A Farewell to Arms summary summarizes a novel that follows an American during the Italian campaign of World War I. Ernest Hemingway, the author, portrays Frederic Henry as an American lieutenant in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army. It was first published in 1929 and took its title from a poem by George Peele.
This novel, published during World War 1, is a love affair between an expatriate man, Henry, and an English nurse, Catherine Barkley. It has become one of Hemingway’s successful novels.
A Farewell to Arms has been adapted several times, first for the stage in 1930, as a film in 1932, and again in 1957. In 1996, Richard Attenborough directed the film In Love and War, which depicts Hemingway’s life in Italy as an ambulance driver before he wrote his iconic novel, A Farewell to Arms.
Let’s look at the novel- A Farewell to Arms summary below.
Plot Summary: A Farewell to Arms Summary
The novel is divided into five books or sections, and the first narrator is Frederic Henry.
Book I: A Farewell to Arms Summary
The book starts in a small Italian town. During World War I, Lieutenant Frederic Henry, an eager young American ambulance driver in the Italian lines, takes a vacation from the front lines. When he returns, Henry meets Catherine Barkley and falls in love with her, an English nurse’s aide in the local British hospital.
The nurse named Catherine Barkley is devastated by losing her fiancé last year in battle, and she eagerly participates in the game of love’s delightful diversion with Henry. After the devastation he has witnessed in warfare, Henry is also resurrected by love.
Frederic is introduced to Catherine Barkley, an English nurse, by Rinaldi at a British hospital. She attracts Frederic’s attention. She informs him about her fiancé, who was slain in the combat, and how she feels uncomfortable when it starts to rain because of her fiancé. She slaps Frederick when he tries to kiss her, then feels bad. She ultimately kisses him because she has developed a soft spot for him.
Frederic drives the ambulance in battle, accompanied by other ambulance drivers (Passini, Manera, Gordini, and Gavuzzi). Passini is murdered by a mortar assault on the Italian front, while Frederic is seriously injured and sent to the hospital after being hit in the knee.
Book II: A Farewell to Arms Summary
Before being transferred to a Milan hospital, Rinaldi pays Frederic a visit. Frederic senses he is madly in love with Catherine when she comes. To get rid of the shrapnel in Frederic’s leg, he’ll need surgery. While he is healing, Catherine and Frederic have a lot of fun together. He intends to go with Catherine. Frederic is diagnosed with jaundice and given additional leave time to recover.
Catherine reveals she is pregnant. When the hospital administrator (Miss Van Campen) finds empty liquor bottles, he believes that Frederic’s ailment is the reason for his absence and cancels his leave. Fredric and Catherine agree to reunite once the war is over, as he prepares to return to the front.
Book III: A Farewell to Arms Summary
Frederic returns to Gorizia. Rinaldi examines his injured leg when he arrives. He then inquires about the couple’s marital status. Frederic has a shift in him, and the priest predicts that the war will conclude soon. Frederic goes to Bainsizza, where he meets Gino and learns about an Austrian artillery battery with terrifying weapons.
If the Austrians attack, Frederic realizes that no one will escape. The onslaught begins as rain pours down. Morale has plummeted, and Frederic learns this. The Italians retreat shortly after the Austro-Hungarians break through their lines at the Battle of Caporetto.
The homes are being evacuated. Trucks are loaded with women and children. According to Henry, Rinaldi has left for the hospital, and everyone else has fled the villa. Frederic draws on the primary route and chooses to take an alternate route because there is considerable delay and disorder on the highway during the retreat.
Frederic sends the two engineering sergeants riding with Bonello to assist him and his troops after getting quickly lost in the mud. They refuse and attempt to flee because they are afraid of being overtaken by the enemy. One of them gets away while Frederick Henry shoots. Aymo, one of the drivers, is assassinated, while Bonello, another of the drivers, flees to surrender to the Austrians.
The main retreat over the Tagliamento river is caught up to by Frederic and his last companion, Piani. Military police immediately transport Frederic onto a location on the riverbank where officials are interrogated and killed for their “treachery” in causing the Italian defeat as soon as they cross the bridge.
By leaping into the river, Frederic can avoid capture. Henry travels to Milan via train in search of Catherine.
Book IV: A Farewell to Arms Summary
Frederic Henry returns to Milan only to discover Catherine has gone for Stresa. He inquires about the procedures for traveling to Switzerland when he sees Ralph Simmons, one of the opera singers he met earlier. He is given civilian clothes by Ralph, who assists him. The people look at Frederic with scorn while he feels very awkward in those clothes. Henry arrives at the Isles Borromées Hotel in Stresa by train.
Helen and Catherine rent a small hotel room near the train station, Emilio, a bartender, informs him. Henry finds Catherine and Helen Furgeson. There, Frederick meets and falls in love with Catherine and Helen Ferguson. On his previous visit to Stresa, he encounters Count Greffi, an elderly aristocrat Frederic had experienced. Greffi is currently residing with his niece.
