NEA 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. Public presentations: Explore creative writing skills through the following exercises: write a short story without depicting the main character’s personal history, write a short story using only dialogue, or write a short story using few adjectives and no figurative language. Revise this work and share the results at a student assembly or a meeting at a local bookstore.
  2. Parents’ Night: Ask students to write a letter from Frederic Henry to his parents after the novel ends, describing what he thinks of the war. The letter should reflect what he has learned about war during the previous two years. Students should use their imaginations, but also references to the novel. Have them read the letters aloud.
  3. Photo gallery/docent exercise: Ask students to find different photographs, paintings, or images of Hemingway and/or the novel in books, magazines, or on the Web. Describe what the image tells us about Hemingway or the novel. Students should discuss the image and point to details that explain why they chose it. Collaborate with a local gallery or library. To vary the exercise have students create their own images, writing a statement to explain how the compositions relate to the novel.
  4. Arrange students in groups of four and have them stage a scene from the novel. Students can use dialogue from the book, but are welcome to invent their own, making sure to stay in character. Have students act out the scene at a local library or bookstore. After each scene, have the students explain their choices.
  5. Explore the historical period of the First World War and the 1920s by creating posters that provide in-depth information on what was happening in the following artistic areas: music and jazz, theater, visual arts, photography, and dance. Display these posters in the school or classroom. This would create an opportunity for examining propaganda related to World War I.
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