Many novels use contrast images of the land or surroundings to symbolize the central meaning of the work.
In Ernest Hemingway s A Farewell to Arms the foil images of Italy and Switzerland help symbolize the theme of the book, which is the cruelty of war and what it does to people. The descriptions of the two countries, Italy and Switzerland, are greatly different and represent two types of places. On one hand, Italy symbolizes a site of cruelty and death. Here is where all of the war and fighting takes place throughout the novel.
The front and plains in Italy are described to be where all the death and disaster happen to the armies and the volunteers. Henry and the other men even were wounded with not even being in battle. They were just eating some cheese and drinking some wine when they were bombed. Here many of the people lost hope and moral because of the death surrounding them.
Rinaldi told Henry, this war is killing me, I am very depressed by it (167). A major told Henry, It has been bad. You couldn t believe how bad it s been. I ve often thought you (Henry) were lucky to be hit when you were (165).
This shows how death and the war affected everyone making them dejected and downhearted. It got so bad Henry even decided to escape from the Italian army and leave the front to escape to Switzerland. On the other hand, Switzerland symbolizes a place of peace and hope because no fighting took place here. Switzerland was neutral during the war so it was a perfect place to escape the cruelty of war.
Henry said to Catherine, Isn t it a grand country? I love the way it feels under my shoes (278). Henry also told Catherine, Darling do you realize we re her out of that bloody place (Italy) (278).Henry even described the rain, It s cheerful rain (278). In this land of mountains is where the Priest s homeland was.
The Priest symbolized morals and goodness, so that is why it s a wonderful place for people to regain hope and confidence of survival. This is a good reason why Catherine and Henry decided to start their new life in the comfort of Switzerland. Henry and Catherine knew that in Switzerland they would be safe from the disasters related to the war. These contrast descriptions of the two countries and their landforms symbolize the theme of the novel.
The descriptions of the plains and the front in Italy demonstrate how cruel a war can be and how it affects all the people around it. War breaks people down to become hopeless and depressed. While the descriptions of the mountains in Switzerland present a peaceful place to escape the harshness of war and regain an optimistic view of life. Hemingway used contrasting images of the surrounding lands to symbolize the main theme of the novel.
Italy symbolized death, disaster, and the brutality of a war, while Switzerland represented peace, hope, and the comfort of safety from war. These foiling contrasts demonstrate how cruel a war can become.