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Free Study Guide-A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway-Book Notes
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CHAPTER 27

Summary

The next morning, Henry left without waking Rinaldi and went to Bainsizza. He met Gino after climbing up a slope. Gino informed him that shelling went on nearby, but there were not many wounded soldiers just then. With the advent of the rains however, many soldiers would be falling sick. Some Croats and Magyars had joined the opposition, but the Italians were still in attacking positions. However, if the Austrians attacked there would be no safe place for them to go. Henry had expected Bainsizza to be flatter, more like a plateau, but it was broken up and ridged like a piano. Henry suggested that it was easier and more practical to hold a ridge that flattened out on top and had a little depth. Gino informed him that food was scarce; the battalions on the front line got as much food as they wanted but those at the back never got enough. Perhaps, the food meant for the soldiers was sold elsewhere. Gino said that it made a lot of difference to the war when soldiers starved. Henry admitted that he was always embarrassed by the words “sacred,” “glorious,” “sacrifice,” etc. Abstract words such as “glory,” “honor,” or “courage” were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments, and the dates. However, Gino was a patriot and refused to be convinced.

As the next day dawned, an attack and counterattack started. At three o’clock in the morning, the Croatians came over across the mountain meadow to the front line. They fought in the dark rain and a counterattack of scared men from the second line drove them back. There were several Italian soldiers wounded and they were brought on stretchers, were carried, and those who could, walked. They were all scared. Two ambulance cars were filled with the soldiers. The rain turned into snow. There was another unsuccessful attack at daylight.


Henry heard that the attack to the south had been unsuccessful. Though they did not attack that night, there were rumors that they had broken through the north and that there had been a great battle near Caporetto. When they heard that it was the Germans who were attacking, they were frightened because the Germans were tremendous fighters. Henry was never in a retreat and wanted to know what happened to the wounded when an army retreated. He was told by the medical officers that they took as many wounded as they could and left the rest behind. The hospital equipment was taken in the ambulances, not the wounded. The next night, the retreat started; it was orderly and wet. The Italian troops marched back, evacuating hospitals and transporting the wounded. Throughout, it was raining steadily and the army of the Bainsizza moved down off the plateau and across the river, where the great victories had begun in the spring of that year. They came into Gorizia in the middle of the next day. The town was nearly empty after the girls from the brothel left. Rinaldi had left along with others. Then, Henry got the cars cleaned, loaded them with hospital equipment, and after three hours of sleep, prepared to drive to Pordenone with three other drivers, Piani, Benello, and Aymo. They declared that they liked a retreat better than an advance.

Notes

This chapter is very important because it contains Henry’s anti- war statement. Abstract words like glory, honor, or courage seem obscene when compared to hard, concrete details of the number of villages destroyed and men killed. Soldiers are of two types: born patriots who have misplaced notions of the abstract words like “glory” and “honor” and do not care for the result of but are content just fighting; reluctant soldiers who see how futile wars can be no matter how grand the soldier’s intention might be. Despite Henry’s war apathy, it must be noted that he has joined the war; he could have left for America. Moreover, everything is not glorious and honorable in war as Henry realizes. Rations meant for soldiers are sold, probably on the black market. Wounded soldiers (who might have volunteered due to the abstract words mentioned above) are left behind to face a slow agonizing death or a quick, painful death in the hands of the advancing enemy. Though this might be a war exigency, it is still cruel.

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