A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 4, Chapter 37 | Summary

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Summary

Henry rows furiously through the night. His hands are sore and blistered, but it does not stop him. Catherine sits regally in the boat, having a grand time. If she is afraid, she never shows it. There are custom guards along the coast, so Henry keeps the boat a safe distance away. Two patrol boats pass them in the water, but they avoid detection. Henry tries to use an umbrella as a sail while Catherine rows, but the umbrella ominously breaks in the wind. After many long hours of rowing, the pair joyously arrives in Switzerland.

Henry and Catherine enjoy a big breakfast before being arrested, as they expected, by border police. Pretending to be art and architecture students, they avoid detainment. The questioning police seem to know that the couple is lying, but because they have valid passports and plenty of money to spend, they let them go.

Analysis

The row to Switzerland is one of the most suspenseful scenes in the novel. The rain pours down, the shore is crawling with patrol guards, and the boat is almost detected by police twice. Henry works hard, rowing through all obstacles. Catherine's reaction to the situation is somewhat confusing. She is just as determined to find safety in Switzerland, even offering to row, but she seems to view their escape as a game. She laughs at Henry's attempt to use the umbrella for a sail, periodically offers Henry refreshments, and encourages him to rest, babbling about the lovely breakfast they will have once they arrive. Her bizarre actions on the boat could be meant to uplift Henry during the journey, or they could be further indication of her fractured mental state. Reality is too painful for Catherine. She lives in the romanticized delusions she created after her fiancé's untimely death. Nevertheless Catherine is brave, and the reader is reminded of her courage many times during the journey.

The couple's arrest and questioning provides much needed comedic relief following the suspenseful boat journey. The bickering officers and the couple's absurd attempt to pass themselves off as students also provide levity before the novel's depressing end.

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