A farewell to Arms

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A Farewell to Arms Socratic Seminar Preparation Questions

  • What are the conflicts in A Farewell to Arms? What types of conflict (physical, moral, intellectual, or emotional)?

  • How does Ernest Hemingway reveal character in A Farewell to Arms?

  • What are some themes in the story? How do they relate to the plot and characters?

  • The most important themes in literature are sometimes developed in scenes in which a death or deaths take place. Discuss how a specific death scene in AFtA helps to illuminate the meaning of the work as a whole. (Avoid mere summarization.) Note: There is more than one death scene.

  • A Farewell to Arms is one of the most famous war novels ever written. Unlike many war stories, however, the novel does not glorify the experience of combat or offer us portraits of heroes as they are traditionally conceived. What is the novel’s attitude toward war? Is it fair to call A Farewell to Arms an antiwar novel?

  • Discuss the various ways in which characters seek solace from the pains of a war-ravaged world. In the end, what does the novel suggest about such comforts?

  • A Farewell to Arms is a love story as well as a war novel. Discuss the role of love in the novel: how does love affect the characters’ perceptions of war? How does the war shape the characters’ love story?

  • Discuss Frederic Henry as a narrator. 

  • Is Lieutenant Frederic Henry consistent in his actions? Is he a fully developed character? How? Why?

  • Do you find the characters likable? Are the characters persons you would want to meet?

  • Does the story end the way you expected? How? Why? 

  • What is the central/primary purpose of the story? Is the purpose important or meaningful?

  • How essential is the setting to the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?

  • What is the role of women in the text?

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald considered Catherine’s character the weak link in A Farewell to Arms. With attention to Catherine’s values and motivations and to the way Hemingway portrays her character, do you agree with Fitzgerald’s opinion? Why or why not?

  • Critic Roland Barthes has said, “Literature is the question minus the answer.” Considering Barthes’ observation, analyze the central question that AFtA raises—and the extent to which it offers any answers. Explain how the author’s treatment of this question affects your understanding of the work as a whole

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