National Endowment of the Arts - The Big Read
A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you...


Ernest Hemingway in Paris, 1928 (The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

  1. What do we know of Frederic Henry's and Catherine Barkley's lives before the novel begins? As the novel's narrator, why would Frederic choose to tell us so little about their past?
  2. At the beginning of their romance, Frederic treats his relationship with Catherine like a game. When does he fall in love? Why does it happen?
  3. What role does religion play in the novel? How does Frederic's view of the priest compare to the other officers'?
  4. Why is Catherine afraid of the rain? Why does Frederic fear the night? How do both the rain and the night foreshadow the novel's tragic conclusion?
  5. Even before the retreat at Caporetto, Frederic considers that "abstract words such as glory, honor, courage" are "obscene beside the concrete names of villages." What does he mean by this?
  6. Identify a passage that vividly describes World War I. Does the novel make any assertions about war in general, or World War I in particular?
  7. After his desertion, Frederic says that, "anger was washed away in the river along with any obligation." Are his actions justified?
  8. The novel's action begins in the late summer of 1915; it ends in spring 1918. Has Frederic changed during this period of time? Is there any redemption at the end of this tragedy?
  9. Toward the end of the novel, Count Greffi tells Frederic that love is a religious feeling. Does Frederic agree? Why or why not?
  10. How would you describe Hemingway's style of writing and his characters' dialogue?
  11. The words "bravery" and "courage" are echoed through the novel. Who is the novel's hero? Who is the most courageous character?
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