment of a leader but by the suffering and hardship who had to fight for the leader behalf.

Bibliography
Carlos Baker, editor, Ernest Hemingway: Critiques of Four Major Novels, Scribners, 1962.
Harold Bloom, editor, Modern Critical Views: Ernest Hemingway, Chelsea, 1985.
Fanny Butcher, “Here is Genius, Critic Declares of Hemingway,” in Chicago Daily Tribune, September 28, 1929, p. 11.
Judith Fetterley, The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction, Indiana University Press, 1978.
Henry Hazlitt, “Take Hemingway,” in New York Sun, September 28, 1929, p. 38.
Robert Herrick, “What Is Dirt?”, in Bookman, November, 1929, p. 258 – 62.
George Monteiro, editor, Critical Essays on Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, G. K. Hall, 1994.
Earl Rovit, “Learning to Care,” in Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Farewell to Arms, edited by Jay Gellens, Prentice-Hall, 1970, pp. 33-40.
Sandra Whipple Spanier, “Hemingway’s Unknown Soldier: Catherine Barkley, the Critics, and the Great War,” New Essays on A Farewell to Arms, Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 75-108.
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