Frederic Henry

Frederic Henry’s perspective and attitude about war changes drastically in this story by Hemingway. How and why does Henry’s change happen?

Frederic Henry is a confused young American working with Italian ambulance service during the World War 1. In “A Farewell to Arms”, Hemingway uses the experiences of the main character, Henry, to describe a realistic account of war.  Throughout the course of “A Farewell to Arms,” Henry undergoes significant development, including his attitude about war. He at first believes that war is awful but necessary that he shares in the Italian cause for independence.  At this time Henry has not experienced any true loss. However, as the stakes in the war intensified Henry became pessimistic about the war by questioning its meaning and importance to him.

Henry’s perspective about war changes tremendously from optimistic to deeply pessimistic due to loss that leaves him desolate. Henry expresses different attitudes toward war. At the beginning, Henry joins the Italian cause without paying much attention to the dangers of the war. Instead of going back to America when the war broke out, Henry felt a sense of commitment to assisting Italians win this war and argues against giving up (Hemingway 39). But as reality dawned on him after being wounded and witnessing the death of a comrade, Henry realized the horrors war can bring.

He started to realize that he joined the war for adventure but not to be killed.  Once the war started to take a toll on him, Henry became less enthusiastic and disillusioned (Hemingway 37). After healing, Henry returns to the front only for the Italian defense line to break forcing the Italians to retreat. During this retreat, Henry becomes sick of the war and decides to leave rather than get killed. His farewell to arms shows he has changes his attitude towards war.

“A Farewell to Arms” is anti-war. As Henry matures and changes, his heroics changes to cowardly actions as he questions the war in terms of meaning and importance to him. Through Henry, Hemingway describes the trauma and horrors war can inflict on people. The novel expresses Hemingway’s own attitude toward the war.

Work Cited

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Cengage Learning, 1929.

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