A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 3, Chapter 27 | Summary

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Summary

In the morning Henry investigates the area where the most intense fighting has happened, surveying the damage. He meets Gino, a young Italian soldier who is saddened by the summer's various losses. He professes his love for the country he protects: "The soil is sacred. ... What has been done this summer cannot have been done in vain." He says that food has been scarce and the troops are often hungry. Henry is embarrassed throughout their conversation.

The rains begin at the same time as an Austrian attack. The wounded and dead flood the dressing station where Henry works. When the troops learn that the Germans have joined the Austrians, they are terrified and begin planning a retreat. The orders are confused. First the troops are told to retreat, then to attack, and then to retreat again. The next night the troops pack up their supplies to officially retreat. At Gorizia Henry sees prostitutes from the brothel leaving in a truck. A few of them are crying. While the other drivers raid the major's room, Henry returns to his own room to sleep before traveling.

Analysis

Gino's views of the war provide a sharp contrast to the apathy and isolation most of the soldiers, including Henry, have felt throughout the novel. Despite the disheartening losses Gino witnesses, he still believes he is fighting to protect the country he loves. He even professes that the Italian dirt is worth losing his life for. Perhaps it is true patriotism; perhaps it is a desperate desire for the losses Italy has suffered to mean something, but Gino is determined to fight until the end. His passion and patriotism embarrass Henry, who sees nothing sacred or glorious about war. He compares the meaningless losses Italy has suffered to slaughterhouses that do nothing "with the meat except to bury it."

The confused retreat again highlights the disorganization of battle at the front. The rain downpours, heavier than before. "They were wet to the skin and all were scared," symbolizing that catastrophe is nearing. In the major's room, the drivers grab whatever luxury they can find, stealing wine and food and even sleeping in the major's comfortable bed. Now that the Germans have joined the war, they seem to know the battle is about to get much, much worse. While raiding the major's room, driver Aymo foreshadows his own death by saying, "We drink [the stolen wine] now. Tomorrow maybe we drink rainwater."

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