A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway was a very famous author. He is best known for his adventurous lifestyle. He was also known for being a big drunk. "A Farewell to Arms" is a story about 2 things: love and war. This story is kind of an autobiography. It is loosely based on Ernest Hemingway’s experiences in war. This story takes place during World War I. In this plot summary we’ll refer to the main character as "Henry". Don’t forget that is his LAST name. His first name is Frederic. Even though Henry is an American, he is in the Italian army because the 2 countries are allies.
Frederic Henry: He is the main dude of the book. He is the narrator too. He is American, but he drives an ambulance for the Italian army. He starts off as an immature kid, who is just out to have a good time and have adventure. But by the end of the book, he learns the horrors of war and he matures. It’s a "coming of age" kind of deal. Henry is a high ranking officer (lieutenant) in the army.
Catherine Barkley: She’s the girl that Henry falls in love with. She is a British nurse. Before she meets Henry, she was engaged. Her fiancée died in war. This changes her thoughts about war. Too bad, Catherine dies in the end of this book.
The Priest: He is a priest in Henry’s unit of troops. He gives Henry lots of advice. The priest is a nice guy.
Rinaldi: He is Henry’s good friend. Rinaldi is an Italian doctor; asurgeon. He is depressed about war because he is trying to heal and everyone is still getting injured. He was the guy who introduced Henry to Catherine (Rinaldi liked her first.)
Helen Ferguson: She is a friend of Catherine’s. She is a prude believing in morals etc.
Frederic Henry is this American dude. He is in Italy during the war. He volunteers to be an ambulance driver. He is sent to the mountains to drive ambulances. There is a break in the war, so Henry is given some time off. He goes to Rome and Naples to party. Then Henry and his buddy Rinaldi, go check out some British nurses. Henry likes one named Catherine Barkley.
Henry splits his time between driving the ambulances and having sex with Catherine. Slowly he falls in love with her. Then in a battle, Henry gets injured. He is sent to the army hospital. Catherine is transferred to the same hospital. Then they realize they are in love.
After Henry gets better, he does a lot of stuff with Catherine. He asks her to marry him but she doesn’t want to. Then he finds out she is pregnant. Then Henry gets sick and finds out he has jaundice (it's the illness where your body fluids get stopped up and your skin turns yellow and you lose your appetite). But the army thinks he got jaundice on purpose (by drinking a lot) to avoid going back to war. So they make him go back out to war as soon as he gets well.
The war is going bad for Henry’s side. Everyone retreats. Henry’s ambulance gets stuck in the mud. Some of the other ambulance drivers get killed but Henry escapes. Then he rejoins the retreating Italian army. Because he speaks crappy Italian, they think he is a spy. So he has to run away from his own army. He escapes and takes a train to Milan. He finds out Catherine is working in some hospital near Switzerland. He finds her and they escape to Switzerland together (because it is a neutral country and they can’t be touched for deserting the army). Once in Switzerland, Catherine starts to have the baby. But the baby doesn’t survive the birth and neither does Catherine.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER
CHAPTER 1 – 2
- The story starts out with a description of some Italian village. Hemingway just writes about how beautiful the village is and then how it’s beauty gets interrupted by war.
- Then he describes what’s going on in the war. The Austrians are fighting the Italians.
Frederick Henry is introduced. He narrates the story. He is inside a whorehouse with some other army dudes.
- The army guys see the priest and ask him to come to the whorehouse. The priest says no, because he is a priest. So the army guys tease him.
- The priest tells Henry he should visit Abruzzi; a region.
CHAPTER 3 – 4
- The troops get a break from war. The next Spring Henry returns and sees his friend Rinaldi.
- They talk about what they did over the vacation.
- Rinaldi tells Henry that he is in love with some British nurse named Catherine Barkley.
- Then Henry sees the priest. He tells the priest he did not go home to Abruzzi. Instead he went to Naples and got trashed and had lots of sex.
- Henry says that because of the war, he has to go party.
- The war continues. Henry resumes his position as ambulance driver.
- Henry is a little pissed that while he was gone, they didn’t miss his work that much as they got the job done without him.
- Henry sees Rinaldi. Rinaldi drags Henry to the hospital so he can meet Catherine Barkley, the girl Rinaldi loves.
- When they get to the hospital, Henry starts talking with Catherine and Rinaldi talks to Catherine’s friend, Helen Ferguson.
