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Free Study Guide-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 23

Summary

Though he had not fully recovered, Henry had to report to duty following the cancellation of his leave. Henry requested the porter and an ex-machinegunner who worked at a tailor-shop hold a seat for him on the train from Turin. Trains at that time were extremely crowded and seats were difficult to get. Henry, accompanied by Catherine, took his luggage and left the hospital at five o’clock to reach the train by mid-night. They sent the luggage ahead and started walking on the cold, wet road. They passed a cathedral. He asked her if she wanted to go in, but she did not. Henry wanted to buy a gun. They went into a shop, and the shopkeeper showed him an old pistol of an officer who was killed in action.

It started drizzling and Henry took a cab. Catherine bought an extravagant nightgown on the way. They checked into a room in a hotel that was across from the station. Catherine was uneasy, and in spite of Henry’s assurances, she felt like a whore. Then Catherine said that she wished to do something really sinful because what they had done till then seemed so innocent and simple and right. She told him that she was a simple girl. She may have been a little crazy, but she was not crazy in any complicated manner. She informed him that she had a father who was an alcoholic and suffered from gout. She told him that she was very happy married to him and that nothing else interested her. Outside, it had started raining. Henry recited from a poem by Andrew Marvell: “And always at my back, I hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying hear.”


Catherine told him that she would have the baby in the best place and in the best way and that they would have many babies before the war was over. She promised to write to him everyday . And then it was time for him to go.

Notes

Henry takes Catherine to a hotel to make love to her. For the lovers, the hospital and the hotel rooms are like home. Henry makes her feel like a whore, not something a loving husband should do..

In this chapter, we get to know more about Catherine’s religion. First, she refuses to go into a cathedral, not because she is guilty but because she simply sees it as unnecessary. Catholicism says that it is a sin to live with a man without marriage. However, Catherine considers that she is married to Henry; she is his wife and they do what married couples do. She longs to do something sinful.

From the beginning, time, in terms of seasons, is meticulously planned. There was a time gap of one year between the first and second chapter but from then on, every day was significant. As time started ticking, there was sense of urgency, because time was really running short for the lovers, hence the poem about time overtaking human beings. They became optimistic about an uncertain future, made promises which would quell their anxiety, like having several babies, a home, etc. By now, the reader is made aware of inevitability of fate and of a feeling that things are going to go wrong. This is achieved by the symbol of rain, which signals disaster. Rain accompanies all crucial events in the novel, which often tend to be disastrous.

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Free Study Guide-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-Chapter Summary
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