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A Farewell to Arms is a romance drama story written by Ernest Hemingway. The story is about an American ambulance driver who falls in love with a beautiful English nurse, Catherine. The story is built on the two major themes of loyalty and desertion (Lewis & Roos, 2019). Throughout the story, Catherine constantly fears that Frederic will die in battle like her first boyfriend and fiancé. However, Frederic constantly fights Captain Rinaldi’s efforts to separate them unknowingly. The author captures the harsh realities of war and how it can be brutal for spouses living on the frontline. However, from being separated by Captain Rinaldi to Frederic getting hurt in battle, their love perseveres until the last moment when they celebrate each other in hospital after their child dies before birth and Catherine dies in the embrace hands of Frederic. Ernest Hemingway’s novel, A Farewell to Arms, evocatively brings out the themes of loyalty and desertion in the context of World War 1 using the experiences of Frederic Henry.
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Loyalty refers to a strong feeling of support and allegiance they might have for each other. Most relationships that are considered healthy have lovers who are loyal to each other and dedicated to the well-being of each other. The first incident of loyalty in the story can be seen in the friendship between Catherine and her friend Helen Ferguson. The two nurses are both from Britain and have been friends for a long time (Hemingway, 1957). Towards the end, there is a point Ferguson playfully threatens Frederic that if he plays with the heart of her friend, she will kill him. This behavior shows the level of friendship and loyalty that the two friends shared, which formed a significant part of their friendship. Another incidence of loyalty can be seen in the relationship between Catherine and Frederic. Despite the many challenges that threatened to separate them, they managed to stay true and committed to each other. In an era where marriages and relationships are devoid of commitment and loyalty, the author displays the beauty of devotion in a relationship by telling the story of the two lovebirds. When Captain Rinaldi and other army people separated Catherine and Frederic by sending her to Milan, the two never stopped sending each other letters.
Based on this reading section, I learned that commitment is hard, but it is one of the essentials in a longstanding relationship. When two partners are loyal and committed to their love for each other, nothing can separate them. Catherine and Frederic were committed to each other and did not let anything separate them. They continued to send each other letters even when they were away (Hemingway, 1957). This reading helped me in my relationships because Frederic’s efforts motivated me. How she was always there to whisper positive affirmations to her lover, Catherine, resonated well with me. I valued the relationship they had with each other.
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Throughout the story, desertion is a more common theme than loyalty. The two nurses were British nationals who were working for the Italian Army. They also deserted their country to serve another nation (Foley & Gardner, 2017). Additionally, Frederic was American, indicating that he had deserted his country to serve the Italian Army (Foley & Gardner, 2017). Although the author does not explain why the individuals had deserted their countries, it was unpatriotic for them to serve another country in war.
In addition, another incidence of desertion is seen when Catherine reveals that she was engaged and that her fiancé died in combat. Her fiancé, through death, deserted her and their relationship, which took a long time for Catherine to get over. Another incidence of desertion happens when Frederic and Catherine are separated through the efforts of Rinaldi. They were separated physically because Rinaldi did not want the two to be engaged or in a relationship (Gatzemeyer, 2017). In addition, whenever Frederic leaves the army station to go to war, he deserts her and leaves her behind, worrying whether he can return to her safely. Moreover, by trying to separate Catherine and Frederic, Rinaldi gives up his friendship with Frederic. A friend should always be willing to support and help others become happy and attain satisfaction.
After reading the story, I understood that desertion and separation are a part of life. I have seen my parents say goodbye to each other before one of them travels, and I have seen the look on my parents when my siblings leave for school; it is not pleasant. Desertion comes with heavy feelings, and humans must learn to embrace it instead of letting it negatively affect them. Catherine takes a long while to move on after the death of her fiancé, and in the end, she is the one who deserts her man after she dies (Hemingway, 1957). Abandonment is a part of life; I believe people will be better individuals capable of handling loss once they learn how to cope with the effects of desertion.
Loyalty and commitment should be at the forefront of any relationship. Partners committed to their relationship and the values they share will overcome any obstacles raised to separate them. Catherine and Frederic overcame all the obstacles raised to separate them because of their loyalty to their union. The author also did an excellent job of depicting desertion as a common theme throughout the story. The story is about desertion and loss, which significantly affects the emotions of the reader as they continue to read through the author’s words and understand the characters in the story.
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- Foley, B., & Gardner, P. (2017). Retrospective radicalism: Politics and history in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. College Literature, 44(1), 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1353/lit.2017.0000
- Gatzemeyer, J. (2017). “Dear Mr. Hemingway”: Modernism, the market, and the fan mail reception of A Farewell to Arms. The Hemingway Review, 37(1), 85–107. https://doi.org/10.1353/hem.2017.0019
- Hemingway, E. (1957). A Farewell to Arms. Scribner.
- Lewis, R. W., & Roos, M. (2019). Reading Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms: Glossary and commentary. The Kent State University Press.