Catherine Barkley and Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway present a contrast in personalities: in the ways they are playing opposite roles, in Catherines maturity and leadership and in Frederics immaturity and ineptness, and in the ways they view love. Frederic Henry is the narrorator and the protagonist in the novel. He is a former student of arcitecture of arcitecture who has volunteered to join the Italian Army as an ambulance officer, because he could not speak Italian. He tries to find fulfillment in love following his injury and desertion of his army post.
Catherine Barkley is an English nurse with whom Frederic Henry falls in love with. Catherine Barkley takes care of Henry physically and emotionally. Besides making love, Catherine cares for Frederic liek a mother cares for her child (Hays-52). Frederic Henry remains selfish despite his love for Catherine, and never comes close to the self sacrificing devotion that his friend, the priest, characterizes as true love (Donaldson-56). When Frederic gets shot in the knee, Catherine is the nurse that takes care of him. When Frederic decides to desert his post, he leaves with Catherine.
Frederic does not fall in love with Catherine when he starts telling her he loves her, it is not until later in the book that he finds the love for her in him. Although Catherine loves him with all she has, he does not realize the true meaning of love, at first, but yet still tells her that he does love her. A contrast in personalities is presented in the ways Frederic and Catherine are playing opposite roles in the relationship in the relationship. In a “normal” relationship between a man and a woman, the man is the one who takes care of the women and all that, but in this relationship it is reversed.
Frederic is an ambulance officer for the Italian Army and Catherine is his nurse. Any time Frederic is injured, Catherine is there to help him out and care for him. Not only does Catherine take care of his physical state, but she also takes care of his emotional state. Whenever Frederic is feeling down, Catherine is there to cheer him up. Catherine maturely decides to make a commitment, to love someone who she knows does not love her back, and to take full reponsibility for her actions throughout, including the pregnancy that occurs (Hays-55). Catherine Barkley was a ministract, a mentor, and a teacher to Frederic (Hays-55).
She did whatever she could to keep him happy and take good care of him. Frederic absorbs what others teach and then acts at last on his own on his own resolve (Waldhorn-68). As Robert Lewis noted, “Catherine, assumed the active, male role,” and in several subtle ways and just as deftly, under cuts Frederic’s (Hays-53). Frederic Henry is tutored in the ways of life by other characters in the novel (Waldhorn-68). In Lausanne, Frederic reverses the roles back to normal, nursing Catherine as she had once done for him for a long period in Milan, even donning a hospital a hospital gown as he administers anesthetic from a gas cylinder (Hays-51).
Frederic serves Catherine in providing a love object, a focus for her self-prescribed romance therapy that cures her unstable mental state and does bring her hapiness in some way (Hays-51). Catherine is worried about waht may happin in the relationship after such changes take place, but decides not to worry about it and just go along with the new changes that are now happening to them. A contrast of personalities is presented in Catherines maturity and leadership and Frederics immautiry and ineptness.
Frederic is a very jealous lover as shown in this quote, “I don’t. I don’t want anybody else to touch you. I’m silly, I get furious if they touch you” (Hemingway-299). Frederic has no wholly explory male figure before him (Waldhorn-68). This could explain why he has no explanation for abandoning his studies for abandoning his studies (Waldhorn-68). As Bell says, “in the isolation of his hospital bed, like a baby in a bassinet, he is totally passive, tended and comforted by female care takers. The ministering of Catherine, who looks after all of his needs and wants, including sexual ones also, is more maternal then connubial” (Hays-52).
Frederic must be taken care of as if he were a little baby or young boy. This gave me the insight of how hard it was for Catherine to deal with her own struggles and then have to care for Frederic Henry on the side also. Catherine bathes Frederic, feeds him, gives him an enema, takes him on outings, and makes love to him (Hays-52). Sexually, Catherine wants to please Frederic more than the whores has known, and she can do so, for unlike them, she has no ulterior motives (Donaldson-60). Catherine is a good woman who just wants to love and be loved unlike the rest of the women Frederic has been with.
Befoer Frederic’s opperation, he asks Catherine to be on dute that night so that they may again make love, not realizing the seriousness of the surgery or of or of his postoperative state. Again showing his immaturity and inemptness. He acts like a young kid who does not understand what is important nor have any idea of waht his priorities are in his life. Not only does Frederic show immaturity in his love life, but also in his work. Frederic does not carry out his orders to evacuate the vehicles he commands, as he himself acknowledges, “all I had to do was to get to Pordenone with three ambulances.
