Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929)

Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel A Farewell to Arms (1929) drew on his experiences as a young man who was a Red Cross volunteer on the Italian front near the end of the First World War, especially his love affair with a nurse while recuperating from wounds from a mortar attack.

The story, told from the perspective of the character Frederick Henry, an American ambulance driver serving on the Italian front in 1917 and 1918, allows the author the scope to express his attitudes to life, especially regarding his sense of adventure, his existentialist ‘live for the moment’ lifestyle, his appreciation of stoicism when facing life’s troubles and trials, as well as his atheism.  Above all, the novelist argues that true love, if or when it happens, should be relished and cherished, and placed first and foremost in one’s life.  In this regard, the novel is appreciated as a love story, the telling of which allowed the author the opportunity to detail many of the powerful, exalted feelings associated with true love, before turning to the painful feelings of grief and loss when the main character loses what he valued most, his woman and his new child, who were suddenly snatched from him by a cruel twist of fate. 

Importantly, the setting of the novel allows the author the scope to express a range of antiwar views, notably his distaste for the massive slaughter that was not justified by the territory for which the war was fought, and his Marxist influenced view that the war was waged by the ruling-class against the interests of the working-class and peasantry who were forced to serve in the army at great risk.  He also argued in favour of the desire to make peace at the expense of victory, and that the desire of individual soldiers to make a separate peace and desert the army was often justified.

In addition, Hemingway’s novel is also appreciated for its writing style, especially its simple, direct and economical use of language, where the author shows the readers what is happening rather than tells them how to think, feel and respond.  This writing style became very influential in twentieth century literature.

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2019 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: A Farewell to Arms meaning, A Farewell to Arms themes, A Farewell to Arms analysis, A Farewell to Arms notes