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A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 2, Chapter 15 | Summary



Three bumbling doctors visit Henry and announce that he must wait six months before his leg can undergo an operation. Henry is aghast at the idea and asks for another surgeon's opinion. An Italian major surgeon, Valentini, arrives and agrees to perform the surgery the next morning.


The three bumbling doctors epitomize the mediocre care wounded soldiers received during World War I. The "failed" doctors painfully examine Henry's legs, and one doctor mistakes Henry's left leg X-ray for the right. The house doctor is described as having "delicate" hands and a distaste for alcohol, two traits at direct odds with Hemingway's masculine ideal. By contrast Valentini is the picture of efficiency. He swoops in and promises to perform surgery the very next day. He is smitten with Catherine's beauty and, when Henry offers him a drink, says, "Certainly. I will have ten drinks." Valentini embodies all the masculinity Hemingway admires, suggesting that his opinion should be valued more highly than the effeminate house doctors' assessment.

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