- Catherine tells Henry about her ex-fiancée. He died in war.
- Catherine became a nurse because she hopes that he’ll come back, but he won’t. She never had sex with him and she regrets that.
- Rinaldi realizes that Catherine likes Henry more than him, so he gives up chasing her.
CHAPTER 5 – 6
- Henry comes to visit Catherine but she is busy. Then he talks with another nurse. He tells her he joined the Italian army because he was studying in Italy and spoke Italian.
- Henry goes back out to battle to drive his ambulance.
- The author talks about the war some more and what the Austrians and Italians are doing.
- Henry goes back to visit Catherine. This time he gets to see her.
- Henry tries to kiss her but she slaps him. Then he throws some smooth lines at her, and finally gets her to kiss him.
- Henry wants to just hook up with Catherine but he realizes she wants more.
- Henry goes back and he and Rinaldi tease each other.
- Henry goes back to visit Catherine. She is mad because he was in battle and didn’t write to her.
- Henry tells her he loves her. He doesn’t mean it, he just wants to hook up.
- Then Catherine surprises Henry by saying she’s been lying to him and pretending to like him. She’s been playing him!!!!
- Then Henry (to save embarrassment) tries to convince her that he really loves her, even though he doesn’t.
- Henry goes home and talks to Rinaldi about his strange relationship with Catherine.
CHAPTER 7 – 8
- Henry is in battle driving his ambulance and helping out hurt soldiers.
- This guy comes up to Henry and asks Henry to take him to a hospital.
- The man tells Henry he got a hernia so he won’t have to fight in the front lines. Henry refuses to take him.
- Then Henry feels bad and tells him to go bump his head so he can ride in the ambulance.
- But then some other ambulance takes the guy back to his regiment, so the guy will have to fight after all.
- Henry sends some postcards home.
- Then Henry gets drunk with the other troops. He gets horny and wants to see Catherine.
- Rinaldi sees Henry and makes him walk off his drunken state so he doesn’t go to see Catherine all drunk and horny.
- Henry gets to the hospital and finds out that he can’t see Catherine. He is confused.
- Then Henry gets army orders to drive his ambulance to the very dangerous front lines.
- Henry stops to see Catherine again before heading to the battle. He tells her he is going to the front lines. She gives him some medal to wear as a gift. She is sad because she lost her fiancée to war and she doesn’t wanna lose Henry to war too.
- Then the author just describes the land and the war some more.
CHAPTER 9 - 10
- Henry goes to the front lines. He hides in a dugout (trench) with some other guys.
- Henry and the guys talk about the war and starts talking about their own army and who sucks and who is cool.
- The place where Henry is gets attacked and Henry gets badly injured.
- Some guy next to Henry gets his legs blown off. He then dies later.
- Henry is taken in an ambulance back to a hospital.
- Henry is in a hospital. Rinaldi visits him.
- They talk about the brothel they used to visit.
- Then Rinaldi starts making fun of Catherine. Henry defends her and he realizes he is starting to fall in love with her; for real this time.
CHAPTER 11 - 12
- The priest comes to visit Henry.
- They talk about the war. Henry says he hates the war. The priest says he hates war too.
- He is mad at the "government" because they send innocent soldiers to die.
- The priest asks Henry what he plans to do after the war and if he is going home to Abruzzi.
- Then the priest talks about love, and if Henry has found a woman to love.
- Henry starts talking (to the reader) about the routine at the hospital
- Henry is going to be transferred to an American hospital in Milan.
- Before he is transferred, Rinaldi and some other dude show up and they get drunk with Henry.
- Rinaldi tells Henry that Catherine has been transferred to the American hospital and will be taking care of Henry.
- Henry is hungover the next morning.
CHAPTER 13 – 14
- Henry arrives at the hospital. There is a problem finding him a room, but he finally gets one.
- His nurse is named Miss Gage. She is young and pretty.
- Henry asks where Catherine is.
- Henry hates the head nurse, and she hates him. She won’t let him have wine so he sneaks it in.
- Henry has a lot of bad dreams at night. He thinks to himself how emotionally disturbing getting hurt in war is.
- One night, Miss Gage wakes Henry up. She tells him Catherine is at the hospital.
- A barber comes in to shave Henry and make him look nice. The barber thinks Henry is a spy so he is not nice to him. This part is supposed to be funny.
