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A Farewell to Arms
Ernest Hemingway

THE STORY Book 2

CHAPTER 21

In one of his masterful compound sentences, Hemingway tells you that summer is gone. That's not all. The fighting is going "very badly" again in Italy, as well as in France. There's great pessimism and resignation as Henry discusses the war with a British major who believes "we were all cooked." The summer has faded, and with its passing comes the certain but unspoken knowledge that Henry must go back to the war and that the nights of love are going to be over.

But not before a last convalescent leave. Henry gets notice of it, along with some other mail- more money from grandfather plus "patriotic encouragement" (you can almost hear him snort as he reads this), letters from the priest and from Rinaldi, and a batch of old newspapers.

Henry reads the papers without much interest, speculating on what America must be like now that it is in the war.


Catherine, her rounds finished, comes to him. He tells her about the leave but she seems "upset and taut." She tells him she's pregnant.

After the news sinks in, they have, for the first time, something that might be construed as a fight. Henry admits "You always feel trapped biologically" at pregnancy. She gets upset and petulant. "I've tried to be the way you wanted and then you talk about 'always.'"

But they make up. What follows is significant. Note first their naivete about lovers' quarrels. They're never going to fight because if they do, the world ("they") will "get" them. Most people would consider a relationship without disagreement to be rare, too perfect to be true. But it's what Catherine and Henry require; in their war-torn world only a perfect relationship can provide the refuge they need.

Henry suggests that the world won't get the two of them because Catherine is too brave. "Nothing ever happens to the brave." Significantly, Catherine answers, "They die of course." Henry quotes from Julius Caesar about cowards dying a thousand deaths. Catherine disagrees, saying that the brave person dies many times also, but achieves his bravery by keeping a stiff upper lip, by not mentioning his suffering. The Hemingway stoicism, again.

Further in the dialogue, Henry's insecurity shows itself, first where he compares himself to a mediocre ballplayer and second where he sardonically admits he's brave when he's had a drink. These two statements recall the earlier revelation that he has trouble sleeping when he's alone and that he's subject to nightmares. The wound is always with him.

The chapter closes with a feeling of resignation. Catherine and Frederic Henry matter-of-factly assume that the war will go on for a long time, referring to it as another Hundred Years War.  

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