A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway Read-A-Long Week 2

To read my previous post for the first week of this read-a-long:

This read-a-long is hosted by Anna and Serena @ War Through The Generations Challenge

This is week 2 questions for A Farewell To Arms read-a-long. I'm a bit late because of a busy Father's day weekend.

1. There is a lot of talk about being tired or the priest looking tired in this section. What do you think Hemingway is trying to get at?
It was mentioned by the hosts of this read-a-long that the word tired is used in reference to being tired of the war. I agree, but I believe there is more. In referring to the priest (chapter 11) when he first arrives at the hospital to see Henry that the priest looked embarrassed, he was definitely uncomfortable. I believe the priest has a soft spot, endearment for Henry. I believe the priest has been teased in the past by the other soldiers and does not feel that he is taken seriously. He loves God. He holds his office as priest to be sacred.
He worries about Henry, he worries about the impact of this lengthy and deadly war on everyone. He is tired of the war, but also tired of the burden of worrying about men who do not love God. There is a very interesting conversation starting at the bottom of page 71. It begins with the priest saying, "It does not matter. But there in my country it is understood that a man may love God. It is not a dirty joke." The priest then asks Henry if he loves God. Henry says, "no." The best dialogue so far in this book now takes place when the priest tells Henry, "When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve." I believe the priest is also tired of the burden of talking with men who are wounded or even near death, and yet there is no real love in their heart, not for another human and not for their country. These men who are fighting have been in battle long enough that their humanity, their feelings have diminished. Life is merely about survival. Henry sees the actual battles of war, the priest sees the aftermath of men and what it has done to their souls.

2. The relationship between Henry and Catherine is heating up. At one point she talks about how there is no separate her and that she is Henry. Please explain what you think she means?
I don't think I've ever read another female character in a book that is such a ninny. She is a ninny in that her dialogue is a constant stream of "you do love me don't you" or "you're lying to me?" Catherine is very exhausting and taxing because of her insecurity and thread-like state of mentality. I too (as host Anna wondered) was she like this before the war? In answering the question, I believe Catherine is entwined in a co-dependent type relationship with Henry and he with her. They are "living" off each other's feelings so to speak. She is his nurse-maid and lover, she is going to make everything all-right. He is swept away by her ability to sweep him away in to delight, another words away from the battles of war. He also uses alcohol in this way!

3. What are your impressions of Henry so far given his reaction to the war, being wounded, falling in love, and his relationships to others?
In a way the reader is given only so much about Henry. No inner thoughts, no dimensional characteristics, just the outer layer of his personality. It makes it difficult (as Serena and Anna pointed out) to become invested in him. He does have a laissez-fair attitude about his injury but that is youth and machismo talking. He has a problem with alcohol. I took notes on the various types drank: vermouth, brandy, cognac, grappa, cinzano, sherry. I'm surprised the nurses and doctors allowed this much alcohol to be drank and or stored by their patient. Henry invites everyone to join him in a drink, it is a numbing medicine to his life. It is how he copes.

4. What do you think of Hemingway's writing style and the story itself so far? Are you enjoying it?
I think (?) we talked about this last week. Hemingway is choppy and tough in his writing. He never gives deep descriptions, he has a love for short sentences, and a love for less is more with commas. I too have grown used to this. I have no love for this book, it is not a good read, it is solemn and melancholy.
I wonder if this book, this writing style, is Hemingway's personality?


  1. Thanks so much for weighing in on the questions. I agree with your assessment of the priest...it must be tiring preaching to those that care nothing for God or have little faith in him and seem to have lost their humanity. It must be an incredibly tough and tiring position.

  2. Yes, very good point about the priest. I think everyone in the novel is reacting in that way--as you point out, he's frustrated that the soldiers' humanity is diminished (before and after death), and I think all the other characters are reacting to that too, but in their own ways. This is one reason Catherine is such a non-character. She cannot be vulnerable in the way she was with the first guy she was going to marry, so she goes so far the other way it's like she's a silhouette of herself (not a coincidence that Frederic Henry has his silhouette made with his cap on).

  3. That's a great point about the priest. I agree with you about having no love for this book! Hey, at least when I'm done, I can say I've read a Hemingway novel. ;)


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