A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway Read-A-Long Week 3

This is week 3 of A Farewell To Arms read-a-long, 1 more week to go and I will have completed my 1st Ernest Hemingway novel.
This read-a-long has been hosted by Anna and Serena from War Through The Generations Challenge.
To read the questions and answers from our hosts:  http://warthroughthegenerations.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/week-3-ernest-hemingways-a-farewell-to-arms-read-a-long/

1. '"The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one" is a statement made by Henry, and he and Catherine enter into a discourse about bravery. Do you think either character is brave and do you think Catherine is right when she says the brave die more deaths but just don't talk about it? Explain."

I believe a key word that needs defining is death. Do you mean death of the physical body; or the death of a dream, or innocence, or personality trait, etc. I'm not necessarily asking a question, but thinking out loud.
I believe as humans when we encounter a horrific event or persevere under great duress, we cannot help but be a changed person. It maybe as simple or as hard as the loss of innocence and or naiveté.
I wanted to state the above because that is where I'll base my feelings on answering the question.
I believe that a person that experiences combat in a war does die deaths, maybe not a thousand, but they do die many deaths. They die to their previous life of innocence before war. They die to their innocence in watching and experiencing human depravity, carnage, and violence. They die to their belief of possibly growing old and living out a long life. They die to the strong possibility they may be maimed and must have someone care for them. They also watch death happen. Watching a person die is a type of death as we are observing a life ending. In combat watching another human die, who maybe have been your friend, and most probably their death was gruesome and violent........it is mind-altering.
Now, do I believe either Henry or Catherine is brave?
Yes, I believe both are brave. Henry is brave in that even though he is not apart of the combat itself, he is still in the line of fire. He stills risks his life, in order to help the wounded.
Catherine is brave in that she cares for the wounded. This must be a gut-wrenching, bloody, smelly, filthy, completely emotionally and physically exhausting----duty.
Do I believe Catherine is right when she says the brave die more deaths but just don't talk about it?
Absolutely I agree. It is "one" of the reasons people have PTSD is because they don't talk about it.
The word brave in my dictionary means---"Able or ready to face and endure danger or pain."
Both Henry and Catherine even though they are not able to face their own on-going drama of a relationship, they perform bravely their duties in the military and in the hospital.

2. "What do you think about Henry's reaction to Catherine's pregnancy announcement?"

As much as they've been together and Henry did not notice Catherine was not menstruating to me is ridiculous. I'm sorry if that sentence came off as crude, I didn't mean it to be so. But, men when they are shocked and after 3 months (Catherine is 3 months pregnant) to me is just dumb. He seems by the dialogue to be concerned only with her, of course at this stage she is not showing and a baby probably is difficult for him to conjure in his mind. She is the person with the symptoms. Catherine does not want him to worry, she is sorta of like his mother/nursemaid/lover. She does not want him to worry or focus on this pregnancy, she wants to kiss and make everything all-right and handle it herself. Although later in their conversation I caught the hint she was being sarcastic which may have masked itself in anger at him.
On page 139 why did she say "I've never even loved any one." I though she'd had a boyfriend that died? I looked back at page 19 and even though she would have married that boy, she did not state she loved him.

3. "Why do you think Catherine suddenly feels like a whore rather than Henry's wife? What does that say about her character?"

Before, their love making (I assume) was in his hospital bed and kept away from the eyes of others. All was private. It was their little home, a cocoon of seclusion. It was a different matter (more real) when they were out in the open and in a hotel room. They'd been playing at their relationship with lovemaking and having a wonderful carefree time. The reality of their affair is now upon them. A baby changes everything, even in a marriage. As the southern saying goes, "the chickens have come home to roost."
Catherine, as did Henry, had not been thinking about the what if, even though someone else had warned him not to get Catherine in trouble. Humans always think it won't happen to them. Well it did.
Catherine's character is troubled, anxious, wounded, dependent, emotion driven, a train wreck.
I noticed that on page 152 Catherine wants to be a "good girl." I believe she does not want to make any demands of Henry, she is in a precarious situation. Her actions have propelled her already insecurities, to be even more insecure about what if Henry dies, or leaves her, another words abandoning her pregnant and unmarried. 

4. "When Henry is debating the feeling of defeat with the priest and the possible end to the war, Henry says, '"They were beaten to start with. They were beaten when they took them from their farms and put them in the army. That is why the peasant has wisdom, because he is defeated from the start."' How is this statement true of not true?"

Ugh, this is a deep question.
The peasant and farmer is going to be the infantry, the soldier. They will be the one's that understand the full meaning of war and combat. They were drafted without a choice in to a war they probably do not even understand. Many of them were illiterate. All those that were of youth were drafted, as were most of those that were in the 20's to 40's with wives and children were drafted. They had no choice. To leave your wife and children to the unknown must have been gut-wrenching. The full context of which we'll never understand.
So yes, this is true I believe, the peasant and farmer was beaten from the beginning. They were beaten when they were taken away from their families and livelihood. They were beaten and they know it, they know it in their minds and in their hearts.

5. "What do you think about the way Hemingway describes the front?"

Henry and Catherine's affair is not a reality, it was and is a tryst. War is a reality and this part of the book feels more tangible. It is a reality full of grit and courage. War is a serious art; and Hemingway's description through the art of prose describes the art of combat and the aftermath of war, in tones of acridity and morbidness and gloom.

6. "What do you think about the shift in the story from Henry's therapy and his relationship with Catherine to the front and the retreat?"

My short answer is we finally see why the author placed that dialogue between Henry and Catherine about bravery in an earlier chapter. It was a foreshadowing of Henry in his act of bravery.
Henry thinks about her during this period at the front. Catherine and the memories or her and them is now a comfort. I believe he finally loves her. There was a discussion with Henry and the priest early in the book.
The priest said, "When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve." page 72.
I believe we are beginning to see a transformation in Henry by this act of bravery.
At this point I feel involved in the story; I want to know what will happen to these 2 people who earlier in the book I was so annoyed by--- I could have boxed their ears!


  1. I hope the last chapters about the war indicate a transformation in Henry. I found these chapters to be the best so far, and I hope the book gets better. Still not sure whether I believe he really loves Catherine or now. I want to see what happens with the baby, etc.


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