A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 1, Chapter 7 | Summary

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Summary

The war is set to resume in two days. Sitting in his ambulance, watching regiments march by, Henry notices a soldier trailing behind, walking with a limp. The soldier has a hernia, and he admits to purposefully losing his support so that he will not be sent to the front. Rather than chastise the soldier for his cowardly behavior, Henry advises the man to give himself a head injury so he can be taken into the hospital. At dinner that night, Henry gets drunk and misses a meeting with Catherine. He feels depressed and emotional when Catherine will not come down to see him.

Analysis

The herniated man may appear cowardly, but his hesitance to return to the front lines of a war he does not believe in represents the disillusionment many soldiers feel as the brutal war drags on. Henry's decision to aid the injured soldier rather than have him punished suggests that Henry, despite numbing his emotions with alcohol, feels empathy for the soldiers. It is also another sign that he is disconnected from the war. These emotions foreshadow his eventual desertion. Despite fantasizing about Catherine all day, Henry gets drunk and misses visiting her, leaving him with the realization that he needs her and he took the distraction she provided for granted. He crosses an important spiritual line in this chapter. When Rinaldi uses the word God, Henry turns toward escapism, responding with the word Bacchus, a mythic god of wine and ecstasy.

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