Themes of Love and War in “A Farewell to Arms”

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Theme is a literary element used in literature and has inspired many poets, playwrights, and authors. The themes of love and war are featured in literature and inspire authors to write wartime romances that highlight these two themes. Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms deals with the collective themes in the human experience such as love and the reality of war.

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A Farewell to Arms is narrated from the perspective of Fredric Henry, an ambulance driver in the Italian army, and pertains to his experiences in the war. The novel also highlights the passionate relationship between Henry and Catherine Barkley, a British nurse in Italy. Henry’s insight into the war and his intense love for Catherine emphasize that love and war are the predominant themes in the novel and these themes contribute to bringing out the implicit and explicit meaning of the novel. Being a part of the Italian army, Henry is closely involved with the war and has developed an aversion to the war. Henry’s association with the war has also made him realize that war is inglorious, and the sacrifices made in war are meaningless.

Specifically, Henry wants the war to end because he is disillusioned by the war and knows that war is not as glorious as it is made up to be. The state of affairs and the grim reality of the war lead Henry towards an ardent desire for a peaceful life, and as a result Henry repudiates his fellow soldiers at the warfront. Henry’s desertion of the war is also related to his passionate love for Catherine. Henry’s love for Catherine is progressive and ironic. This love develops gradually in stages: Henry’s attempt at pretending love for Catherine towards the beginning of the novel, his gradually developing love for her, and finally, Henry’s overcome with the love and passion for Catherine. Hemingway has ingeniously used irony as a literary device in the novel to accurately depict Henry’s feelings for Catherine. Furthermore, an analysis of Henry’s disgust towards the war, the inglorious truth of war, Henry’s insatiable yearning for peace, and his progressive love for Catherine will highlight why the themes of love and war are the most significant themes in the novel. Finally, the themes of love and war are crucial in imparting the meaning of the novel since the key events in the novel revolve around these themes.

The initial chapters of the novel describe Henry’s disgust towards the situation of the war and his desire for the war to end. In chapter 7, Henry is reflecting on the war whilst sitting in his bedroom and is disillusioned by the circumstances of the war. Henry wishes that the Italian army had a Napoleon, so that the army’s victory in the war would have been guaranteed.

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