A farewell to arms
The gap between humanity's noble words and its dishonorable deeds was never more obvious than during World War I. For this reason the war serves brilliantly as the setting for Hemingway's novel of love and disillusionment. The story begins in the summer of 1915. This is about the time that Italy joined the war. The starting place is a city named Gorizia located in Northeastern Italy near the front with Austria-Hungary. This is where Frederic lives along with the rest of the officers.
As the story develops, Frederic ends up in many different cities and towns, all along the Italian-Austrian front. The story ends in the late spring of 1918 not in Italy but rather in Lausanne, Switzerland. Hemingway's choice of Italy as his setting reinforces his theme. One reason for its effectiveness is that Italy was where Hemingway served as an ambulance driver: he knew its terrain and its military history very well. Italy is also a setting that further demonstrates the ironies of war.
To most of the world, France was where the real war was taking place; even today our memories of World War I are drawn mainly from the Western front. Italy was, as Henry says, "the picturesque front." Yet in this picturesque land men are being slaughtered by the tens of thousands. What better time and place could serve for Frederic Henry's farewell to arms?
The novel starts with Lieutenant Henry in Gorizia. It is autumn 1915 and the war is well under way. It is here where the reader gets their first glimpse at the most obvious conflict in this novel, the external conflict of man versus man. The Italians had just joined the war and Frederic was positioned near the battle lines: "There was fighting in the mountains and at night we could see the flashes from the artillery" (3). In the fall of 1916 the snow comes early and the Italians put off any more attacks until next year. On leave, Henry goes to Rome and Naples, where he drinks and chases women. He returns from leave dissatisfied and guilty over squandering his time and money.
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