Summary and Analysis
Book Four: Chapter XXXIV
Frederic Henry travels via train to the resort town of Stresa, where he finds Catherine Barkley in a hotel dining room with Nurse Ferguson. Henry and Catherine spend the night together in his hotel room.
Finally Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley are reunited, but the atmosphere is very different from that of their last meeting in Milan. Although Catherine is somewhat oblivious to it, danger hovers everywhere. Henry characterizes himself as a masquerader in civilian clothes, a truant from school, and finally a criminal. "It's not deserting from the army. It's only the Italian army," Catherine reassures him, and us, continuing the pattern of rationalization begun near the start of the novel.
Notice the change — the growth — in Henry's character, demonstrated at the start of Chapter XXXIV. Of the hostile aviators with whom he shares a train compartment, he says that "in the old days I would have insulted them and picked a fight." Now, no longer insecure due to his experiences in love and war, he does not even feel insulted.
It is raining while Henry rides the train to Stresa, raining when he arrives, and raining while Henry and Catherine spend the night together in his hotel room. Remember Catherine's vision of herself dead in the rain. And note the undeniably ominous quality of what is perhaps the novel's best-known, most-quoted passage, which follows soon afterward:
"If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
Here the author writes in a different mode, one of lofty abstractions that contrast strongly with the concrete details he usually favors. Note, however, that even at his most philosophical, Hemingway still favors simple, colloquial language.
"I had made a separate peace," Henry tells himself in Chapter XXXIV. The question that the last third of A Farewell to Arms addresses is this: Can one make a separate peace?
Gallarate town in Lombardy region of north Italy, between Milan and Lake Maggiore.
letto matrimoniale (Italian) literally, "marriage bed"; a double bed.
borghese (Italian) civilian clothes.
mufti ordinary clothes, especially worn by one who normally wears, or has long worn, a military or other uniform.