A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms is a war-time tragedy written by Ernest Hemingway. It was published in 1929 and became his first best seller. He wrote many books and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. But this is the book that put his name on the map as a modern American author.

A Farewell to Arms is a love story about an American expatriate during World War I, and is based on some of Hemingway’s experiences serving in the Italian campaigns. Love, war, loss and life outdoors are consistent themes in Hemingway’s books and most of his characters are men doing very masculine things. In the first part of this book, Fredrick is kind of a rascal who wants Catherine without the commitment and probably most mirrors Hemingway himself, who I always thought should have remained a bachelor all his life, instead of trying to commit a little along the way with several women. I always had the impression that while he really liked and even loved women, he did not always treat women well and this comes through in his stories. In the next two parts of A Farewell to Arms, there is a real sympathy for Fredrick when he is injured and later captured. In the fourth part, Catherine and Fredrick find each other again and I can’t say anything about the final part without giving away parts of the plot. But understand, this is not a feel good story.

I admit that personally I don’t like Hemingway’s style as much as I do other authors of his time, like John Steinbeck who also won a Nobel Prize for Literature. Henry Louis Gates describes Hemingway’s style:

“…meaning is established through dialogue, through action and silences—a fiction in which nothing crucial—or at least very little—is stated explicitly.”

It’s just a little too indirect and centered around men for me. Hemingway called his own style the Iceberg Theory, meaning that facts float above the water and supporting structure and symbolism operate out of sight. I think there is a lot more out of sight than that. Mind you, his style has not kept me from owning and reading most of his books including eight novels, one memoir (which is my most favorite), one book on writing and a few short stories.

Ernest Hemingway’s novels are classic American literature and I recommend you give his books a try. They are written from a man’s point of view for men, so I highly recommend his books for men who are looking for books with masculine male characters. So, go to your quiet place and start reading or listening to some American literature.


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