"Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway: Who is the more admirable character - Frederic Henry or Catherine Barkley?

Essay by gogiantsHigh School, 11th gradeA, March 2006

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"Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway is a novel of love and war during the First World War, narrated by the main character, Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver for the Italian army. Between Frederic and his love companion Catherine Barkley, the reader observes the personality traits of both their good and their bad. While Catherine is viewed in a more positive light by not only Hemingway on a few occasions, but also the author of the article "Catherine Barkley and the Hemingway Code: Ritual and Survival", Sandra Whipple Spanier and for the most part the author of "Frederic Henry's Escape and the Pose of Passivity", Scott Donaldson, Frederic is unfairly given a bad rap. On the topic of which of the two is more praiseworthy and exemplary, the definition of admirable, Frederic is the more admirable character because of his will to love rather than to fight for such seemingly meaningless novelties such as heroism, glory, and honor.

His deeper devotion to Catherine than her devotion to him and his extensive exposure to more criticism due to his status as the primary character in the book also proves how he is the more laudable character.

After telling Frederic about her fiancé who passed away (Hemingway 18-19), Catherine forges their steady relationship by saying to him, "You will be good to me, won't you? ...You will, won't you? ... Because we're going to have a strange life" (page 27). Catherine sticks him into a tough situation with no choice, making it hard for him to not "be good to her" or stay by her side because of the guilt he would inevitably experience. Even though it may be argued that Frederic isn't a very admirable character because of his avoidance of war and fighting as well as his...