1.3.2. The setting of “A Farewell to Arms” The story is set mostly in Gorizia, a tiny town near the Italian-Austrian border, and is set against the backdrop of World War I. Austria, a member of the Central Powers, opposes Italy, which is part of the Allied Powers. The United States of America backed the Allies in the last phases of the war. Between 1914 and 1918, the war was waged. When the narrative begins, the protagonist, Frederic Henry, is stationed in Gorizia as an ambulance driver and officer in the Italian army. The Protagonist is wounded in Book II and is taken to a Milan hospital. As a result, the action now shifts to Milan. The dual topic of love between the Protagonist and Catherine Barkley, the heroine, develops here. Following the cancellation of his convalescent leave in Book III, Henry is assigned to the front lines at Gorizia. The tale is now set against the magnificent Caporetto and the (in)famous refuge, rather than Gorizia. The Battle of Caporetto was fought in October 1917 between Italian and German-Austrian forces, and it was a disaster for Italy. Caporetto is a small Italian village on the banks of the Isonzo River. Though the Italian army fought the German-Austrian force in some places, it was losing the war. The battle and Caporetto were lost, forcing the Italian forces to retreat. This is known as the Retreat, and it is described in detail in Book III. The scene is place in Caporetto, a historically significant little town. The action shifts back to Milan, Italy in Book IV. The scene is neutral Switzerland from there until the end of the tale, where Henry and Catherine evacuate and stay until her death. The backdrop of the narrative provides a stark contrast between the magnificent, towering, and dignified mountains and the death, decay, and degeneration associated with the plains.
1.3.3. Major characters of “A Farewell to Arms” Following is a list of major characters with their main role as well as their personality from Trodd’s viewpoint.
- Frederic Henry, the protagonist and narrator, is an American ambulance driver serving in northern Italy during World War I. Without religion or patriotic zeal, he has only his love for Catherine to sustain him. As his experiences in love and war deepen, he grows in awareness and allows himself to feel life more intensely. Most readers come to admire Henry for his ambulance service, his devotion to Catherine, and his willingness to acknowledge his failings, but other readers find him passive, irresponsible, and self-absorbed.
- Catherine Barkley, is the British nurse working in Italy during World War I who catches the casual and then sustained attention of Lieutenant Frederic Henry, the American, who is also in Italy working for the Italian war effort. Catherine has been traumatized by the sudden death of her fiancé who was killed in the battle at the Somme in France. Readers and critics differ widely in their understanding of Catherine, with adjectives ranging from “pathetically passive” to “heroic” (in the sense Hemingway’s code entails).
- The Priest is one of those rare characters whose presence calls everyone-some more uncomfortably than others-to an awareness of higher purpose and meaning while at the same time remaining likable and worthy of respect. The teasing he receives from some of the men about his celibacy does not alter his goodnatured and compassionate interactions with them-perhaps because he knows how uncomfortable and frightened the men are. The priest’s view of the war evolves as the novel does; he finds it increasingly difficult to justify the immense and widespread suffering he witnesses. Most importantly, the priest provides the novel’s definition of love - “When you love you wish to do things for” - which stands in contrast to what is “only passion and lust.” The priest has the greatest influence on Lieutenant Henry who is, at first, respectfully dismissive of the priest’s views but becomes increasingly attentive to his presence and insight.
- Lieutenant Rinaldi, the Italian doctor, works tirelessly and skillfully at the front. Playful and irreverent, he seems to be always dodging the big questions. He lives at a frenetic pace, moving among his work responsibilities, the pleasures of alcohol, and his numerous but brief sexual encounters that result in his contracting syphilis. Inordinately but not awkwardly fond of Frederic, Rinaldi calls him his “best friend and …war brother.” Underneath the comradely banter, Rinaldi’s loneliness seems obvious.
- Helen Ferguson is a Scottish nurse who is ambivalent about Frederic Henry and protective of her friend Catherine, but she enables their relationship to develop. She gives hints of having experienced a past love affair that ended badly, but she keeps her life private, and we do not learn anything more about her.
- Miss van Campen, head nurse at the Milan hospital, is an experienced medical professional who is also relentlessly authoritarian and difficult to like. She and Frederic clash from their first meeting. Hemingway’s distaste for authoritarian women is well known, but his portrayal seems excessively unfair and cruel for a woman with huge responsibilities who must labor under harsh conditions.
- Gage and Walker are nurses at the hospital. Walker seems overwhelmed to the point of helplessness; Gage is helpful and harmlessly flirtatious.
- Manera, Passini, Gavuzzi, and Gordini are ambulance drivers with Lieutenant Henry. Passini is killed by a trench bomb; Gordini and Henry are wounded at the same time.
- Ettore Moretti, an Italian who was raised in the United States, is an officer in the Italian Army and an acquaintance of Frederic Henry. He is preoccupied with his promotions and boastful about his wounds and medals, which Catherine finds distasteful and boring. Ettore shows no signs of having an inner life, no place for doubt or ambivalence. He seems callous about killing enemy soldiers and, if the pay were better, he would fight for the U.S. Army. Count Greffi is an elderly cultured gentleman who befriends Frederic in Stresa and looks forward to their conversations. Before Frederic leaves with Catherine for Switzerland, the two have an important talk about death and one’s purpose for living.
- Piani, Bonello, and Aymo are, with Lieutenant Henry, the last of the ambulance drivers to leave the front after the order comes to begin the retreat. Aymo is killed, and Bonello deserts when they leave the main route of retreat to seek a safer way to Udine. Henry is particularly saddened to lose the companionship of Aymo.