- Then Catherine comes in. Henry realizes he truly loves her. They have sex.
- Henry finds out the doctor is on his way.
CHAPTER 15 - 16
- The doctors arrive at the hospital.
- They screw up some tests and make Henry wait a couple months before he can get surgery to repair his leg.
- Henry sees that the doctors are idiots. He asks for another doctor.
- This doc named Dr. Valenti comes in and examines Henry. He is a competent doctor. He schedules Henry for surgery the next day.
- The author then just starts describing Henry’s room and the city of Milan.
- Catherine and Henry talk. She asks him about the hookers he used to sleep with. Then they have sex again.
CHAPTER 17 - 18
- Henry gets surgery and feels ill after it.
- Catherine volunteers to work the nightshift so she can be with Henry.
- Henry spends every night with Catherine and during the days, he talks about her with other nurses.
- Catherine takes a 3 day vacation.
- Henry gets out of the hospital, and he and Catherine spend a lot of time together in Milan.
- Henry is sad because he knows when he gets totally better, he’ll have to go back to war.
- They think about marriage but decide not to because if they get married, Catherine would get shipped somewhere apart from Henry.
CHAPTER 19 – 20
- Henry gets a little better. He goes from crutches to a walking cane.
- Henry follows the war and what’s going on.
- Henry goes for treatment a lot and is away from Catherine most days.
- They meet some Americans in Milan and hang out with them. They really don’t like them too much.
- Then Catherine and Henry go to the horse races. They bet on a favored horse and win.
- The favored horse and jockey cheated though.
- Then they bet on another horse that didn’t cheat. They lose.
- The author then just describes the racetrack.
CHAPTER 21 - 22
- The author talks about how the war is going badly and Italy is losing.
- Henry gets mail from Rinaldi, the priest and Henry’s grandfather. He gets some newspapers and reads about how America is in the war now
- Then Catherine tells Henry she is pregnant. They fight about it and then make up.
- They agree not to fight because there is fighting all around them so they should remain peaceful and full of love.
- They talk about the war, and Henry talks about his emotional scars from battle and how screwed up he is now.
- In the fall Henry gets sick. The doctor says he has jaundice.
- The head nurse (who hates Henry) says that he got it on purpose by drinking a lot, so he didn’t have to go back to battle.
- Henry is reported, and as punishment is forced to go back to battle.
CHAPTER 23 – 24
- Henry prepares to leave for battle. He says goodbye to all his friends in Milan.
- Henry and Catherine walk the streets of Milan. They stop in a gun shop and Henry buys a gun for battle.
- They get a hotel room. They eat dinner and talk about their families.
- Then Henry leaves for his train at midnight. They jokingly say that they hope Henry gets a small injury so he gets to come home from battle.
- Henry says goodbye to Catherine and he leaves on the train.
- The train is full of soldiers. Henry sits on the floor.
Chapter 25 - 26
- Henry arrives at the front lines. His commanding officer says there is a break in the war because of the bad weather.
- Henry goes to his "living quarters" and sees Rinaldi. They talk. Rinaldi sees that Henry is a married man now.
- Rinaldi wants to go our drinking with Henry but Henry can’t because he had jaundice and he can’t drink anymore.
- Rinaldi gives Henry some crap about getting married. Henry defends his marriage
- Rinaldi gets drunk that night. He sees the priest and teases him. Rinaldi tells everyone he has syphilis. Then he goes to the whorehouse.
- The priest, Henry and some major talk. They talk about Rinaldi and the war.
- Henry and the priest discuss the war a bit more. The priest hopes it stops soon. Henry doesn’t think it will.
- Henry becomes sad when he talks about war.
Chapter 27 - 28
- Henry goes back to the front lines. He hears rumors that the Austrians are gonna attack.
- Henry talks about war strategies with some other ambulance driver named Gino. They talk about the words associated with war and how idiotic they are.
- The weather turns crappy. The battles start again. Now the Germans are fighting the Italians. The Italian army retreats.
- All the army vehicles and troops are all marching in retreat. There is a big traffic jam because it is raining and very muddy.
- It is a big mess because army people and normal citizens are running for their lives. Henry decides to take a side road so he won’t be there when the airplanes start bombing.
Chapter 29 - 30
- They are headed to the town of Udine. One of the cars gets stuck in the mud.
