Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms

Essay by ascraeusUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, December 2007

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A Farewell To ArmsIn this study, I will make a comparison between the book version of “ A Farewell to Arms” which is one of the well known novels of Ernest Hemingway and the film version of it. Sometimes I will make some criticism on the film and highlight some points that are different from the book because the film version has to be bounded to the original form and it should refer directly to the book. So I will explain each of my comparisons in detail to make the difference more visible.

First of all, Hemingway is a war time writer. He experienced the atmosphere of war in his real life and it effected him in many ways . When we look at the post war era, we see that the writers of that time have focused on the things such as alcohol, loss of American ideals, loss of hope, self exile, self destruction, and pessimism.

It is not difficult to see that all of these themes are the reflections of the war on writers’ psychology and works. What they produced were directly related to the war time. The years immediately after World War I brought a highly vocal rebellion against established social, sexual, and aesthetic conventions and a vigorous attempt to establish new values. Most of the writers went to Europe, living mostly in Paris as expatriates. They willingly accepted the name “ lost generation.” Out of their disillusion and rejection, the writers built a new literature, impressive in the glittering1920s and the years that followed. So, lost Generation refers to a group of American literary notables who lived in Paris and other parts of Europe from the time period which saw the end of World War I to the beginning of the Great Depression Era. Ernest Hemingway was one of them. Everything he experienced was a tool for him to use in his productions. By preparing my paper on this issue, I also want to underline how he is a mirror of his time and his own psychology in that time. I’m going to analyse the book in relation to the film of it and will find out remarkable differences of two versions.

First of all, the most remarkable difference I noticed when I watced the film was the “love” theme in the film. The love of Catherine and Henry was emphasized too much in the film and I watched it as I was watching a love movie. But in the book, the scenes from the war were reflected to the reader in some chapters and they were too realistic. While watching the movie I waited for the moments of war’s bloody atmosphere because it was a war period’s production but I was disappointed. Other than this, lots of details were also changed or removed in movie version. For instance the meeting of Catherine and Henry was in the hospital. Ferguson and Rinaldi were also with them in the book but in film they met at a party and nobody introduce them to each other. When Henry saw Catherine alone, he went near her and they knew each other. Another detail I noticed was the Priest issue. In many chapters of the book, we read lots of conversation about him. The soldiers always humiliated him by mocking on his belief in God. Their conversations were too denigrating. But in the movie we saw no scene of that kind of conversation about Priest and his belief. Not only the Priest scenes but also faith, God and religion issues were all removed from the movie. We don’t see those themes in the film although they were underlined in the book. When Henry was taken to the hospital because of his leg, a nurse at the hospital caused some problems claiming thatthere was no room for Henry, but in the movie we don’t see such an event. Additionally we watched that the Priest married Henry and Catherine in hospital’s room. Of course it was not legal or real marriage, he just prayed for them but the book didn’t give such an information to us, so we were shocked. Henry’s operation in Milan was also too fast in the film although it was told throughout many chapters in book. In the book, Henry had taken a gun near him while leaving the hotel and Catherine had objected it severely. But this scene was completely removed in the film. It again shows us that the film version was really too far from the war mood and war’s materialistic elements such as gun.

In the movie, when Henry went to front leaving Catherine behind, Catherine went to Switzerland which was the neares place to Italy but in the book Henry escaped from the front to find Catherine. He went to the hospital in Italy but couldn’t find Catherine because she had left. The reason for Henry’s escaping also differed in the movie. For example The book told us that Henry left the front to get out of the war’s atmosphere and hard conditions but the movie was completely different. Henry and Catherine wrote many letters to each other but unfortunately Rinaldi was the person who was checking out the letters and when he saw their letters, he didn’t send them to lovers because he had still some jealousy towards Catherine and Henry’s love. So he censorred the letters. This event caused Henry to be worried about Catherine’s health and he escaped from the front. That was what the film said.

Another important thing is the shooting of sergeant by Henry in the book. Although it was very significant event, it wasn’t even mentioned in the film. War had many psychological effects on Henry and other soldiers and Henry’s attempt to kill one of the sergeants was a perfect example of that psychology. Maybe he wouldn’t do such a thing in ordinary life but he did in war just because of a stupid reason. We were very influenced by that event whilereading the book but we didn’t see anything about those chapters in the film. Also Aymo’s shooting by his own army was very important issue in the book which was the proof of Italianarmy’s failure in organization. That’s why Bonello ecsaped from the war. He didn’t trust Italians any more after Aymo’s death. He could be the next one to be killed. All of these events were removed from the film version. I think those scenes should be showed to the spectators in the film because the mistrust of soldiers to their own army was a shame for a country. So, those scenes were a kind of criticism of the Italian army in the book but the movie didn’t mention about them. Here, again we see that the issues related to the war were as if ignored in the movie. What kinds of feelings and thoughts dominated the soul of Henry when he shot the sergeant? What did they feel when they witnessed their friend’s deathvin front of them by their own soldiers? What kind of a disaster Henry experienced in his inner world when one of his friend was killed and the other one escaped? All of these questions were worth to ask but there is no answer for them in the movie. So I think it is a big missing part from a literary point of view. All of these facts should be clearly given to the spectators in order to highlight the psychological corruption of characters in the novel.

The pregnancy of Catherine was also another topic that differed in the book and novel. At the beginning of the book, Catherine told it to Henry and he became too happy when he heard this. But in the movie, Henry heard it from Helen Ferguson towards the end of the book while Catherine was in Switzerland. At first, she didn’t want to reveal where Catherine was. Because, as we know from the book, Helen didn’t approve their illegal relationship but she couldn’t endure Henry’s insistences any more and had to say where Catherine was. So Henry left Italy immediately to go Switzerland near Cath. His journey was completely different again in the movie. Although we read that Henry and Catherine went to Switzerland together on barmen’s boat, the movie didn’t say the same. Henry was alone in theboat because Catherine was already there. While getting on the boat, Rinaldi was near Henry in the movie but it should be barmen according to the book. His arrival to Switzerland and hisstory until he found Catherine were all the same in the book and the movie. In the book, they lived happily for a few months together in a place which was like a pansion and they decided to go to hospital when Catherine’s day to give birth approached. They stayed in the hospital together for a few days and Henry even helped Catherine’s breathing with doctor. The sufferings of Catherine was told in detail in the book. But in the movie, Henry directly went to the hospital and saw Catherine in stretcher. We didn’t see the days they lived happily in the film. She was taken to the birth room and we suddenly learnt that the baby died. Everything happened so quickly in the movie that we could just see the death of Catherine after a very short conversation with Henry.

By looking at the most visible differences I underlined above, we can summarize that the book was more religious- centered and more realistic in aspect of war because we were informed about war and the front in details but the movie was completely love based and there was nearly no sign of World War I. It also didn’t touch neither on the religious issues nor the priest. In the book we could see the effects of “Lost Genaration” period on people such as loss of hope, loss of values, alcohol…etc. But the movie just showed alcohol as a destructive effect of war on people. They used it as a tool for forgetting the war.

Lastly, the book told us that the love of Catherine and Henry was just like a game that occured as a result of existentionalism. Through the end of the book, we could understand that it was real. But the movie was like a love story. Their love was told in a realistic mood and everything turned around it. No political issues, no religion and no racism…So it sounds as if there is more differences rather than similarities, doesn’t it? To me the book was much more effective and fantastic. I advise the book version to the ones who haven’t read it yet…Works CitedHemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. Arrow Book, 1994.

Borzage, Frank. A Farewell to Arms. 1392