The Farewell to Arms readalong is hosted at the War Through the Generations blog.
For this week, we read chapters 11-20. Here are this week’s questions, feel free to join the discussion.
1. There is a lot of talk about being tired or the priest
looking tired in this section. What do you think Hemingway is trying to
War exhausts everyone in the vicinity whether they're actually fighting or not. The priest isn't fighting, but if he's working near the front or in a hospital (I can't quite tell from the story what he does, but he's working with ambulance drivers, right?), it's his job to comfort the dying, wounded, and distressed. A priest in WWI had a lot of tough questions to answer! And then he spends a lot of his time being needled by everyone else, too, which seems to be the main preoccupation, as though he never does any actual priesting. Anyway, I'm not surprised he's tired.
2. The relationship between Henry and Catherine is heating
up. At one point she talks about how there is no separate her and that
she is Henry. Please explain what you think she means.
I think that, insofar as she is a character and not a cardboard cutout labeled "The Girl!" (I'm not sure understanding and writing women characters was really Hemingway's strong point), she is kind of a ninny. She wants to sacrifice her self for a great love or something, but really they're in a closed environment having an affair. She's throwing herself into it, and I don't think Henry really is, and if they leave the hospital they might both find they haven't got much in common and don't know what to do with each other.
3. What are your impressions of Henry so far given his
reaction to the war, being wounded, falling in love, and his
relationships to others?
I still feel like I don't particularly know him at all, except that he drinks a lot and he really likes Catherine, because she's pretty and cooperative and there. He's a reasonably intelligent guy, I think, and willing to be stubborn about what he thinks. But that distance Hemingway uses so much just bugs me. (I'm also reading Flaubert, and I know Emma Bovary far better now, though I've read much less of the book. I don't like her, but I know her!)
4. What do you think of Hemingway’s writing style and the story itself so far? Are you enjoying it?
I'm liking it better now, but still not much. There are high spots here and there, but they mostly don't involve Catherine, or Henry for that matter--I like reading about the priest or Rinaldi or the doctors. Interesting that in a novel about World War I the war practically never comes into it. (Those Charles Todd mysteries that use WWI as a backdrop have more of the war even though they take place almost entirely in England.) Maybe we'll get to the front at some point?
Here is Hemingway in 1918. I bet he was much too handsome for his own good, and drank too much. He really did drive an ambulance and get wounded by a rocket and get a medal.