Summary and Analysis Book One: Chapter VIII



Instructed to drive an ambulance to the river in preparation for a nocturnal attack there, Lieutenant Henry stops first at the British hospital, where Catherine Barkley gives him a Saint Anthony medal.


This chapter does little besides set the stage for the dramatic action to follow in Chapter IX. In fact, Hemingway explicitly foreshadows that action, as Lieutenant Henry says of the St. Anthony medal, "After I was wounded I never found him."

As usual, the author underplays drama and avoids melodrama: Catherine and Henry don't even kiss while bidding one another goodbye — presumably a result of hospital decorum or her British reserve. And as in an earlier scene, we learn about Henry's feelings not from the narrator himself but via the reaction of another character: "No, you can't kiss me here," Catherine says.

In terms of the novel's symbolism, it is significant that Henry ascends from the lowlands into the hills for his first encounter with heroism. And it is interesting that he says of the white mountains in the distance that "Those were all the Austrians' mountains and we had nothing like them." Again, Henry seems to be constructing a rationale for his forthcoming abandonment from the Italian army, albeit unconsciously. Unlike the Austrians, he suggests, the Italians are undisciplined, and thus perhaps they are not quite worth fighting for.


Cormons town west of Gorizia, in northeast Italy.

a Saint Anthony a St. Anthony medal. St. Anthony of Padua is the Roman Catholic patron saint of miracles. He is also a patron saint of Italy.

convoy a group of vehicles traveling together for mutual protection or convenience.

fez a brimless felt hat shaped like a truncated cone, usually red, with a flat crown from which a long, black tassel hangs: the Turkish national headdress of men in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

bersaglieri (Italian) riflemen.