Do you agree that Farewell to Arms is as successful in the portrayal of fear and suffering as when he writes of courage and comradeship? The four themes of fear, suffering, courage and comradeship are prominent issues which are raised in the novel Farewell to Arms.
The protagonist, Frederick Henry faces fear when he is injured where he admits his own fear. He shows courage without second thought when he helps injured men coming from the front. Individual suffering is shown through the eyes of Frederick Henry having to face the death of his wife and child. Physical suffering is obviously shown by the men that get injured in the war. This physical suffering provides the context in which courage can take place. Comradery, surprisingly, doesn’t seem to be as obvious in the novel as the other themes; it is mainly shown by the nurses’ commitment to one another and the ‘male bonding’ at the mess. There also seems to be more of an individual comradery within friendships and with individuals rather than a whole group. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of people working together for a common cause.
These four themes contribute to the many decisions that Frederick Henry has to make. That is in regards to the war and his relationship with Catherine, he has an inner conflict with himself with external forces pulling him in opposite directions which the protagonist must sort out which is more important to follow. Frederick Henry is an American who serves as a lieutenant in the Italian army to a group of ambulance drivers, whom is portrayed by Hemmingway as a ‘lost man’ searching for order and value in his life.
The fear and suffering the Frederick Henry has in his life which he experiences by the war, shows him how pointless the war is, he disagrees with the war because it is too chaotic and immoral for him to rationalize its cause. However, he fights anyway, in order to achieve the discipline which the army forces into his life.The courage he has in the war and comradeship or the individual comradeship he has with various people such as Catherine and the priest gives him a sense of order and value in his life that the war does not give him. Frederick Henry befriends the priest because he admires the fact that the priest lives his life by a set of values that give him an orderly lifestyle. He has a special bond with the priest and when he stops going to the mess as much as he used to, the Priest says: “I miss you at the mess” (Page 63). His relationship and bond that he has with the Priest also brings some order and value in his life. However this order is different from the sort of order found in the army.
The comradeship that seems forced upon him by the other men at the mess where he is forced to fit in by drinking and traveling from one house of prostitution, he is discontent by this is because his life is already unsettled and lacking any order:Frederick Henry mentions this earlier in the novel: “They talked too much at the mess and I drank wine because tonight we were not all brothers unless I drank a little and talked with the priest” (Page 35)This individual comradeship that has been mentioned is shown by his personal relationships with the other men in the army, they all share one common thing, in that they are trying to survive while depending on others and showing commitment to do this.
Rinaldi shows the bond that they have:”We are war brothers.” (Page 62)The comradery that the men have is also made so by the amount of courage Frederick Henry shows, he puts other people before him, where he isn’t trying to be a hero yet just being himself. Henry is a man who thinks about others and this is shown when he is injured:”There are much worse wounded than me” (Page 54) Not only does he show courage at this point but he experiences fear and also expresses this:”I looked at my leg and I was very afraid” (Page 51)It is here, that we realise that his acts of courage are not intentional for him to get recognition. We know this because when Frederick Henry is told that he is to receive a medal for his courage he doesn’t think he deserves it. The main character does not do things to be a ‘hero’.
Catherine also shows her fear of the rain mainly because she associates it with death and suffering:”I’ve always been afraid of the rain-and sometimes I see you dead in it.” This morbid image that Catherine associates of the rain to death and suffering shows that rain can be just as unpredictable as the war, which is what Catherine has a fear of, loosing Frederick Henry to the unpredictability of the war.
Another prominent theme is Frederick Henry’s personal suffering. This is shown by the death of Catherine and his child. When he meets Catherine he finds a new form of order in his life. When Frederick puts aside his involvement in the war, he realises that Catherine is the order and value in his life and that he does not need anything else to give meaning to his life. However, at the conclusion of the novel Frederick Henry suffers because he comes to the realisation that cannot base his life on another person or thing, because, ultimately, they will leave or disappoint him. With the end of their affair when Catherine dies giving birth to their stillborn love child, Frederick experiences suffering as his order and values in his life have been completely shattered. He cannot depend on any one person, such as Catherine, or any thing, such as religion, war, order or discipline. He suffers because he realises that Catherine and the child that he was going to have would give him that order and real meaning to his life that he has been searching for. He doesn’t really show any suffering through his grief, in fact his reaction to Catherine’s death is rather unemotional, Frederick reaction was that:”It was like saying good-by to a statue.”It is at this point that he knows Catherine was a symbol of the order and strength in his life, and he suffers as his strength and order have been diminished by her death.
In conclusion it can be shown that Hemmingway does have a balanced portrayal of fear and suffering as when he writes of courage and comradeship. With the war that Frederick Henry is involved in it causes him to evaluate the chaos and disorder that he is living in. Through these external forces of fear, suffering, courage and comradeship which are important in making the decision of whether he should stay obligated with the army in the war or follow his love for Catherine Barkley, he discovers that both choices have their consequences. Frederick Henry realises that the strength that he needs to face this chaotic life needs to come from within and he must learn from his past experiences. Along with Henry’s disagreement of the war, he is forced to face his own fear, suffering, deal with courage as if it were instinctive and show commradery with his men and the people that he has a special bond with.