Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Ancient and modern societies have deployed wars as a means of solving conflicts or advancing certain interests. The Infamous wars in the world are the World War I and World War II which happened in the 20th C. These two wars took place for the purpose of advancing political and economical gains of the participating countries. Countries wanted to gain powerful control over others on military, economic resources and even resizing the countries boundaries by capturing other nations. A win in war guaranteed superiority hence opportunity to rule over the subdued nation.

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War and literature

Literature, has borrowed a lot from the occurrence of the World War 1 and World War II. Literature is considered as a mirror of the society. The events that took place during these wars have shaped authors of the ancient and modern society. The authors aimed to bring into light the true picture of what went on in the course of the war. The significance of these wars to literature thus can be observed in the aspect of the style and content form of literary writers. Literature art saw the emergence of several literary authors during the world wars and after. Some of the notable literary writers who have voiced their thought on negative effects world wars had on the society include:

Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

First Casualty by Ben Elton

Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

All Quiet on The Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Content forms a significant aspect in identification of war literature. It is the message that authors want to present to their audience. In war literature the above authors used their creative arts as writers to show the world that although these wars presented massive growth to countries in regard to military advancements and economic gains, the social, cultural, economical and political society setup systems suffered immensely. This research analyses some of the negative effects of war as presented in these creative writings.

Despair, grief and disillusionment

Despair, grief and disillusionment are some of the psychological effects that wars submit Citizens and the soldiers to. These effects can have a lasting scar to the people involved influencing the way they think and act.

Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms presents a picture of soldiers and citizens disillusioned with the war. The soldier with Hernia admits to having thrown away his truss in order to avoid returning to the war front. He says “I threw away the goddam truss so it could get bad and I would not have to go to the line again” (Hemingway 37). Henry then offers to help him “You get out and fall down by the road and get a bump on your head and I’ll pick you up on our way back and take you to a hospital.” By offering to help, Henry is demonstrating his lost will to pursue the course of the war as he considers the war to be out of his interest. Sentiments of Henry are echoed by Rinaldi who does admit to the fact that war has made him depressed “This war is killing me,” Rinaldi said, “I am very depressed by it (Hemingway 177).

Miss Barkley in Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms is a woman filled with grief. Miss Barkley’s boyfriend who was a soldier is killed in the war. His death does not only cause Miss Barkley grief but it leads her to desperation in finding someone who can comfort her. Her desperation is evident in the way she easily falls for Henry at their first encounter. She tells him “you are sweet… I’d be glad to kiss you if you don’t mind.” (Hemingway 27).Barkley would love forgetting the nasty experience.

In addition, throughout Farewell to Arms novel, soldiers indulge in alcoholism and drug abuse. Their main reason is to get the troubles of war out of their mind. This illustrates the psychological turmoil that the soldiers are subjected to. Feelings of happiness have eluded them and alcohol and drug abuse present their only choice to refilling their minds with that ‘feel good’ moment.

Ben Elton’s First Casualty novel also presents elements of disillusionment among the soldiers. In discussion between one of the soldiers and the inspector, the soldier notes “Oh don’t get me wrong inspector, we all know that he is right, the War’s gone Mad, nothing could possibly be worth the price we are paying.” (Elton 129). The soldier’s believe in the war has been shattered completely. The fighting is considered as madness as there isn’t any benefit apart from the country and the Kings’ pride. It is mad fighting when you have no reason for the fight.

Decay of moral values

War literature seems to amplify the fact that during war period, non-soldiers and soldiers are so much concerned with themselves that they become complacent, lack care for others and general decay of moral values. This is attributed to the harsh climate of wars which lead to basic human moral values and ethics being degenerated. War climate is a climate that is hard to separate an enemy from a friend. People are usually preoccupied in trying to save themselves rather than trying to help others.

Medical practitioners and first aid providers are expected to demonstrate kindness and tender care to their patients. These professionals act in contrary in the novel Farewell to Arms by Hemingway. Henry on arrival in Milan for specialized medical care, the ambulance drivers hold him clumsily as they put him in an elevator. This causes him a lot of pain. Moreover, one of them is drunk “His breath came in my face metallic with garlic and red wine (Hemingway 87). He is also bandaged with dirty bandages “When I woke up, I looked around…my legs in the dirty bandages…” (Hemingway (90). The hospitals are not able to acquire proper facilities for war victims despite being new.

In Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves, the author displays a group of men joking over a dead body “Out of the light, you old bastard, Do you own this bloody trench.” (Graves, 100). This context portrays a society that has become so used to death that death does not illicit fear anymore. This complacency is further heightened when there is heavy bombardments and Graves is only concerned with his cup of tea which is spilled (Graves 188)

During the retreat in Farewell to Arms novel Henry and the companion pick up two girls who were in desperate help to run away from the war front. One of the soldiers Bonello does not demonstrate the virtue of kindness. He wants to take advantage of the girls to advance his sexual urge “he put his hand on the girl’s thigh and squeezed it in a friendly way. The girl drew her shawl tight around her and pushed his hand away (Hemingway 208).

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas novel by Thompson presents a society that is punishing what is right and condoning what is wrong, As the Duke continues to read the newspaper, a small article talks about how Mohammed Ali has a final appeal of a case in court which he had been sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to kill “slopes.” This illustrates the moral decay of the society. A criminal was likely to get a shorter jail term than a person who had refused to join the military and aid in killings. What is right is considered a serious offence.


Discrimination refers to isolation of an individual on basis of race, religion, color and sex. The war era period was characterized with a lot of discrimination. Discrimination led to hatred which fueled the wars. Notable forms of discrimination included nationality and sex/gender

War discriminates the human race based on nationality and patriotism to warring parties. Hemingway’s Farewell to War is a classic example. While in Italy for specialized treatment, Henry requests for a barber. He is mistreated by the barber whom we come to understand that had mistakenly identified Henry as an Australian. The porter says that the barber would have gone as far as killing Henry but fear prevented him. In addition, the doctor to Henry refers to Australians as ‘sons of bitches’ he even asks Henry how many he had managed to kill (Hemingway 101). The Italians and Australians are enemies during the war. Patriotism and allegiance to each country has created a segregation gap among citizens of these nations.

Fear and Loathing Las Vegas reveals racist nature of the American military during thje Vietnam War decay of moral values. This is portrayed in a copy of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper the Duke was reading. “…she was just a slope anyway.” This is in reference to killing of Asiatic origin person. His killing is considered right for simple reason that he from the race of the enemy camp. A ‘slope’ referred to Asiatic community. The massive killings during the Vietnam War were ironically regarded as success by the American government.

Disruption of Human lives

Wars disrupt the social political and economical functioning of a society. During the World War 1 as brought by Henry Hemingway in Farewell to Arms, these fundamental pillars of the society were disrupted. The process of love between a man and woman cannot hold. As a soldier, Henry believes he cannot fall in love with a woman just because of her job nature. When we meet Henry on his first encounter with Catherine, Henry paints a picture of hypocritical demonstration of love.

Secondly, Henry in Farewell to Arms by Henry Hemingway novel states that. “There were riots twice in town against the war and bad in Turin (Hemingway 142) this illustrates that the daily activities of people were disrupted as they came out to air their views in regard to war proceedings.

All Quiet on the Western Front author Erich Maria Remarque portrays soldiers who have been cut out from the society and deprived fundamental physiological needs such as a need to have a romantic sexual experience. Recruitment into the army in this novel happens at a very young age of around 20 years. The young men are at a ripe energy of starting to experience romantic life when they are enlisted to war. This illustrated by Paul who poses a statement“we can hardly credit those things happen.” (Remarque 141) in reference to a poster of a woman wearing a white dress and a red belt

Paul Bauner in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front represents a figure alienated from the rest of Civilians. War has profound effects on people. Not only does it damage the souls of people but also the physical body. Paul Bauner is the novel’s protagonist taking part in the World War 1 as a German soldier. He witnesses the horrifying death of his fellow soldiers through grisly bullet wounds and explosives. He is affected by these events and can be seen by his inability to relate to other civilians while on leave.

Migration of residents

During the war period, families and residents of the war areas are forced to migrate to safer areas. On page 200 in Farewell to Arms, Henry Hemingway narrates that Gorizzia town was almost empty.

