Summary and Analysis
Frederic Henry arrives, incognito, in Milan. Catherine Barkley and Nurse Ferguson are absent from the hospital, having gone on holiday to Stresa. Henry seeks help from his friend Simmons, the music student.
Hemingway maintains the dramatic tension in this short, introductory chapter, as Frederic Henry discovers that everyone he meets is aware of the retreat. Many seem as well to be attuned to the issue of desertion, and significantly, it doesn't matter much to them. The bartender, for instance, advises Henry not to wear his coat, as the place where he removed his insignia is clearly visible.
Two themes that run through much of Hemingway's work are dramatized in Chapter XXXIII: the decency of the common man and the value of friendship. Although a stranger, the bartender offers to help Henry, as does his friend Simmons. The porter at the hospital not only offers to assist Henry but refuses money for doing so. Despite Henry's alienation and Anglophilia, scenes like this one protect Hemingway from the potential charge that he is anti-Italian in A Farewell to Arms; it is the Italian army, specifically the military police, of which he is critical.
The writer continues to evoke entire scenes from a few concrete details. Henry tells us, of the wine shop where he first stops for coffee, that "It smelled of early morning, of swept dust, spoons in coffee glasses and the wet circles left by wine-glasses." Like the brick dust on the cheese during the Austrian bombardment in Chapter IX, these specifics bring the scene alive for us.
Porta Magenta one of the gates of the city of Milan.
the Lyrico Milanese theater.
"Africana" song title.