Peer Engagement Post – (Frederic) Henry and Catherine (Barkley) — A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Q. (Frederic) Henry and Catherine (Barkley)
The love affair between Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley (hmmm where have we heard those names before?) is one of the most famous in American fiction. The way the affair progresses and the way Hemingway describes it in the narrative are both not only influenced by the war but are in some ways emblematic of the war. Discuss the ways in which Hemingway makes this affair central to a novel called A Farewell to Arms (get the pun?).
Post by Peer — Amanda Ndinya
RE: (Frederic) Henry and Catherine (Barkley)
As the plot progresses in A Farewell to Arms, Henry, and Catherines affair blossoms. Their love for one another is almost as endless as the war. Furthermore, these two characters have a troubled relationship. This can be partly attributed to their respective traumas, with Catherine experiencing the loss of her lover and Henry continuously witnessing the atrocities of war and fracturing his skull. Considering these elements, Ernest Hemingway makes the love affair central to the novel by using the relationship to demonstrate what a person in crisis seeks most.
One example is Catherines constant inquiries about whether she meets Henrys expectations: Im good. Arent I good? You dont want any other girls, do you? (Catherine, 92). The repetition of the word good shows the urgency that Catherine has as she is desperate for Henrys approval. In this case, the effect of Catherines trauma is evident as her sense of urgency suggests her need to be loved and needed by someone to regain what she once lost. This can be paralleled with the experience of some of the soldiers as they are also desperate to be good enough in their divisions. For instance, Ettore hopes to be so good that he becomes a captain in the American army because his desperation stems from the need to be validated by his comrades at war. In this way, Hemingway can make the love affair between Henry and Catherine central to the plot because it complements the larger theme of patriotism, and valiance evident throughout the story.
Another way to look at this affair as central to the novel is through the eyes of its main Character. Henry, becoming more troubled throughout the novel also develops his feelings for Catherine. However, it seems that outside of the war, he has no purpose for himself. Hemingway portrays this theme further when he describes Henrys musings as he recovers in the hospital from being injured through the war: I wanted to be really married but Catherine said that if we were they would send her away (Henry, 99). In this line, Henrys matter of fact tone shows that he does not see any better path for himself besides love and war, but he focuses on these things, nonetheless. Furthermore, Hemingway has not highlighted another characteristic of Henry besides his wartime persona, so it is fitting that his love affair during the war is the focus of the novel.