A Farewell to Arms was Hemingway’s fifth published work. The books that came before included: Three Stories and Ten Poems (1923), In Our Time (1925), Torrents of Springtime,The Sun Also Rises (1926), and Men Without Women (1927) (Ernest Hemingway Foundation, 2008). It has been said that the book is autobiographical in nature. The main character’s life reflects much of what Hemingway experienced during his time in World War I.
In the book, Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver, is injured and sent to a hospital in Milan. There he meets and falls in love with an American nurse named Catherine. Once he is healed, Henry is sent back into the fight. However, the Italians lose ground to the Germans and retreat. Henry is pulled in for questioning in the death of another soldier, but rather than go in for a questioning in which he will be executed, he escapes and meets back up with the now pregnant Catherine. The pair of them escape to Switzerland. The novel ends with Catherine’s delivery of a stillborn baby and her death in childbirth (Hemingway, 1929).
By the time that Hemingway wrote this book, he was well known for his short, but powerful, sentence structure. The “staccato” sentences were seen by some as, “an effort at reproducing universal conversational habit” (Hutchinson, 1929). Hemingway had also previously written about World War I in In Our Time. A Farewell to Arms was begun as a serial in Scribner’s magazine, which was consequentially banned in Boston due to the salacious nature of the story (Princeton, 2002). The book was adapted to the stage in 1930 and then to film in 1932, with a remake in 1957 (Wikipedia, 2014).
I chose A Farewell to Arms because I own a first edition. My copy of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms was a gift to me from my aunt when I graduated from college. It has been treasured by me since I received it seven years ago. In my final semester as an undergraduate, I had taken an American Literature course in which we read several of Hemingway’s works. The gift of one of his original works was timely.
I will first discuss Ernest Hemingway himself. Then the historical context into which the book was written. I will then discuss the publisher information, before covering individual aspects of the book.