A Farewell to Arms: A tragic love story or an act of Pacifism?


Photo Credit: Photo Via en.Wikipedia.org

A cover of A Farewell to Arms.

By: Angelina Wintonick, Co-Editor in Chief

Over the last few months, I have had the pleasure of reading many award-winning literature pieces. From reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet in my Literature class, to Fences by August Wilson, I have read many special pieces. 

Over the course of December, I was reading A Farewell to Arms, a novel written by well-known author, Ernest Hemingway. This fictional novel, which serves as autobiographical towards Hemingway’s own life, became one of my favorite fictional novels so far.


A Farewell to Arms is a historical novel by Ernest Hemingway. It was published in 1929, being a first-hand account of the tragedies in World War I. It is full with 355 pages, and was first published in English as its original language. The novel is listed in the genre of Literary Realism. 

The author, Ernest Hemingway is an award-winning author who lived from 1899-1961. He had been an American journalist, novel writer, and sportsman. Many of his works had been influenced by the iceberg theory and produced his work between the 1920’s-1950’s. Hemingway has written seven novels, six short stories and two nonfiction novels and won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He is also the author of The Sun Always Rises and The Old Man and the Sea.

A Farewell to Arms also is a movie, by Charles Vidor in 1957. It runs for 152 minutes, with a producer of Fox.


A Farewell to Arms is a story of a first-hand account in facing one of the most devastating wars to ever exist. 

Lieutenant Fredric Henry, who is a fictional representation of author Ernest Hemingway, is an American man, who enlists as an Italian ambulance driver during World War I. Throughout the course of the novel, Henry meets the love of his life, Catherine Barkley, a nurse at a nearby hospital. Unfortunately, time is a limit within their relationship, with the war going on behind them.

As the war progresses, Henry faces the cruel realities of war, from seeing his friends die to being injured on the battlefield by an Austrian mortar fire. He has to deal with the looming-death toll of World War I, the world’s first immense battle. Henry watches as many of his fellow soldiers die from explosions, faces a life-threatening injury, and sees first-hand how war can build up a death-toll, so easily. He faces the downfall of patriotism within the country, with the majority of soldiers involved in the war are questioning it. Henry also gets a sense of what it is to be like in love, during the war.

Through the 355 pages that Hemingway writes, is a journey of self-actualization within Henry, and the negative effects of war. Hemingway uses his own life experiences to write a fictional novel that explains World War I.

A tragic love story or the end to call all wars?

When reading this novel, I began to research the many controversial topics on this novel. Many critics have much to say about Hemingway’s war-filled novel. There are typically two sides to the critics. One suggests that the novels serves as a tragic love story, to show how love can’t always be no matter how hard people try. On the other side of it, many critics believe that the novel shows true pacifist views from Hemingway. 

Pacifism is throughout the story, with Hemingway showing how the war is not beneficial. Through an intense death-toll, World War I is one of the deadliest wars ever to exist. In the novel, Fredric Henry talks with other soldiers about how the war is pointless. He watches as his friends die around him, and how patriotism is starting to fade within the countries. Hemingway emphasizes on the futility of war a lot throughout the novel.

On the other side, the novel does stand as a true romantic tragedy. Catherine Barkley and Fredric Henry are lovers that can never truly be together due to the war. The couple symbolizes how people try to normalize their lives during war-time, in which they try to share their love and start a family. Unfortunately, it is hard for the world to be completely normal after wars. The devastation is so immense, that starting a normal life again is almost impossible. Cities and towns have destruction and PTSD rises among soldiers. It is a hard adjustment to start a new life after wars.


Altogether, I very much enjoyed this fictional novel. I love history and reading historical pieces, so this was right up my alley. Having a first-hand account of World War I, Hemingway does a great job of emphasizing many of the disputes and issues that went on in the war, that may be hard for the outside world to understand. He settles on telling the harsh realities, which were very interesting for me to learn about in this first-hand account. 

I really did like this novel, and would recommend it to others who enjoy historical novels as well, or Hemingway’s writing in general. It is on the slower side, so I recommend it for more mature readers, but it is still enjoyable. 

One can buy the novel at most bookstores, including online on Amazon.