Imagery and Symbolism in Ernest Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms".

Essay by fenway82University, Bachelor'sA-, May 2003

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When reading Ernest Hemmingway's A Farewell to Arms, I was struck by the vivid images he conveys with his descriptions of nature and the world. Hemmingway's stark prose lends an air of bleakness to the story that truly puts the horrors and emotional turmoil of war into perspective. Although I was shocked and somewhat disappointed at the ending, I can see where Catherine's death is necessary to complete the cycle and terminate the wartime romance just as the war must eventually terminate. I will say, however, that the death of Catherine stands right up there with the death of Cordelia in King Lear, as the all time tragic heroine losses; just as disturbing and ultimately just as necessary. In class, we had discussed Hemmingway's use of the mountains and the plains as metaphors for good and evil, heaven and hell. We also discussed Hemmingway's use of rain to foreshadow disastrous events.

However, until I read Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Farewell To Arms, I never truly appreciated the way Hemmingway used symbolism to establish a viable backdrop for his story. This collection of critical essays really illuminated the relationship that Hemmingway establishes between nature, places and people.

Ray B. West, Jr. states that, "Malcolm Cowley has likened Frederic Henry's plunge into the river to escape execution as a baptism - a symbol of Frederic's entering the world of the initiated". Everyone agrees that Frederic Henry's leap into the Tagliamento River was a sort of rebirth and can be considered somewhat as a leap of faith. Faith was a quality that, up to that point in the novel, was sorely lacking in Frederick Henry's repertoire. However, his conversion to this more noble state did not come easily. In fact, it can be said that Frederic Henry was dragged kicking and...