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A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 2, Chapter 18 | Summary



Henry and Catherine enjoy a lovely summer while he recovers from surgery. It is everything either of them had hoped for. They take horse carriage rides and dine out at restaurants, always parting ways when entering the hospital but coming together again at night to make love in Henry's bed. Even though he feels emotionally "married" to Catherine, he suggests that they get married for real. Catherine refuses, saying that the army will separate them if they are married and that she does not need a wedding to prove her fidelity.


It is interesting that Catherine is the one to refute the idea of marriage rather than Henry, who had entered the relationship saying whatever romantic nonsense he thought would get Catherine into bed. Catherine does not really want to marry Henry, because her heart still belongs to her dead fiancé. Their love works best in secret, in an idealized fantasy world they create together where no outside forces can harm or separate them. In this romantic bubble, protected from the grisly realities of war, she and Henry are alone, experiencing true love for the first time: "What good would it do to marry now? We're really married. I couldn't be any more married. ... Don't I make you a good wife?"

In their discussion of love and marriage, Catherine utters one of the most important lines in the novel: "You're my religion. You're all I've got." Neither Catherine nor Henry is traditionally religious. Their agnosticism reflects society's disillusionment with religion during the war; soldiers and civilians alike question the existence of a God who could let such terrible things happen. Henry and Catherine live entirely in the moment. Catherine knows now, and Henry will learn later, that life is cruel and death is the inevitable end. As the priest suggested in Chapter 11, they have created a love to honor, serve, and worship.

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