A Farewell to Arms By Ernest Hemingway Summary and Analysis Book Two: Chapter XVIII

Summary

Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley spend the summer together while he recuperates, visiting restaurants around Milan in the evening, and then spending nights together. They talk about marriage.

Analysis

As Lieutenant Henry grows more mobile, progressing from bed to carriage to crutches, his affair with Catherine Barkley develops into a full-blown idyll — despite the fact that it is summertime, the season of war. During one of the many nights they spend together, the couple discusses marriage, which Henry wants ("because I worried about having a child if I thought about it") but Catherine resists for practical reasons. It would necessitate their separation, she explains — more worldly in these matters than he, as usual. She reminds him of her experience being formally engaged, to the soldier who died. Like Nurse Ferguson in the prior chapter, Catherine intuits a not entirely logical connection between love and death.

Thematically, we return to the dynamic first dramatized near the start of the novel via the priest versus the officers, as Catherine tells Henry that she has no religion; she quickly corrects this statement, however, explaining "You're my religion." Catherine rejects organized faith, and yet she is no nihilist. She lives by a definite value system, and what she values is love.

Less able so far to reject traditional religion, Henry suggests a private or secret marriage of some kind, possibly an allusion by Hemingway to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and therefore a premonition of tragedy. "I suppose all sorts of dreadful things will happen to us," Catherine says ominously, on the last page of the chapter. "But you don't have to worry about that." Again and again, Hemingway drops hints of catastrophe to come, filling us with foreboding.

Glossary

fresa, barbera wines sampled by Henry and Catherine.

margaux Chateau Margaux, a French wine.

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Both Henry and Catherine are sent to a hospital in which city?




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