Frederic avoids Catherine’s question about the war experiences.
He views himself as a war criminal and a criminal. Italian authorities are planning to apprehend him, according to Emilio. As Emilio makes all possible arrangements for their travel in a rowboat, Catherine and Frederic draw to Switzerland.
The waves are rough and choppy because of the storm. Catherine joins Frederic in rowing the boat all night. They finally arrive in Switzerland. The guards confirm their identity and provide them with temporary visas for residing in Switzerland.
Book V: A Farewell to Arms Summary
In the mountains, Frederic and Catherine live a quiet life. They relocate to a tiny cottage on Montreux’s outskirts, built of wood. Mr. becomes a new friend for them. Mrs. and Mr. Guttingen is a city in Germany.
Catherine becomes increasingly worried about their kid, particularly its health, at times. To be closer to the American hospital, they relocate to Lausanne.
Catherine is taken to the hospital after going into labor. The doctor advises Frederic that a Cesarean procedure is the best option. She endures a great deal of agony before finally giving birth to a stillborn baby boy. Catherine is hemorrhaging, the nurse informs him later.
He’s terrified. Catherine dies in his arms as a result of his visit. He walks out of the hospital in the rain and returns to his hotel.
A Farewell to Arms Summary: Background and Publication History
Hemingway struggled in the Italian wars during the First World War and used his personal experiences to inspire this work. Agnes von Kurowsky, a nurse who took care of Ernest Hemingway in a Milan hospital after he was wounded, was the model for Catherine Barkley. When he returned to America, he had planned to marry her, but she rejected his love.
Helen Ferguson was played by Kitty Cannell, a fashion journalist based in Paris. Don Giuseppe Bianchi, the 69th and 70th Brigata Ancona regiments priest, inspired the unnamed priest. In Our Time, the persona had previously appeared, even though Rinaldi’s sources are unknown.
Much of the story was written in correspondence with Frederic J. A stone called agate is available. Later, Agate, Hemingway’s buddy, used a compilation of letters his wife wrote during his stay in Italy as inspiration.
On the other hand, Hemingway was not engaged in the conflicts recounted by Michael Reynolds. Readers assumed A Farewell to Arms was autobiographical because his previous work, The Sun Also Rises, had been written as a roman à clef.
During his tenure at Willis M., he started work on A Farewell to Arms. Some of the books were written in Piggott, Arkansas, at Pauline’s then-wife Pauline Pfeiffer’s home, and in Mission Hills, Kansas, while she was awaiting the delivery of their child.
The conclusion was a source of discomfort for Hemingway. He claims to have penned 39 of them “before I was happy,” according to a 2012 version of the book, but there were at least 47 different endings.
Hemingway was financially self-sufficient after the publication of A Farewell to Arms in September 1929, with a first edition print run of approximately 31,000 copies.
In July 2012, a dust jacket replica of the first edition of the Hemingway Library Edition was published. In addition to pieces from early draft manuscripts, the newly published version includes an appendix with the many alternate endings Hemingway created for the book.
A Farewell to Arms Summary: Censorship
Irish Free State banned A Farewell to Arms.
Additionally, copyright restrictions prevented the novel from being published in Italy until 1948 because the Fascist regime considered it detrimental to the honor of the Armed Forces.
Beyond a disdain between writer and Benito Mussolini, more than one biographer believes this censorship was due to a general refusal of publication given its depiction of events leading up to and during the Battle of Caporetto.
Hemingway had met with Mussolini before in 1923, shortly after he took power, and had scornful words for him. While the crowd’s reaction was not recorded, it is known that Mussolini did not like his article.
Hemingway could tell that Mussolini was not reading Hemingway’s article but using a French-English dictionary to find out what was being said. The Italian translation had been done by someone illegally in 1943 and led to their arrest in Turin.
A Farewell to Arms Summary: Critical Reception
A Farewell to Arms is one of Hemingway’s best works and was met with unrivaled critique.
The 1929 New York Times review on 《A Farewell to Arms》read: “It is a moving and beautiful book.” Gore Vidal said in regards to the novel, “There can be seen the beginning of the careful, artful, immaculate idiocy of tone that from there on marked his prose.”
A Farewell to Arms Summary: Themes
A Farewell to Arms is set up during World War I in Italy.
Love and Loss
There are many instances of love and loss, but Catherine arrives in Italy and falls in love with Alberto, who she later marries. Later she dies at his hands.
Henry follows the advice of Count Greffi and the priest, who believe in a future where there will be World Peace.
Reality vs. Fantasy
Catherine and Henry are deeply in love, so Catherine escapes from her fiance’s death in the war.
Henry is a classic man who has a code of honor and always looks out for the well-being of his friends.
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