Farewell To Arms

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade September 2001

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Identity is the foundation of a person's life, personality, and character. Some people search for a true identity their entire life. The term "finding yourself" is commonly used, when a person is discovering his/her own likes/dislikes, beliefs, and structures. Many people go on journeys or take certain paths in life to assist in the process of self discovery. With age and experience, people learn to grow and accept change from their mistakes. Discovery of an identity is based around how you learn and handle your life experiences. In Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry an Italian army ambulance driver, and Catherine Barkley an Italian army nurse both embark on the journey of searching for an identity. Through the course of their love they both learn more about happiness and their lives begin to take shape, and are changed completely. Frederic undergoes a much more drastic makeover in his quest for an identity through his love with Catherine.

Finding one's true identity is hard but once he really finds it, he is happy and fulfilled. This is evident from the beginning of Frederic and Catherine's relationship, the growth of their relationship, and the conclusion of their relationship.

The beginning of Frederic and Catherine's relationship demonstrates that neither of them had a true solid grasp of their own identity. Until the point where Frederic and Catherine's love eventually affected their entire lives, they were really two people with a lot of confusion and unsure of who they really were. Frederic was always a very good man, but it always seemed as if something was missing from him. For the most part Frederic's identity was always torn between two worlds. There was one side to him that likes to drink, spend down time with his friends, and carry on with females. Then there was another side to him that was a solid good man who seemed to be searching for more of a purpose in life. Often times Frederic's careless antics left him feeling hollow and empty, and Frederic's image was split between the two, and he was stuck in a transition between in his identity. " I went out the door and suddenly I felt lonely and empty. I had treated seeing Catherine very lightly, I had gotten somewhat drunk and had nearly forgotten to come but when I could not see her I was feeling very lonely and hollow." Through his beginning of what seems like a real relationship Frederic starts to feel a change in himself, where Catherine is now becoming a greater priority. Emotions and feelings are starting to show themselves in ways that Frederic has never experienced, and it is making him think and act differently, almost like a new man. The development of his identity is just the first step in establishing his own identity. Catherine also showed her vulnerability for love as well. Although a dramatic experience with the death of Catherine's former love is tough to get over, it leaves her as an extremely vulnerable person, and she is desperately seeking something to help fulfill her and make her world happy. Little does she know that her relationship that is developing with Frederic is exactly what she wants. Her eagerness to jump right into a relationship was very evident, and she desperately needed Frederic's security. "Oh darling, You will be good to me won't you? Because we're going to have a strange life." A past experience has Catherine desperate for someone to call her own and make her happy. She starts jumping to conclusions much too soon, which in turn leaves Frederic to believe she desperately seeks love and reliability of another, and she is unstable as an independent person. This makes her own identity weaker. Right away the relationship quickly begins to develop into what looks to be serious love. Catherine gives Frederic a Saint Anthony to show their seriousness, and development of their relationship. "She was unclasping something from her neck. She put it in my hand." "It's a Saint Anthony." Catherine gibes this to Frederic as soon as he mentions he is going overnight to a battle scene. Catherine's instability and uneasiness with losing him shows up and she tries to grasp his attention and signify their relationship with her Saint Anthony. Identity searching between the two is starting to take shape as Catherine is already afraid of losing him, and Frederic seems to be torn between worlds.

Throughout the growth of love in Frederic and Catherine's relationship, it is evident that their identities begin to mold into one together. From the moment that Frederic realizes he loves Catherine, his entire world is brought into a new perspective. He came to realize that she is what he wanted, and she is exactly what would make him happy, and that is all he cared for. Frederic's identity starts to take shape when it is evident that she is what he's willing to sacrifice for. From the moment he saw her in the hospital he knew that his world would be different. "When I saw her, I was in love with her. Everything turned over inside of me." The dramatic change in Frederic was so drastic, and his love became so strong to the point where his identity was sacrificed or Catherine. He absolutely lived for Catherine, and just to be with her he was happy. Frederic always had a good relationship with the priest, which was a part of his identity that always held him torn between two worlds. When Frederic and the priest were having a conversation about love and war, it was very apparent that his identity was changing. He was no longer the good man who had casual conversation with the priest, he was now the man who was deep in love, and could now relate to the priest on a new level. "How about loving women? If I really loved some woman would it be like that." It is clear that Frederic, the man who first said he could not love, is now beginning to become a loving, and focused person, and he is starting to develop direction and priority in his life. Frederic's eventual exit from the war is his boldest statement, and signified his sacrifice for Catherine. "I ducked down, pushed between the two men, and ran for the river, my head down. I tripped at the edge and went in with a splash." Frederic is going through absolute suffering when he is not with Catherine, and it is clear that she is all that makes him happy. He sacrificed his life by leaving his responsibilities as an officer, and put his life on the line by becoming a war fugitive. His sacrifice really defines the changes he has come to find in himself as a person, and his identity is one, that desperately seeks the love and attention of Catherine. No longer is Frederic a member of the Italian army. He has now became a fugitive who is only seeking the love of his life.

Within the conclusion of Frederic and Catherine's relationship they have fully given themselves to each other, and this is what makes them truly happy. Although their love, and their time together made them happy, the found nothing but pain when they were apart. Their neediness for each other is what makes their love so special to them. Even a fifteen minute departure left the two in agony until their return. At one point Frederic was going to play pool with a friend of his, but he didn't like the idea of leaving Catherine. "I don't want to go away. I don't want you to go away. I won't go then. Yes. Go, it's only for a little while, and then you'll come back." They are completely consumed in each other. They want to be one person, because they don't ever want to be apart, and there is nothing they live for except for each other. Being together, and being similar is what drives them, and makes them so happy. "Because there's only us two and in the world there's all the rest of them." It came to a point where not only was being together what made them happy, but being the same person made them happy as well. "I'll cut my hair short, and you let yours grow long so we'll look alike." They both had taken on each others identity to become one. All of Frederic's life was Catherine, and there is not another thing that even compared to her importance to him. If anything were to ever happened to Catherine his whole world would collapse. When the baby was born, Frederic did not even feel an ounce of love for it. "Aren't you proud of your son? No, he nearly killed his mother." Frederic's entire world was Catherine, she was him, and he was her. The Frederic at the end of the story is a completely different Frederic from the beginning. He has lost the carelessness and the attitude that made him the confused man he once was. He now has found a purpose, something that makes him happy, and he has also factored that into his life.

Catherine's overbearing love caught up to her in the end when the world eventually broke her. Although her death was an extremely devastating situation for Frederic to overcome, she definitely left her mark on him. In Frederic and Catherine's case, finding an identity can be a confusing and struggling situation. But when that thing that truly makes you happy is found, you are willing to sacrifice anything and everything just to keep it. Their relationship was truly something special, and it surely did change both their lives.