A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

In A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, the novel concerns itself primarily with Hemingway’s philosophy of life: unordered and random. There is no God to watch over man, to dictate codes of morality, or to ensure justice. Hemingways hero must accept his place as something insignificant, yet continue to fight endlessly against the meaninglessness of life. The universe is indifferent to man’s plight. In the book, this indifference is best exemplified by the war — an ultimately futile struggle of man against man and the death of Catherine Barkley someone good and pure.

She did not die due to her sins, but merely because life is short, unfair, and unorderly. The Hemingway hero must first accept many things, the first of which is a disbelief in God, faith was a cheap way of falsely instilling order upon existence. This is why the priest falls short of everything and the reason behind his constant teasing, he held no true power. Because there is no God, there are no universal moral codes, no abstract values such as “justice” or “glory,” and certainly no need for moral conventions. The hero rejects these, but imposes order upon his life through personal values-integrity, dignity, and courage.

If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those it will not break it kills. It kills the very good and gentle and the very brave impartially. If youre none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry. (Hemingway 249) Such a person must accept the finality of death, knowing himself to be caught in a meaningless existence. The true hero can hold this meaninglessness in his mind while simultaneously creating meaning and order through life.

He does this first by seeking a worthy adversary to struggle against, the war. He endures the pains of life without complaint, knowing them to be a part of life. Having conflicts with it besides seeing there to be no point in continuing on with the war Henry leaves, thinking he has escaped the insanity and death that it brings. With Catherines death we realize that there is insanity and unfairness everywhere, no morals, no happy ending. Catherine was guilty of nothing but living in a world devoid of a meaning, a world unordered. In the end, there is no victory which awaits the hero — winning the struggle is impossible.

Henry’s fights the meaningless of life through his love affair with Catherine, among many other things. Fate and the unordered world challenge that love and win in the end by taking the life of Catherine and the newborn, but Henry’s struggle is a heroic one. Heroism and manliness, no matter how unimportant and uninfluential, is something that Hemingway promoted. Life is spontaneous and random, it has no final point, but you need order and structure and heroism. Catherine dies to prove a running theme throughout the book, life is short, random, and meaningless unless you put meaning to it. Hemingway stresses to live life to the fullest.

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