A Farewell to Arms is the story of a wartime love affair between Frederic Henry and Catherine Barker. Henry, known as "Tenente" throughout most of the book, is serving as an ambulance driver in the Italian army during WWI. As an American volunteering overseas, we are immediately confronted with the reality that he is isolated and dissatisfied, different from his peers. Hemingway masterfully examines the masculine experience by highlighting Henry's relationship with his Italian friends, and uses their association as soldiers to discredit the war from with many different voices.
While AFTA is about WWI and all of the adventures that the war effort confronts Henry with, (being shot at, being wounded, shooting someone, drinking A LOT, almost drowning, eventually deserting) possibly more important is his relationship with Catherine, a British nurse whom he meets and impregnates. As sparse as Hemingway's language is, he is able to communicate a real sense that Henry loves Catherine, and by the end of the novel we are taken on quite an emotional rollercoaster. Because I sense that mostly girls read this blog, I'll leave out the better-than-twilight details of the best love affair of World War One and tell you to either read the book or watch the movie featuring Rock Hudson. Not only is this story riveting, exciting, and lovely, but it is a classic--voted one of the top 100 books of the 20th c by the MLA--completely worthy of your facebook favorite book section and a prideful "I'm smart" smiling admission when you are next asked what you've been reading. Chew on that.