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June 2008: Ernest Hemingway: A Farewell To Arms

Discussion in 'Book of the Month' started by Stewart, May 29, 2008.

  1. SFG75

    SFG75 Well-Known Member

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    I have to say that for being anti-war novel, it isn't an impactful anti-war novel. It doesn't hit you in the stomach or make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. It certainly doesn't grab you by the collar like All Quiet on the Western Front does. There are more subtle anti-war novels, such as Willa Cather's One of Ours. That book resembled this one in simplicity and in staying above the fray so to speak about the vast majority of content. What made that book stand out was the very end where the small town American farm boy was cut down by machine gun fire in France. It's a slow, evolving event, one that takes the reader back to the farm through the present moment and it's very ethereal. After the death, you feel the impact on all the other major characters in the book that earlier in the book, you saw enjoy the company of the young man.

    This is a great book, though not a particularly great anti-war book. It does contain some interesting underlying worries about meaning and existence. The count's rumination with Frederic about age and ultimately death, bears that out. The very end of the book also does this as he kicks out all of the nurses, only to discover that there was no moment to be had and that his "wife" was no longer there-the book ends with him walking out. Frederic appears to be in the throes of such a crisis when he states:

    I also enjoyed the physical description of the battlefront and this trait stuck through the entire book. Before he heads back to the hospital to find his wife suffering a hemorrage, he has a light meal at a cafe. The description of the bustling cafe with him silently observing everything gives a calm before the storm feeling. You could just sense that something was coming up.
     
  2. silverseason

    silverseason New Member

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    I am disappointed in this book. I first read it years ago when Hemingway and his prose style were all the fashion. At that time I saw it as an anti-war novel.

    Now I find his style is artificial and detached. There is some nice dry humor here and there. Some of the minor characters – like Rinaldi, the Priest, the Count – hold your attention. The story comes alive with them, but is tedious when Fred and Cat are mooning over each other.

    The book is about love and war, but both themes never became real to me. The narrator is very detached about the war, to the point where you wonder why he is involved at all. When some of the men say that if they stop fighting it wouldn’t be so bad, he argues to continuing, yet he has no patriotic or nationalistic idealism or any vision of what it would mean to win. He wants it to be over so he can go to Austria. Then, at the time of the retreat, as other posters have pointed out, he shoots the sergeant who leaves the scene. This has no effect on freeing the ambulance because no efforts can free the ambulance at that the point. So why shoot? Is it so he can have a little cynical humor when the driver says “I never killed anybody in this war, and all my life I’ve wanted to kill a sergeant.”

    The only time the narrator seems to feel anything about the injustice and futility of the entire enterprise is when he himself is almost shot as a deserter. Is this a point about the numbing effect of violence? Frederic Henry is such a numb individual that we can’t be sure.

    The numbness is why the love story doesn’t seem real either. He starts by gaming Catherine, saying whatever he thinks she wants to hear, then finds he is in love with her. Their love-talk is so contrived that I find I can’t take it seriously. When the author conveniently kills her off I can’t take that seriously either; it’s just a way to end the book.

    Individual scenes stand out. The book as a whole does not.
     
  3. Robert

    Robert Active Member

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    I for one really enjoyed this book.

    Silverstone, I agree with much of you what you say, but I think it was by design.

    I said in an earlier post that everything was tainted by the war. The forced romance, Rinaldi's depression, our narrator killing his own man from frustration and more. Our characters are all changed by the war. What I see are people so run down by the horrors of war that they're no longer alive. The stillborn child was symbolic of this because like them, he was once alive, too. These characters are just going through the motions of life and grasping for things that they associate with humanity, even if they have to create it for themselves.


    The healing for our narrator begins a short while after he escapes the war. Catherine and the plastic relationship are allowed to die because he no longer needs those things any more then a child needs his teddy bear after he's grown.


    I think the hardest thing to fix after a war are the people that survived it.
     
  4. beer good

    beer good Well-Known Member

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    Another WW1 novel that's worth checking out is Ernst Jünger's Storm of Steel, which like Hemingway's is semi-autobiographical but unlike Hemingway's is very much a trench warfare story - a rather brutal one at that, especially considering that it came out in 1920. And Jünger was there, so he ought to know. (Incidentally, Jünger released his last book in 1990 - there's a career for you.)

