A Farewell to Arms | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


Compare and contrast the characters of Moretti and Gino in A Farewell to Arms.

Both Ettore Moretti and Gino are true wartime heroes. Moretti is one of the most decorated soldiers Henry has ever met, having lived through multiple dangerous missions. Like Henry, Moretti is American. But Moretti is a braggart, only concerned with collecting medals and earning accolades. Gino, on the other hand, is native Italian. He truly cares about Italy's welfare in the war. He views even the nation's dirt as sacred and worthy of protecting.

How do Catherine's and Henry's fears in A Farewell to Arms foreshadow the novel's end?

After his injury Henry admits to the priest that he fears God and that he fears the dark. In Book 2, Chapter 19, Catherine admits to fearing the rain because "sometimes I see me dead in it." Rain is used throughout the novel as a symbol of death. Similarly, when Henry fears the dark, it is a symbolic fear of death. Catherine dies at night (the dark) during a terrible rainstorm. In the moments before her death, Henry prays fervently to God (even though he doesn't believe in him) for mercy. If there is a God in the novel, he is worth fearing: he takes both Catherine and the baby from Henry.

What is Helen Ferguson's role in A Farewell to Arms?

Helen Ferguson serves as a foil for Catherine throughout the novel. A foil in a story is a character who exists to provide contrast to another character; Catherine is everything Ferguson is not. Ferguson worries, she is sensible, she plans ahead, and she writes letters home. Catherine goes with the flow and avoids her family. Rinaldi loved Catherine before Henry ever met her, but left in the dust by Catherine and Henry, he is not interested in Ferguson. He does not even want to try with her, Hemingway's subtle way of showing just how different the two women are. Ferguson in a way provides a counterpoint to Rinaldi: she serves as a moral compass, while Rinaldi embodies the principle of hedonism. She disapproves of Catherine's affair with Henry because the two are unwed. In this sense Ferguson's character lends weight to the idea that love is a form of escapism.

Compare and contrast Henry's and Catherine's initial reactions to the pregnancy news in A Farewell to Arms.

When Catherine reveals her pregnancy in Book 2, Chapter 21, both she and Henry offer reassurance in different ways. He tells her, "You're pretty wonderful." She attempts to convince him that nothing will change; the good times will continue. She offers him a drink and then coerces him when he refuses the first one, which he only refuses to convince her that he is not upset about the news. He is cheerful. He does not need a drink. Regardless of their true inner feelings, they attempt to reach out to each other in their moment of need. When they cannot sustain the ruse, they both sour. Catherine stays silent and goes "a long way away" deep in thought. Henry takes the opposite approach: he says something stupid, then offers to "cut out his tongue." Despite these awkward attempts at connection and communication, they somehow manage to grow closer by the end of the chapter.

What does Catherine mean when she says in Book 2, Chapter 23, that she "never felt like a whore before" in A Farewell to Arms?

Catherine has always pretended that her relationship with Henry was perfect. This is one of the only moments in the novel when she lets her guard down. She realizes that she is in a cheap hotel with a man who is not her husband. She is pregnant, and the father of her child is leaving her. Her comment suggests that the reality of her situation, which she has been brushing aside, has finally become clear to her. The reader can only infer, because it is not explicitly stated, that all of those thoughts are behind that sentiment.

What does Henry mean when he says, "There's no hole in my side," in Book 4, Chapter 37, of A Farewell to Arms?

Henry's statement references the hole put in Christ's side after he was hung on the cross. Henry makes this statement after Catherine inspects his injured hands (another injury Christ suffered during crucifixion) after rowing to Switzerland. Christ made the ultimate sacrifice—his life—for humankind, and earlier in the novel, the priest suggested that Henry, too, needed to find a love worth sacrificing for. Henry's statement reiterates the idea of love being religion for Catherine and Henry.

Rain is a symbol for death in A Farewell to Arms. How is that symbol referenced through the appearance of snow and ice in the novel?

While rain is a hounding force against Henry and Catherine, snow serves as a symbol of protection as a version of rain in its gentlest form. The snow provides a comforting "blanket" for the romance and from the war. Tactically, the war pauses during the winter because the snow is too brutal to fight in, which creates a temporary peace. The mountains, which represent isolation and fantasy, are always described as snowcapped. Snow covers the earth in pure white, hiding what's beneath, creating a hidden bubble for Catherine and Henry's romance to flourish. When the snow melts, both on the battlefield and in the mountains, Henry crashes back into reality to face violence and death. Ice, rain in its coldest form, is used to symbolize death in extreme circumstances in the novel. When Henry is injured and the man in the stretcher above him dies, he describes the man's dripping blood as an "icicle after the sun has gone." Later, in Book 5, Chapter 38, before Catherine goes into labor, it is slush, a mix of ice, rain, and snow, that drives them from their winter peace into town to be closer to the hospital, closer to the end of their time together.

What is the significance of Piani's and Bonello's political views in Book 3, Chapter 29, of A Farewell to Arms?

Piani calls Bonello an "anarchist" because he "doesn't go to church." This is an illogical connection, meant to be a joke, that Hemingway constructs most likely to create an association between anarchist and atheist to further the religious motif in the novel. An anarchist believes government is unnecessary. The term has nothing to do with religion. The two soldiers are actually socialists, not anarchists. They come from the socialist town of Imola. Socialism is a system in which ownership of goods is collective, not individual. In this way Bonello and Piani provide a stark contrast to all the other soldiers characterized in the novel. As Hemingway portrays them, they were never enchanted by the trappings of war in the first place. Hemingway depicts this idea both positively and negatively through the characters. While he shows Bonello and Piani to be ruthless, shallow, and unlikeable, he also depicts them as freedom loving, easygoing, and community oriented.

Why does Henry flee the battle police in Book 3, Chapter 30, of A Farewell to Arms?

Before Henry is accosted by the battle police, he makes it clear to the reader that his main goal is to "be calm and not get shot or captured." He moves his men over a possibly rigged-to-explode bridge, ducks German soldiers, and attempts to stop up the holes where his friend Aymo was bleeding to death. Henry has just had one of the worst days of his life by the time he is pulled out of line by the battle police. He knows they will shoot him; he knows that reasoning with them is not an option. His life means nothing to them.

What is "a separate peace" in A Farewell to Arms?

"A separate peace" is the state of mind Henry reaches in Book 4, Chapter 34, after all he has been through. The war has not officially ended, but it is over for Henry. The phrase also connotes the idea that many countries with all their clashing ideas and conflicting desires may not be able to achieve peace, but individuals can. Henry realizes he can make peace with the world by separating himself from the war and the world. He says explicitly, "I was going to forget the war." To do that he physically separates himself from the war by going to Stresa.

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