When I finished FTA I was of course stunned by thedeath of Catherine and the baby and Henry’s suddensolitude. “What happens now?” I felt, as I sooften do when I finish a book that I want to go onforever. This is infinitely more difficult with abook that has no conclusion, and FTA leaves areader not only emotionally exhausted but alsojust as alone as Henry and with nowhere to go.
Theentire work was aware of where it was going andwhat was going to happen next, and then to stopthe way it did was unfair. Now, I’ve read enoughessays while deciding which would be the topic formy class presentation that I know many people seethat the unfairness of life and the insignificanceof our free will are apparently the most importantthemes in the book, but I don’t agree. I alsodon’t agree that it is a war story or a lovestory.
Exactly what it is, though, is not clear tome. Can’t art exist without being anything? “Thereisn’t always an explanation for everything.” Warand love are obviously important themes in thebook, and the relationship between the two isexplored by Hemingway and, somewhat, by Henry.
Inthe first two Books we are in the war and the waris overwhelming. In the last two Books we are inlove. And, just as the first two Books arepeppered with love in the time of war, the lasttwo Books are tinged with war in the time of love.The third Book is the bridge between the two’stories’ and it is not surprising that it centerson the escape. It is during the escape that Henryresolves that he is through with the war (a war inwhich he really has no place) and decides that allhe wants is to be with Catherine.Until the thirdBook Henry doesn’t seem to be agonizinglyconcerned with matters of right or wrong in thewar and it seems, in fact, separate from him. Evenwhen he is injured it doesn’t appear that he isreally a part of the war which surrounds him. Hemaintains a distance from it and this distanceisn’t really closed until Aymo is killed by hisown army, he discovers that Bonello is onlystaying with him out of respect, and he is almostkilled as a spy.
After this he resolves to desertthe army and be reunited with his love, Catherine.Henry is no dummy and he could easily tell thateverything was not all correct with Cat, whichleads to the question of his love for her. Youmust admit that Cat is a bit…well…
flaky whenthey first meet.She loses that persona soonenough, although I couldn’t help but distrust herintegrity until somewhere in the middle of thefourth Book. It is also difficult to believewholeheartedly in his love for her until muchlater in their relationship, and it leaves mewondering if he is leaving his involvement in thewar because of his unfailing love for Cat or ifCat and any feelings he has for her are justexcuses to escape the insanity of the war heexperiences in the third Book. When he is withCatherine, they are in another place, untouched bythe war, both symbolically (in the tent of herhair) and literally (in Switzerland). [It seemslike I don’t ever say anything earth-shattering,or even critical, in these response papers, andI’m not sure if I’m supposed to do that.
The line,”The war seemed as far away as the football gamesof some one else’s college,” is beautiful.]Bibliography:.