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A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 3, Chapter 30 | Summary



The drivers cross a bridge to get to the village of Udine. They are careful, hoping it is not wired to explode. As they cross they see a German car and, later, German troops. They are terrified of being discovered and outraged that there are no Italian forces to stop the Germans: "Where is everybody? Don't they try and stop them at all?" When they try to cut across a field, shots are fired and Aymo is killed. Henry realizes that frightened Italian troops, not Germans, are firing at them. He and the remaining two drivers take cover in an abandoned farmhouse. While they are searching for supplies, Bonello decides he would rather be a prisoner of war than killed, so he deserts. Henry and Piani spend the night on the lookout. Even though two German troops pass them, they are not discovered.

In the morning they continue on foot, realizing that the Germans are not interested in capturing Italian soldiers. Many Italians have thrown away their rifles, assuming that the war is over. As the lines of soldiers cross the bridge, Henry is violently pulled from the crowd by battle officers. He joins a group of officers being questioned for deserting their duty. One by one the officers are shot. Before it is his turn to be questioned, Henry breaks away from the arresting officers and jumps into the river.


Chaos has taken over as the Germans cross the Italian line. There is no organization or defense, and the few Italians that have stayed behind to defend the territory are "frightened and firing on anything they saw." The reality of the grim situation has hit Henry full force, so much so that, when another officer asks if he is married, he says he is not. This is significant because it shows how far removed Henry is from his fantasy world in which Catherine is his wife.

This chapter highlights the disintegration of the Italian army. The battle officers violently pull Henry out of line instead of showing him the required respect of a commanding officer. Similarly another commanding officer asks to be shot "without further questioning" because the interrogation is so disrespectful to his service. The questioning officers claim that "it is because of [the] treachery [of the retreating officers] that we have lost the fruits of victory. ... Italy should never retreat." These sentiments reflect the state of disorganization during the retreat and the chaos among the officers, with most retreating but a few trying to regain control of the troops.

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