“In the night many peasants had joined the column from the roads of the country and in the column there were carts loaded with household goods; there were mirrors projecting up between mattresses, and chickens and ducks tied to carts. There was a sewing-machine on the cart ahead of us in the rain. They had saved the most valuable things” (pg 211)

The above quotes paint a picture of people migrating away from their homes. People have saved belongings they believe are most important. Moreover there were several houses that were abandoned. The narrator says “The whole country was moving, as well as the army (Hemingway 233)

Senseless murder and brutality

Wars are usually filled with senseless murder and brutality. The killing of one of the two sergeants by Henry who refused to help get out Aymo’s car that had stuck in mud is a clear example. The sergeant is killed for failing to honor an order which is not from their leader and to which they see no reason to respond to. “I opened up my holster, took the pistol, aimed at the one who had talked the most, and fired. I missed and they both started to run. I shot three times and dropped one” (Hemingway 218). Bonello sees no crime in this act and not only does he offer to finish up the wounded sergeant; he finds it a special accomplishment. The irony in this killing is that they still had to abandon the car after it failed to come out.

Soldiers with the rank of a colonel, a major or a higher rank are killed for crimes of abandoning their troops. This act is brutal in that the officers are not given a chance to defend themselves. They were convicted to death without trial. “He was not allowed to make an explanation” (Hemingway 240). We the readers are aware that these soldiers had not abandoned their troops and these murders have no basis. Aymo an Italian soldier is also shot by fellow Italian soldiers. These soldiers are acting out of fear of Germans who are perceived to have broken barriers.

Remarque in the novel All quiet on the Western Front describes World War 1 as beastly. The Germans are actually enjoying killing the enemy soldiers and even call it a game of Germans. The soldiers are transformed from being humans into animals/beasts. “… We reach the zone where the front begins and become the instant human animal (Remarque 56)


In the course of war, fear is instilled not only to the area residents but also the soldier. Bonello a soldier with the Italian troops has surrendered to the enemy soldiers. From discussion of Henry and Tenente, we realize that his main reason to surrendering was fear of being killed. “He was afraid we would get killed.” (Hemingway 232). Bonello viewed being a prisoner as a better option to death.

Residents and former soldiers leave in fear of being arrested. “If you have nothing to fear an arrest is nothing. But it is always bad to be arrested — especially now.” (Hemingway 283). Henry after escaping the war front, fear haunts him when he is told that he was being sought after to be arrested for having been earlier an officer and was now out of uniform. He and Catherine are forced to flee.

Soldiers in the novel All Quiet on the Western Front present a picture of soldiers who leave on constant fear of physical danger as the prospects of blown up are so high. Paul the protagonist says that he wished that one day he woke up and found all that had been gone forever. Paul is referring to the wars and shows how soldiers dreamt of the end to the war but still woke up to it

Destruction of property

World War 1 was characterized use of heavy machinery and explosives. Farewell to Arms by Henry Hemingway illustrates the destructive nature this war brought to the native peasants. The narrator says “The night we helped empty the field hospital that had been set up in the least ruined villages of the plateau” (Hemingway 200). In addition Henry notes that there were blown up bridges (Hemingway 223) which hindered accessibility to some areas. There are many abandoned farm houses.

Loss of life

War is usually characterized by massive loss of life due to involvement of weapons. Farewell to Arms by Hemingway is a classic example. Catherine says that his former boyfriend was killed in the war. Catherine describes his death as a ghastly show (Hemingway 18).

Soldiers too are not spared to the war onslaught. Rossini and many other Italian soldiers when their camp is hit by a trench mortar shell from the enemy camp. Henry on page 79 says “when they lifted you up out of bed to carry you into the dressing room you could look out of the window and see the new graves in the garden.” The presents of fresh graves seem s to amplify the concept of loss of life.


The various novels analyzed in this research have shown that Wars despite having been used to advance political and economical, communities and societies that were involved in this war were left with more harm than good. The research has looked at the World War 1, the World War II and the Vietnam War. Wars create fear, disillusionment, massive migration of people, murder, loss of life, decay of moral values and discrimination among several others.


Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart

of the American Dream. London: Flamingo, 1972

Hemingway, Ernest (1929). Hemingway, Seán, ed. A Farewell to Arms (The Special Edition ed.). London: William Heinemann.

Elton, B. (2006). The first casualty. London: Black Swan.

Graves, R. (2011). Goodbye to all that. London: Viking.

Remarque, E. M., & Murdoch, B. (1996). All quiet on the Western Front. London: Vintage.

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