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A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 2, Chapter 20 | Summary



Henry, Catherine, and a group of their friends visit the racetrack with Mr. Meyers, a local man with insight on the odds. Meyers almost always wins money on the races and is hesitant to give out tips because it drives down odds. Nevertheless he gives Henry and Catherine a winning tip, but when they win less money than they thought they would, Catherine laments, "I don't like this crooked racing!" Catherine suggests that she and Henry separate from the crowd and bet only on horses they like, not horses they've received tips on. In the end they pass an enjoyable afternoon.


This chapter suggests that life is all about chance; it is nothing but a game. Catherine feels that life is already so rigged against her relationship with Henry that she wants to simply enjoy the pleasures of taking chances and of small surprises. Catherine's choice to bet on a horse she believes has been dyed to hide its true identity further represents escaping reality through an idealized fantasy.

Through romance Henry has found himself with a large circle of friends. While the opening chapters of the novel present Henry as isolated and lonely, he gains a full social calendar while he is convalescing. Despite this he and Catherine feel "very lonely when they [are] all there." The lovers would rather spend their time with just each other. This stresses the importance of the idyllic bubble they have created in the midst of war.

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