The Absence of Love
In Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry enlists in the Italian army as an ambulance driver without a clear purpose. This purpose is clarified once he falls in love with Catherine Barkley. To avoid the cruel brutalities of war, they escape to Switzerland where Catherine will give birth to their child. Sadly, there Henry learns what the true meaning of war is with the help of Catherine and her baby. Hemingway uses Catherine Barkley’s and her baby’s death to portray war’s ability to: corrupt the human condition, take away the hope of a new life, and spread death to all corners of humanity and their offspring.
War affects the human condition in ways we cannot fathom. Hemmingway exemplifies this through the lack of faith the characters of A Farewell to Arms have, specifically Catherine and Henry. It is understandable that the men at the front are scared by the war and must use sex and alcohol to suppress its eternal effects. However, what Henry and Catherine share is quite different. Catherine is Henry’s hero because as soon as she enters his life, he steps away from the usual method of drowning out the war into something more valuable. Catherine teaches Henry how to love which gives him purpose. The book states what the woman at the desk did when the question of religion came forth while filling out Catherine’s form: ‘She said she had no religion and the woman drew a line in the space after that word, (313).’ Accordingly, love becomes their religion in place of the usual faith. This is confirmed when Catherine is hemorrhaging: “Do you want me to get a priest or anyone to come and see you?” (Says Henry), “Just you”, she said (330). This idea that love is like a religion is fortified by Henry’s conversation with Count Greffi in chapter thirty-five where the Count explains to him that he love is a religious feeling and he should not forget it. Love, being not only a basic human need but also Henry’s newly found purpose,...
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