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A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 2, Chapter 17 | Summary



Henry wakes from his surgery, which has gone well. He shares a drink with his morning nurse, Helen Ferguson (Fergy), who assists his romance with Catherine by passing notes between them. As they discuss the relationship, Fergy warns him not to "get her in trouble." Henry promises he will not. Fergy also mentions that Catherine looks exhausted from working the night shift. Later on another nurse, Miss Gage, hints that she knows about Henry and Catherine's relationship. Miss Gage chastises Henry for not realizing that she is on his side.


Almost everyone at the hospital knows of Henry and Catherine's relationship, yet social protocol demands that they continue their romance in secret. Henry's conversations with the nurses present ominous foreshadowing and reinforce the theme of doomed love. First Fergy threatens Henry should he impregnate Catherine: "Mind you watch out. I don't want her with any of these war babies." Miss Gage insists multiple times that she is Henry's friend even though he does not know it, "but someday you will." Both conversations leave the reader with a feeling of dread; something bad is bound to happen.

More soldiers arrive in this chapter and begin filling Henry's ward. None of these soldiers were injured in battle, and none are glorious or heroic, supporting the novel's theme that there is only heartbreak in war. Two soldiers have malaria, and one accidentally exploded a nose-cap, which he planned to take home as a souvenir.

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