A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 2, Chapter 21 | Summary



Henry shares a drink with a British major on a cool afternoon. Henry and the British major discuss the way the war has turned and why all the armies are "cooked." They lament that the war will go on forever. Later Henry has his silhouette cut by a local artist and then whiles away the afternoon reading newspapers and letters that have been sent to him. He learns that, after his treatment is complete, he will be given three weeks of convalescent leave before being sent back to the front. Back at the hospital, he tells Catherine about his leave, which she seems happy about, but something is bothering her. She tells Henry that she is pregnant. Catherine is worried that he will think she is too much trouble now and be done with her.


In classic Hemingway style, almost no background information is given about Henry. He receives a letter from his grandfather containing "family news" and money but no other details. Hemingway's style is notably sparse, but this lack of information focuses the reader's attention on the present moment, without muddying the story with details that might complicate character motivations.

Henry's discussion with the British major serves as a reminder of the longevity and bleakness of the war, preparing the reader for Henry's eventual desertion later in the novel.

This chapter provides a serious turning point for both characters: Catherine is three months pregnant, a fact that she has been keeping from Henry because she knows it will complicate their perfect fantasy world. Henry somewhat admits to feeling trapped by the news, saying, "You always feel trapped biologically," but the two decide not to fight about it. Instead Henry downs a few drinks. Catherine goes back to work, once again pretending that everything is perfect.

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