- All the guys with Henry leave. Henry orders them to help get the car out. When they refuse, he shoots one of them. Then some other ambulance driver shoots him some more.
- We see how Henry is official and sticks to the rules of war. Even though he hates war, he sure does act like a professional soldier.
- Then Henry tries to join up with the main retreating group.
- On their way to rejoin the main group they have a lot of close calls with German soldiers.
- Then some Italian guys with Henry get shot by Italian snipers by mistake.
- Henry’s group finally meets up with the main group.
- They retreat to the Tagliamento River and plan to stay there across the bridge and attack the incoming Germans.
- Then some high ranking officers starts taking soldiers away. They garb Henry and Henry starts speaking Italian to them. Because he has a weird accent (He is American), they think he’s a German spy.
- They start shooting deserters. When they get to Henry to shoot him for being a "spy" Henry dives into the river and escapes.
Chapter 31 - 32
- These chapters are just about him in the river swimming to freedom from the army and from the war.
- Henry goes down the river and then hops on a train.
- Henry is happy that he is finally free from the army. He thinks about what he has to do now: find Catherine and go live with her.
Chapter 33 - 34
- Henry arrives in Milan. He stops to get some coffee. He talks to the owner of the coffee shop and the owner tells Henry that he runs an underground escape thing for runaway soldiers, like Henry. Henry declines his help.
- Henry goes to the hospital where Catherine is. He finds out she is now in a town called Stresa; just outside the border of Switzerland.
- Henry finds one of his American friends and asks him to get him some normal clothes to escape in. Then he tells the friend about going to see Catherine. His friend tells him they can row a boat to Switzerland and be free.
- Henry takes the train to Stresa.
- He gets to Stresa and checks into a hotel. Then he goes to a bar and has some food and drink. He finds out that Catherine is in another hotel with her friend Helen.
- Finally Henry finds Catherine. They are both happy. They plan to escape together.
- They go to the hotel together. Henry doesn’t want to talk about the war, because he wants to put the bad memories behind him. Catherine makes him think about their escape so he doesn’t get arrested for leaving the army unofficially.
- So they plan to go to Switzerland, a neutral country where they can’t get in trouble.
Chapter 35 - 36
- Henry reads the papers and reads how the retreat at that river failed.
- Some friend of Henry’s shows up (Count Greffi) then Henry and the bartender go fishing.
- They talk about war. Then the bartender gives Henry a boat to escape in.
- The bartender, Henry and Catherine all eat lunch.
- Then Henry plays pool with his friend (Count Greffi). They talk about love and religion.
- That night, the bartender tells Henry that he’ll be arrested the next day and that he should escape that night.
- They pack their bags and some food and take off in the boat.
Chapter 37 - 38
- Henry rows like a madman because he doesn’t want to get caught by the Italian army.
- They finally arrive in Switzerland and eat breakfast.
- When they get there, they are arrested by Swiss police. The Swiss police let them go when they see they have passports and lots of cash. The Swiss don’t care about anything except for rich tourists.
- They are free and check into an inn.
- Catherine wants to have a beer because her doctor told her beer keeps a baby small. Remember, she is still pregnant.
- Henry does a lot of thinking about the war and his friends: Rinaldi and the priest.
- He is troubled by his war memories.
Chapter 39 - 41
- Henry receives a letter and money from his grandfather. He tells Catherine that he tries to keep no ties with his family.
- Catherine is 8 months pregnant and they move closer to the hospital.
- Catherine is almost ready to have the baby. Since Henry can’t have sex he starts boxing at the gym to work off his energy.
- Catherine goes into labor one day.
- She goes to the hospital and has really bad pain.
- Her pregnancy is really screwed up so the doctors do a C-Section (cut her open), and when they cut her open, they get the baby and the baby is dead.
- Henry leaves and comes back. Then Catherine becomes ill. Then she dies.
- Henry goes back to the hotel.
THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART
- This is a love story. It kinda shows that even in a crappy world where there is war, people can still find something beautiful in love.
- Henry questions the values people have in war. One thing to notice is that a lot of people in this book have different thoughts about war and morals etc.
- A big point in this book is that Henry went to war because he thought it would be fun and cool, but after he got a taste of war he learned it wasn’t cool and fun. He learned that war sucks. Because of this, he kinda matured in this book to an intelligent man, instead of a wild young boy.
- In the beginning Henry has no opinion on war. In the end he does. This is the transformation he goes through.