1.3.4. Major themes of “A Farewell to Arms” “A Farewell to Arms” is one of the most famous works written by Ernest Hemingway. It displays two main interwaving themes of war and love by the narration of a young soldier ' s experience and his love affairs with a beautiful nurse in the first world war. The novel reflects the author' s strong hatred for war and exposes that the war is the real root of the couple' s tragedy in this novel and the “Lost Generation “ in the real society.
a) “War is a rotten game” After a thorough examination of the novel, Ginger came to the conclusion that one of the key themes of “A Farewell to Arms” is that war is a dreadful game. From beginning to end, Henry and his buddies use drink and females to distract themselves from the dread that surrounds them because they refuse to face the underlying horrors that war brings. “We now have lovely girls here.” “New females have never been to the front.” (12) Frederic Henry seemed to be obsessed with the battle. Despite his sadness, he is willing to return to the front and assume command. He was so ruthless that he killed one of his own guys without remorse. “Bless me, father, I killed you, I'll say. They all laughed when I killed a sergeant.” (208) Henry's twisted relationship with war wears him down to the point where he begins to doubt the efficacy of war in the first place, “And the ones who would not make war?” Are they able to stop it? “I'm not sure.” (71) Overall, the novel's depiction of war proves the theme that war is a nasty game since it desensitizes its prisoners. Because their thoughts are poisoned with ideas of victory and murder, it prevents individuals from thinking clearly. This idea fits well with the American identity of going to war for the greater good. Many Americans believe it is our responsibility to safeguard citizens in foreign countries. if there is a conflict or catastrophe The earthquake that struck Haiti a few years ago is an example of this. Many Americans opened their hearts and gave relief to many people in need as a result of the enormous destruction in this destitute country. America does this not only to aid others but also to make itself look powerful, such as when they attack other countries in order to start a war that should benefit these countries. This demonstrates that, like Henry, America is seduced by the glamor of conflict. This enticement demonstrates the magnitude of glory that can result from a war win. Perhaps, like Henry, America should choose to give up on the ideas of war's blessings and discover the corruption that it leaves in its wake instead.
b) “Love is a dirty trick” According to Ginger, another overall theme of “A Farewell to Arms” is that “love is a dirty trick”, which is said by Catherine.In the beginning, Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley lie to each other about being in love merely because they do not want to lose the others company, “Yes, I lied. I love you.” (30). But as they progressively get closer they truly fall in love with each other. This new love is ended shortly, however, because Henry must return to war. During their time apart, Henry is captured and realizes that his true love is no longer war but Catherine and he escapes to reunite with her, “I could remember Catherine but I knew I would get crazy if I thought about her when I was not sure yet I would see her” (231). Once they reconnect, they decide to run away to Switzerland in order to be together and at peace. While there, Catherine goes into labor and has many complications which lead to a cesarian section that provides a nonliving child and her death. Henry lost his wife and his child in one day with only Catherine's last words to live by, “It's just a dirty trick” (331). He was seduced by love and it was ripped away from him twice, once by his dying love for war and the other by death itself. This trap is experienced by many people emmigrating to America today. They leave their home countries in hopes of making a better life, only to realize they were deceived by their love of America. Once they arrive it becomes apparent that America is not wholesome and ready for newcomers but corrupt and ready to turn them away. Just like Henry fell in love one moment, seeing it as perfect and everlasting, only to be abandoned the next second, immigrants should consider the validity of America's cultural identity of prosperity before leaving their old life and entering a new one.
c) A perfect fusion of both the themes
To combine the two aforementioned themes, the researcher believes that “A Farewell to Arms” is a novel in which two distinct themes have been blended perfectly; the theme of love and war, as the title suggests. Love in the middle of a war could be dangerous. Risk of death and separation is at zenith in every passing moment; still love knows no bars and restriction. It can act as a source and joy and contentment during war and for few moments can provide solace and for some moments can take away from the fret of harsh brutalities of war. Both the themes are introduced by the author in first few chapters of Book I. Book I begins with the introduction of lull in war. First four chapters create a scene of hallows of war which chapter five initiates the theme of love when Rinaldi promises Lieutinant Henry to introduce him to Barkley. The meeting begins with flirtation and later ends up in true love. Another important thing that blends both the themes is he indifferent attitude towards love and towards war in the beginning but later gets involved in both. A close look at the plot of novel provides a simultaneous progress of both the themes. At times, one theme dominates other yet both run along. For instance, in Book I, both the themes have been introduced; by the end of Book I Catherine falls in love with Henry but he is more into the war and after being wounded is shifted to the hospital and reunion takes place. Now when we shift to Book II, theme of love seems prevalent but war is not completely forgotten. In Book III, disillusionment of war, frightened soldiers and retreat and his bidding adieu to war takes place. Barkley finds reference in his thoughts, so love is not completely being forgotten yet takes a secondary place. Book IV deals chiefly with the theme of love and reunion of two lovers yet shadow of war also haunts Henry and it becomes substantial when in the middle of night they had to flee from Stressa to Switzerland in fear of being caught as he deserted the army. Book V chiefly deals with the theme of love, accounts of war only find place in Henry’s thoughts about the fate of his friends. Hemmingway has artistically fused both the themes. His intention of blending twin themes can be made out from his skilful selection of the title, which refers to both the themes.