A farewell to Arms

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Exam dialogue Ernest Hemingway “A Farewell to Arms”.
U: Hey! How are you?

Z: Oh, hello. Glad to see you! I’m fine. And you?

U: I’m O.K. Where are you going?

Z: I’m going to the library. I’ve recently read a terrific book by Ernest Hemingway!

U: Oh! I love his books, especially “Winner Takes Nothing” and “The Old Man and the Sea”. Which one have you read?

Z: It’s called “A Farewell to Arms”.

U: Oh! It’s one of his greatest novels! I’ve read it a year ago or so. Did you like it?

Z: “Like”- isn’t the right word, I just love it! The book has made a very deep impression on me. Frankly speaking, I’m not fond of war fiction, but Hemingway seeks to convey through this novel an uncomplimentary view of war and a favorable view of love. Besides, the plot unfolds itself rather dynamically and the characters are realistic, you know…

U: Yeah, I couldn’t help crying when reading the final chapter… I think everyone who has ever loved someone and then lost him or her will be inspired with this book. And I also like it for its anti-war looks. I think that in this very book war is described as the worst evil in the world. War destroys bungalows and mansions, villages and cities, love and friendship. War demolishes Frederic’s life.

Z: I couldn’t agree with you more! But I think that Ernest Hemingway tried to show us not only the war between several countries, but also an eternal war between Heaven and Hell. He tried to express a constant struggle between a man and nature. Moreover, Hemingway thinks that cowardice is the main reason of the war. Do you remember the deserter who tried to escape when the ambulance had broken down? That’s the kind of people, who provoke war, in Hemingway’s opinion. That’s the point, I suppose.

U: I’m totally with you on this one. That proves for a one more time that war is the main theme of the novel.

Z: Huh? And what about love? Hemingway depicts a unique love that a couple utilizes as an escape from the violence and immorality of war. This connection starts off as a `game-like' scenario that grows into an intense love that takes Frederic and Catherine away from the dangers of war and death. Love, during war, to them; is merely their way of excitement that allows them to drift away from the troubles that surround them.

U: Anyway, his use of themes also makes “A Farewell to Arms” a classic novel. Hemingway uses themes to reveal hidden messages. An example of this is his use of love and war to show that war can destroy anything, even one of the most beautiful things on earth, love. By the way, do you know that the history and background for the novel were born through the author’s personal experiences?

Z: Really? I’ve never heard about it!

U: During World War I, he served as an ambulance driver in the Italian infantry and was wounded just before his 19th birthday. Hospitalized, Hemingway fell in love with an older nurse Agnes. Their love ended up as she transferred to another hospital. This gave him the idea for A Farewell to Arms. Some of these similarities are exact, while some are less similar, and some events have a completely different outcome.

Z: If Agnes is Catherine Barkley’s prototype, she must have been a wonderful person. She is the idealized female counterpart to Hemingway's hero Frederic Henry. She is beautiful and assured yet vulnerable and selfless. She causes him to feel more deeply than he has previous and he soon discovers, much to his surprise, that he is in love with her.

U: Frankly speaking, I didn’t like Frederic at first. I thought he was too arrogant and self-centred. But the author showed the development of his character into a dedicated and outgoing one. You remember that fist he wanted to find a woman for some sexual entertainment, don’t you?

Z: Yes, and I think that Frederic’s character begins to develop from the moment, when Renaldi introduces him to Catherine. She becomes his guide to light. I like her because she’s considerate, meditative and trustworthy, but may be a little slapdash. But at first, I suppose, their love is like a show, but then when the lovers meet in a Milan hospital their relation is no longer a game.

U: Do you know that some critics compare the love of Frederic and Catherine to that of Romeo and Juliet? They say it is just as passionate and as tragic. Besides, both couples begin their romance as a game, then come to understand they can’t live without each other and finally are destroyed by the consequences of their love.

Z: You’re a hundred per-cent right. Did you like any other characters of the book?

U: Sure. Renaldi. He’s one of Hemingway’s favorite characters. He’s always jolly and funny. Renaldi is respected by the author, who expresses many wise thoughts through his character. He doesn’t think about the sense of life and death. He just lives here and now. And although he is so funny, he’s very industrious and determined. We can never see any despair in him. This kind of people is as good as gold, especially during the war. But in the end we have a feeling, that something’s wrong with him. He’s gone down with syphilis. And what about you? What other characters did you like?

Z: As for me, I found the character of the priest very interesting too. He is always caring, patient and meditative. And you can almost draw a line through his life. On one side there’s this happy man, who spends time in church with God, praying. Everything sheltered, protected and comfortable. On her face, there’s…light, there’s pride. And then one day this useless war breaks out and he takes this hard corner and the light…goes out. I don’t know why, but all his calmness is so depressing. You just feel that something mournful would happen. And whenever he appears, there’s this terrible shadow of solitude behind him.

U: I got you. Another thing I appreciate is Hemingway’s style. It is crisp and laconic. He doesn’t use all these long detailed descriptions. Inner dialogues and subtle psychology are typical of his method. The author seldom speaks of the feelings of his characters; much is left half-said and more unsaid.

Z: And did you notice how skillfully Hemingway had made use of terminology? We can face up different military and medical termini almost on each page of the novel. I, actually, became a specialist by the time I had red the book.

U: And there are lots of Americanisms in the novel too. Some of them are almost like the English ones, some of them aren’t. Anyway, all of them are easy to understand.

Z: One more peculiarity is that in his novel Ernest Hemingway displays his unique style of writing through his use of symbols, prose, and voice which foreshadow events and also replace human emotion.

U: I also noticed that. Throughout this novel Rain is a recurrent symbol of death darkness, mud, and despair, while snow represents safety and peace. Catherine is afraid of the rain because she sees herself dead in it and indeed it happens at the end.

Z: Hemingway also portrays his points through the other 2 major natural symbols - mountains, and plains. The mountain is associated with home, love, dignity, health whereas the plains are just the opposite, serve as a symbol of indignity, suffering and disease.

U: Well, by having symbols stand for the emotional content of the plot, Hemingway cleverly removes the need to use extraneous language. This allows him to write much of the novel in the dry, technical language that he is famous for while still retaining the emotional content. Though it’s regarded as a classical novel.

Z: I see. Oh, it’s high time for me to go. The library is closing in half an hour. It was nice to see you.

Good-bye for now!

U: See you! Bye!

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