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A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Book 5, Chapter 39 | Summary



Henry and Catherine take a walk in the woods. When they rest they discuss how having a child might change their lives. Catherine says that she would like to cut her hair and become a new woman for Henry to fall in love with after the baby is born. He cannot handle that idea.


Again Catherine speaks negatively about the unborn baby, calling it "the little brat." The fact that she also refers to the baby as "Little Catherine" implies a sense of self-loathing. When talk steers toward their families back home, Catherine is more interested in discussing appearances: her hair and Henry's beard. Catherine is so obsessed with the way things look on the outside, maintaining her ideal (yet superficial) love, that she is uninterested in the realities that may complicate their life, such as knowing each other's family members. Cutting off her hair would symbolically remove the protection, the covering so to speak, in their relationship, exposing reality, forcing them to see it. The chapter ends with ominous foreshadowing coming through Henry's emotional state. After he suggests that falling in love with Catherine all over again would "ruin" him, Catherine says, "Yes. I want to ruin you." Her death will certainly accomplish this.

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