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A Farewell to Arms: The Hemingway Library Edition Paperback – July 8, 2014
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"Fascinating...serves as an artifact of a bygone craft, with handwritten notes and long passages crossed out, giving readers a sense of an author’s process." (The New York Times)
“A Farewell to Arms” stands, more than 80 years after its first appearance, as a towering ornament of American literature." (The Washington Times)
"This special edition of [Hemingway's] classic World War I novel, first published in 1929, contains several features that illuminate how Hemingway constructed his timeless tale of love and war." (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
"A Farewell to Arms is a gem....To see Hemingway go from bold pronouncements and overwriting to his signature stripped-down style isn't just instructive, it's practically intrusive (but fun!)" (NPR.org)
About the Author
Ernest Hemingway did more to change the style of English prose than any other writer of his time. Publication of The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms immediately established Hemingway as one of the greatest literary lights of the twentieth century. As part of the expatriate community in 1920s Paris, the former journalist and World War I ambulance driver began a career that led to international fame. Hemingway was an aficionado of bullfighting and big-game hunting, and his main protagonists were always men and women of courage and conviction who suffered unseen scars, both physical and emotional. His classic novella The Old Man and the Sea won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953. Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He died in 1961.
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“But at my back I always hear Time's wingèd chariot hurrying near” (Marvell). In Ernest Hemingway’s 1929 wartime fiction, A Farewell to Arms, there is much emphasis on the brevity of life and its inescapable tragedies. This novel wisely alludes to Andrew Marvell’s stressing poem, “To His Coy Mistress.” Hemmingway’s touching tale encompasses the Italian front of World War One and much of the bloodshed that occurred in the war. In this story, the protagonist Frederic Henry is an ambulance driver who falls in love with nurse Catherine Barkley. Henry injures his leg, much like Hemmingway himself injured his leg in his own war journey, and then impregnates Barkley while recovering. Henry’s journey; however, is not a jovial love fantasy. Hemingway’s motifs unravel themselves in this poignant and fervent tale of love, loss, and denouements.
Henry idly begins his narration with a multitude of leisurely run-on sentences gruesomely detailing the descriptions of his environment: he saw the pending war as a necessary evil. He did not want to be involved, but he saw reason behind its cataclysm. Therefore, Henry’s journalistic vibe expresses itself in his everyday thoughts; he had much animosity regarding the lonesome war experience that he thought would never end.
In addition to highlighting the woes of war, Hemmingway also detailed the joys of love. Henry sought Barkley to shelter him from the misfortunes of war. In a world of unknowns and violence, Barkley serves as his safe haven. Barkley’s hair also serves as an important symbol in the novel, although it is not recurring. Catherine lets her hair down at one point. This is a typical action females do to unwind from a stressful day. The hair cascades around her face isolating her and Henry from the atrocities occurring around them. Hair, much like love, can shelter a couple from the pain of war; however, hair and love are both exceedingly fragile as the book’s morbid conclusion suggests. Hemmingway alludes to Marvell’s poem here to further show the separation from the war Barkley and Henry created with their love: “Let us roll all our strength, and all / Our sweetness, up into one ball: / And tear our pleasures with rough strife, / Through the iron gates of life (154).” Henry chooses to abandon the rampaging war for his maiden without much apprehension; Barkley and Henry escape to neutral Switzerland to have their baby in peace. Although Henry is making sacrifices for the sake of love, I find his choice to abandon the front immature.
This wartime story concludes with the loss of Catherine Barkley’s child during birth and Catherine’s own demise. Henry is left alone in the world with less than what he started with. He now has no child or lover, and no war to distract him from his own violent emotions. The book is compelling, yet grim. It enlightens the audience to love while they can because life ultimately escapes all earthly beings. Much as Marvell’s poem emphasizes how extinction chases all things beautiful, Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms remains a critical reminder to take advantage of each day. Unique from other classics, this story was quite relatable and foretelling; although its morbidity was difficult to overcome, the novel was difficult to set down.