I had failed at that” (Hays-54). Unlike Frederic, and his immaturity, Catherine, on the other hand has maturity and great leadership skills. Like all romantic relationships that last until death of one of the people in the couple, this relationship survives through effort, at first, all Catherines (Hays-52). Catherine acts as the mother of Frederic all throughout the book besides when they have sex to help fulfill his emotional needs. Catherine is like all heroes who attempt to acheive soemthing regardless of the odds (Hays-52) which is what makes her such a exempt leader.
As Ken Kesey later did in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, also punning on McMurphy’s commitment to both the mental hospital the mental hospital and the welfare of his fellow inmates, so Hemingway has Catherine commit herself, not just to a man, but once more to life and love and the possibilities of new pain involved (Hays-52). In contrast to Frederic’s immaturity, Hemingway indicates Catherine’s maturity and leadership (Hays-54). Catherine makes sure to please Frederic in all the ways possible and tries to keep her self together at the same time.
She has a wonderful personality, although sometimes she seems to be crazy she has herself pretty well together. She makes sure to try her hardest at everything she does and does not give up in times of struggle. This is what makes Catherine Barkley such a remarkable leader and such a mature woman. A contrast of personalities is presented in the ways Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley view love. Catherine is all about the real thing and falls in love with Henry very quickly. Unlike Catherine, Frederic does not really fall in love, but he says he is and lies like a child.
A Farewell to Arms has usually been interpreted as a tragic tale of two two lovers, driven together by the war, who selfishly give themselves to each other in an affair that might have lasted in indefinite bliss had not fateful death unjustly intervened to snatch one away (Donaldson-56). Frederic tells Catherine, “now if you aren’t with me I haven’t a thing in the world” (Hays-55). He says this not realizing the value it holds in Catherine hearts. He does not really mean a word of it and just says it to say it. Frederic does not realize the true meaning of love.
Frederic makes it clear that his initial interest is sexual only; he is seeking no commitment: Catherine says “You did say you loved me, didn’t you? ” Frederic answers “Yes,” I lied. “I love you. ” I had not said it before. I thought she was probably a little crazy. It was alright if she was. I did not care what I was getting into. I know I did not love her now did I have any idea of loving her. This was a game (Hemingway-68). This told me about how Frederic was and how immature he was in the way he viewed love. He was still playing a game as if he were a young boy again.
The priest tells Frederic that “What you tell me about in the nights, that is not love. That is only passion and lust. When you love you wish to do things for, you wish to sacrifice for, and you wish to serve” (Hemingway-72). Everybody realizes Frederics foolish games except Catherine. When Frederic first meets Catherine he says “Miss Barkley was quite tall. She wore what seemed to be a nurse’s uniform, was blonde and had a twany slan and gray eyes. I thought she was very beautiful” (Hemingway-18) Frederic does not realize that true beauty lies on the inside of a person, and this is why he in unable to love truly.
Frederic comes across a change in this game he is playing. After a period of time he begins to really and truly love Catherine. I took distance from her for a short period for him to realize that he truly did love her, “Catherine Barkley took three days off night duty and then she came back on again. It was as though we met again after each of us has been away on a long journey” (Hemingway-111). Soon after that Frederic says “Always, I wanted to see Catherine” (Hemingway-117). Catherine, unlike Frederic always loved him. She expresses this love by saying “I would be too happy.
If I could live there and love God and serve him” (Hemingway-71). Catherine, having lost a previous lover, she could not give herself completely, she seeks to lose herself in Frederic- to love, not wisely, but too well (Donaldson-56). Many critics feel that Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley are a perfect romantic couple, but Scott Donaldson finds their relationship more problematical (Donaldson-56). I believe A Farewell to Arms presents a huge contrast in the difference between Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley. It also presents this contrast in woman and men.
Women tend to be truthful and fall in love a lot easier than men do, but men makes things so much worse by lying about certain things and their feelings. The contrast shown in their personalities in the ways they each play opposite roles in the relationship, in Frederic Henry’s immaturity and ineptness and Catherine Barkley’s maturity and leadership, and in the ways they view love is definitely a strong one. It shows this contrast all throughout the book and makes sure to teach a lesson in the differences between people. While reading the book and especially after finishing it I realized this contrast in the two characters.