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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
For the first time you encounter Frederic Henry at work transporting the wounded. He watches a regiment march by, hot and dusty, followed by stragglers and then by a single limping soldier. He goes to talk to the man. The soldier says he's suffering from a hernia and asks Henry to take him not to his regiment's medical officer, as regulations require, but to a hospital. The soldier, who has lived in Pittsburgh, recognizes Henry as an American and in English admits he has aggravated his hernia by throwing away his truss so that he won't have to go to the front lines. For that reason he doesn't want to return to his regiment. He'll be operated on and forced to fight at the front.
Up to now Henry has been sympathetic but official-no papers, no trip to the hospital. Then the soldier asks him a pointed question: "You wouldn't want to go in the line all the time, would you?"
Henry's answer is simple and eloquent: "No."
Henry softens. Dropping his official pose, he advises the soldier to fall down and bump his head. Then Henry can return to pick him up in the ambulance. Here's another example of Henry's increasing ambivalence about the war. He's swaying from the legal (but inhumane) stance to an illegal (but humane) one. The ploy doesn't work, however. When Henry returns to carry out his promise he finds that a horse ambulance has already picked up the soldier to take him to his regiment.
Henry goes back to his room and prepares Zona di Guerra (war zone) postcards to send home. These were all-purpose postcards that enabled soldiers to send any number of messages by checking various preprinted boxes. Note that he checks simply, "I am well," and then says sardonically to himself, "That should handle them." Again you see the Hemingway hero, cut off by fate or choice from the traditional values, from family, from home.
Using stream of consciousness technique, Hemingway now records the movement of Henry's mind, as one thought flows freely into another, from his impressions of the wartime leaders to the places he would like to travel if there were no war, and then to visiting Catherine after supper. He fantasizes about going to a hotel with her and taking her to bed. Note that as Henry gets more excited by this erotic daydream, Hemingway's prose style changes. The long sentence beginning with "Maybe she would pretend" ends more than 150 words later with "outside the door please." All those "and's"! Yet Hemingway makes such language work-it conveys perfectly the thoughts galloping through Henry's mind.
He can't wait to finish supper and go to Catherine. But at this point in the book his feelings for her are still so casual they can be easily pushed aside by other desires. Wanting to seem one of the boys, he gets very drunk. Just as paragraphs before, Hemingway's prose reflected Henry's mounting sexual excitement, so now it reflects his growing drunkenness. Rinaldi rescues his roommate and forces him to walk-handing him coffee beans to disguise his winy breath-and takes him to see Catherine.
When Henry gets to the hospital, Ferguson tells him that Catherine can't see him. Is she sick? Or is she angry because he's later than usual? One thing is sure. Henry feels bad that he treated Catherine "very lightly." Does he love her? Not yet. But he feels "lonely and hollow" at missing her. And that may be the beginning of love.
Henry gets his orders. There's to be an attack and he must take his ambulances to the lines. An interesting ironic sidelight-everybody speaks "with great positiveness and strategic knowledge" about the attack, but nobody really knows anything. The eternal rumor mill hard at work.
He stops at Catherine's hospital. Even though she's on duty, he asks to see her. When he tells her he can't see her that evening because there's "a show up above Plava," she gives him a St. Anthony medal. Note Hemingway/Henry's British usage-"show" for attack. Hemingway admired the British; their clipped, understated manner of speech works well here.
There is a muted poignancy to their parting. Understand, she's been through this before. The last time the man came back in pieces. Henry, not thinking, takes the medal and says, simply, "Good-by."
Her response, another of Hemingway's sentences that says much by stating little, is, "No, not good-by."
Riding away in the ambulance, Henry stuffs the St. Anthony in his pocket. His driver, a believer, tells him it's better to wear the medal. Henry does. Then, almost casually, he says, "after I was wounded I never found him," a dark hint of what is to come.
Foreshadowing is, of course, the writer hinting at events to come. The curious thing about it is that you don't know it's going on until after it's over, when you read about the big event that was hinted at chapters before. And if you haven't read carefully, you don't get it at all. So read with care.
Hemingway begins to describe the landscape, much as he did at the book's opening. The countryside is pleasant, agricultural, and peaceful. The troop columns and military cars seem out of place. As Henry moves closer to the attack site, though, the description changes. They drive on a "rough new military road." The mountains grow bleak, "chalky white and furrowed, with strange planes," and beyond them are the mountains of the enemy. Troops and guns and trucks become more numerous and then come "the broken houses of the little town that was to be taken."
Darkness begins to fall.