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A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 1, Chapter 12 | Summary



Henry learns that he will be transported to Milan for surgery and that Catherine has been transferred to the same hospital. The Americans have finally joined the war, a fact that delights Rinaldi and the major when they visit Henry before his transfer. They discuss different countries and whether or not America will declare war on them. Henry tries to crack jokes, but much of the humor is lost in translation. Instead the men focus on getting drunk and saying goodbye. In the morning Henry boards a train for his transfer. The train is delayed. He drinks a bottle of grappa and gets so drunk that he vomits.


Henry's transfer to the same hospital where Catherine has been reassigned gives romance an opportunity to grow. Rinaldi and the major's visit to Henry again underscores the strong bond between men in battle. The major, however, becomes uncomfortable with Rinaldi's emotional display and suggests that they leave, saying, "This becomes sentimental," reminding the reader of the value Hemingway places on ideas of masculine strength.

Henry spends the entire chapter drunk, so drunk in fact that he vomits while on the train. All the characters struggle to survive in a setting filled with violence, pain, and death. They have few means of escape outside of visiting brothels and drinking. Many, including Henry, drink to oblivion to forget the reality of their situation. Hemingway alters the style of his dialogue by running all the lines of dialogue together in long paragraphs, so sometimes it is unclear who is speaking. Thus the scene has the feel of a conversation among three drunk men speaking simultaneously.

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