Ernest Hemmingway’s A farewell to arms is a book with many themes. The reoccurring dialogues and events verify the presence of those themes and ideas. Many of E. Hemmingway’s books include these. With the use of these themes and ideas and the way these are worked out in his books, it can be concluded that this is also the way Hemmingway views the world. The themes in A farewell to arms are: The grim reality of war and The relation between love and pain. The motifs used in this book add and develop these themes further. These motifs are masculinity, games and divertissement, loyalty against abandonment and illusions and fantasy and religion. With the way Hemmingway uses his language these themes and ideals are revealed. In this essay the use of these themes will become clear with the support of evidence and quotes from the book.
At the beginning of the book Frederic saw the war as normal and as a necessary evil of the world. Frederic was just going on with his life with being quite stoic about the war. He probably didn’t realize it but Frederic did pursue the relationship with Catherine as a means to forget about the war. This is an example of the motif illusions and fantasy. Both Catherine and Frederic used each other at the beginning of the book to take their minds of the horrible events occurring around them as Catherine lost her boyfriend and Frederic just didn’t want to think about the war. (‘) By using one another like this, they were living in their own fantasy world. A world where they didn’t see -and didn’t want to see- the horrors of the war.
Also the fact that they both knew at the beginning of their relationship that they were not really in love, even though they both declared love to each other, and were merely playing a game. This is an example of the motif: games and divertissement. (‘)They used this game of love to divert them from the war. However, when the story unwinds and their relationship deepens, Frederic actually realizes the war is wrong and becomes face to face to the cruelty of war. Frederic falls in love with Catherine but he can’t be with her all of the time because of the war. Because they distracted themselves from the war by playing games and creating a fantasy world were everything was ok, the loss of Catherine is an even harder slap in the face. A wake up call with Frederic waking up in the middle of the terrors of the war. At that point Frederic finally realizes the grim reality of war as she dies and the war just goes on. He realizes that the war isn’t normal. It is destructive and only brings chaos.
The relation between love and pain is depicted trough the motifs of masculinity and loyalty against abandonment. There is always a close relation between love and pain. Catherine’s and Frederic’s relation was a result of pain. They sought each other out as a means of handling the war. Catherine felt great abandonment because of the loss of her fianc??e, which made her submit to this relationship. The result of that pain is love but the result of this love will also be pain. Throughout the book their love is constantly challenged with the possibility of them losing each other because of the war. But then they also kind of had a feeling that they had to spend as much time together as they could. (‘)
At the beginning of the book Frederic was depicted as a typical man according to the way Hemmingway always portrays the men in his books.
In Hemmingway’s books the male protagonist always shows very manly behaviour like being brave, holding on to his own strong believes and being a womanizer. Frederic is a very manly man. This means that he is a man of duty. However, as the story unravels Frederic chooses to leave the war to be with Catherine. He chooses to run away from the war. Leaving the war would be considered an act of cowardice at that time. However, this was actually a very manly act. With this decision Frederic decided to not go along with the crowd but instead sticking to his own beliefs and being true to himself, which is something that takes a lot of courage and bravery. (‘) He decided to abandon the war because his loyalty was now with Catherine and not with the war as his opinion of the war had changed. They could finally relish in each other’s love with a baby on the way. But it is in this moment of happiness and love that they would suffer the most pain. The love that they now had would be shattered as the baby dies and Catherine as well. Love brought them together because of loss and pain and love caused loss and pain.