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Free Study Guide-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 18

Summary

In a few days, Henry was able to stand up and walk with the help of crutches. It was a lovely summer then. When he could go out, he and Catherine went to Biffi’s or Grand’s Italia for dinner. They developed a special liking for Grand’s Italia because of its waiter, George. He ordered the meal for them, selected wines for them, and even loaned Henry, some money when he needed it. They went for a stroll in the streets of Milan and then back to the hospital. They would go to their separate rooms while he would wait for Catherine to come to him. He could not bear to let her out of his sight. After she finished all her duties, she would come to him and they would make love. He found her skin was “smooth as piano keys” while she found his skin as “smooth as emery paper and very hard on piano keys.” Besides making passionate love, they were also satisfied with small ways of making love. They tried putting thoughts in each other’s head while they were in different rooms. More often than not, they found that their thoughts coincided.

Henry wanted them to be married because he was worried about having a child. But Catherine refused because the hospital regulations required her to stay unmarried. If they found out that they were married, they would send her away. They therefore decided that they were married on the first day she had come to the hospital.


One day, Henry asked her if she would like to be married. She replied that she could not be married anymore. Henry said that if they could be married privately, it would be nice if something happened to him or if she had a child. She replied that there was no other way to be married except by church or law. Marriage means the most to people who have religion. Catherine confessed that she did not have any religion, in fact, Henry was her religion, he was all she got. She told him that is nothing to be ashamed of if it is something one is very proud and happy about. She promised him that she would be faithful until he is sick of it. She wanted to please him and obey him completely. When she had first met him, perhaps she was a bit crazy but now that she had found love, she was very happy. Henry had to go to the front as soon as he recovered.

Notes

Love looms large in this chapter. War recedes totally into the background and gets only a fleeting mention or two. Catherine expresses her love for him. Love is, in fact, the very essence of her being. Henry is her religion, her lord, and master. We can see how absorbed Hemingway is in masculinity by how he creates women who are so ready to deify their men (especially men based loosely on himself). Henry seems to love her enough to get married, but the way he says it, “marriage would be nice in case something happened to him or she has a child,” makes it more about his own comfort and security in case he gets injured and no other women want him, or in case he dies, so he can have a grieving widow.

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