    Is it one, though? I must say that while it struck me as a book that's not positive towards war, there's no obvious editorialising - he doesn't so much write against war as about it. Again, Hemingway comes across as a reporter; he doesn't take sides, he doesn't force his opinion on the reader, he's objective. Or at least he thinks he is. Or at least he thinks we think he is. Etc.
     
  5. saliotthomas

    saliotthomas New Member

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    I still can't think of a particular novel about "the great war" as it is often call in France,but most of French literature of the time and after wears trace of it.The brutality,the trench,Chimical warfare has impressed france far more that the humiliation of the Segond war,or at least in a more primal way.

    Never in Hemingway book can be found a recollection of this aspect,as everyone seem to think,it is more a novel of a romance far behind the front.The book taking place close to the Marne or Ardennes would have left very little time for Frederic to have a romance.The butchery and mysery of the great war feel to a French quite similar in influance to Vietnam war to an Americain(moderne warfare,mud and trench)
    I can imagine a Europeen writer creating the same sort of book as Farwell to arms in vietnam would not have been persived as even remotly representing the spirit of the war.
    I like the fact that if all of you has different view on the book,the sum of them give the very felling that one reader can have at different stage when reading it.
     
  6. silverseason

    silverseason New Member

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    I agree. I think the quality of the discussion has been high.
     
  7. Booktamer Ama

    Booktamer Ama New Member

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    deeply dissapointing!

    I read this book twice: for the first time 10 years ago and for the second time, two weeks ago because i had to review it.

    I didn't like it. I didn-t like anything about it. I thought the book to be boring and false (just like Salinger's Holden) and the characters poorly constructed.
    Henry has no logical argumentation for his actions (if you wouldn't know Hemingway's life, would you understand what is henry doing in Italy???) and Catherine is shallow.
    Don't even get me started on the dialogue! :(

    The only good thing about the novel were the secondary characters, for example Rinaldi. Everytime Rinaldi comes into the stage the book becomes more lively :)

    If I may compare, For whom the bells toll is a far better book.:star1:
     
  8. Booktamer Ama

    Booktamer Ama New Member

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    * just as Holden thought about Henry :D
    I loved Holden :)
     
  9. Libra

    Libra New Member

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    Welcome to the forum, I hope you join our book BOM discussions.:)
     
  10. Samerron

    Samerron New Member

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    I wish I was here earlier. I am half way through...
    I enjoyed reading your comments, especially the indication of the comedy moments between Frederic & Rinaldi.

    What I find annoying till now is that his detailed elongated description of some moments and just a brief explanation of some more significant moment. Some of his conversation with Catherine is stupid. All overall I like his style. It's the first book I read for him, I might go for another one.
     
  11. Libra

    Libra New Member

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    All the darlings and baby talk annoyed me too.
     
  12. WoundedThorns

    WoundedThorns New Member

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    I think that's very well said. I remember far more gripping scences from All Quiet on the Western Front whereas I struggle to look past the mundane relationship that unraveled in A Farewell to Arms
     
  13. loured

    loured kickbox

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    I agree

    I agree excepte that event this line ,did not wake up my interest.I don't know where we are(no feeling about it)the main caractere seem so blend that he make the stranger of Camus a likebale and warm personne,and the dialogue as you say are all to real.In a "passe-me-the-butter,do-you-want-the-salt" kind of way.
    Some derscriptions,like the lift in the hospital in Milan(but there is many others);do not bring anything to the narration.
    It make me feel as if he was bored writing the thing,the only living it up is when there's some booze include.
    I hope it's a slow start but i really can't imagine liking this book.I was coming with a stonger apriory about Hemingway to be honest.
     
  14. St. Stephen

    St. Stephen kickbox

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    I guess I'm a little late for the discussion, but I would like to add that this is one of my favorite books and that Hemingway is one of my favorite authors.

    "If a person brings so much courage into the world that the world must kill him to break him, so of course it kills him. The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those it cannot break it will kill. It kills the very good, the very gentle, and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these things the world will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
     
  15. rick

    rick New Member

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    This is just a great book by Hemingway that truly illustrates dreams vs realities. If you really enjoyed reading this you should pick it up on Audio Book. I would read it then listen you will be really surprised at a lot of the things that you missed.

    Heres a site i use: audiobooks.net
    If you find a better one let me know.
     
  16. FrankChurch

    FrankChurch New Member

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    Evil Dead 2 has a good reference to that book.
     
  17. Hope Anderson

    Hope Anderson New Member

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    You got to love Hemingway! Every Time I read one of his books it really takes me away to another place and time. I love all of his work!
     

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