.. oward the end, Ernest started to travel again, but almost the way that someone does who knows that he will soon die. He suddenly started becoming paranoid and to forget things. He became obsessed with sin; his upbringing was showing, but still was inconsistent in his behavior. He never got over feeling like a bad person, as his father, mother and grandfather had taught him.
In the last year of his life, he lived inside of his dreams, similar to his mother, who he hated with all his heart. He was suicidal and had electric shock treatments for his depression and strange behavior. On a Sunday morning, July 2, 1961, Ernest Miller Hemingway killed himself with a shotgun. Ernest Hemingway takes much of the storyline of his novel, A Farewell to Arms, from his personal experiences. The main character of the book, Frederick Henry, often referred to as Tenete, experiences many of the same situations which Hemingway, himself, lived.
Some of these similarities are exact while some are less similar, and some events have a completely different outcome. Hemingway, like Henry, enjoyed drinking large amounts of alcohol. Both of them were involved in World War I, in a medical capacity, but neither of them were regular army personnel. Like Hemingway, Henry was shot in his right knee, during a battle. Both men were Americans, but a difference worth noting was that Hemingway was a driver for the American Red Cross, while Henry was a medic for the Italian Army.
In real life, Hemingway met his love, Agnes, a nurse, in the hospital after being shot; Henry met his love, Catherine Barkley, also a nurse, before he was shot and hospitalized. In both cases, the relationships with these women were strengthened while the men were hospitalized. Another difference is that Hemingway’s romance was short-lived, while, the book seemed to indicate that, Henry’s romance, though they never married, was strong and would have lasted. In A Farewell to Arms, Catherine and her child died while she was giving birth, this was not the case with Agnes who left Henry for an Italian Army officer. It seems to me that the differences between the two men were only surface differences.
They allowed Hemingway to call the novel a work of fiction. Had he written an autobiography the book would probably not have been well-received because Hemingway was not, at that time, a well known author. Although Hemingway denied critics’ views that A Farewell to Arms was symbolic, had he not made any changes they would not have been as impressed with the war atmosphere and with the naivete of a young man who experiences war for the first time. Hemingway, because he was so private, probably did not want to expose his life to everyone, and so the slight changes would prove that it was not himself and his own experiences which he was writing about. I believe that Hemingway had Catherine and her child die, not to look different from his own life, but because he had a sick and morbid personality.
There is great power in being an author, you can make things happen which do not necessarily occur in real life. It is obvious that Hemingway felt, as a young child and throughout his life, powerless, and so he created lives by writing stories. Hemingway acted out his feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness by hunting, drinking, spending lots of money and having many girlfriends. I think that Hemingway was obsessed with death and not too sane. His obsession shows itself in the morbid death of Miss Barkley and her child. Hemingway was probably very confused about religion and sin and somehow felt or feared that people would or should be punished for enjoying life’s pleasures. Probably, the strongest reason for writing about Catherine Barkley’s death and the death of her child was Hemingway’s belief that death comes to everyone; it was inevitable.
Death ends life before you have a chance to learn and live. He writes, in A Farewell to Arms, “They threw you in and told you the rules and the first time they caught you off base they killed you. .. they killed you in the end. You could count on that. Stay around and they would kill you.” Hemingway, even in high school, wrote stories which showed that people should expect the unexpected.
His stories offended and angered the principal of his school. I think that Hemingway liked shocking and annoying people; he was certainly rebellious. If he would have written an ending where Miss Barkley and her child had lived, it would have been too easy and common; Hemingway was certainly not like everyone else, and he seemed to be proud of that fact. Even the fact that Hemingway wrote curses and had a lot of sex in his books shows that he liked to shock people. When his publisher asked that he change some words and make his books more acceptable to people, Hemingway refused, then was forced to compromise.
I think that the major difference between Hemingway and Henry was that Henry was a likable and normal person while Hemingway was strange and very difficult. Hemingway liked doing things his way and either people had to accept him the way he was or too bad for them. I think that Hemingway probably did not even like himself and that was one reason that he couldn’t really like other people. Hemingway seemed to use people only for his own pleasure, and maybe he wanted to think that he was like Henry who was a nicer person. In the book, Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Farewell to Arms, Malcolm Cowley focuses on the symbolism of rain. He sees rain, a frequent occurrence in the book, as symbolizing disaster.
He points out that, at the beginning of A Farewell to Arms, Henry talks about how “things went very badly” and how this is connected to “At the start of the winter came permanent rain”. Later on in the book we see Miss Barkley afraid of rain. She says, “Sometimes I see me dead in it”, referring to the rain. It is raining the entire time Miss Barkley is in childbirth and when both she and her baby die. Wyndham Lewis, in the same book of critical essays, points out that Hemingway is obsessed with war, the setting for much of A Farewell to Arms. He feels that the author sees war as an alternative to baseball, a sport of kings. He says that the war years “were a democratic, a levelling, school”.
For Hemingway, raised in a strict home environment, war is a release; an opportunity to show that he is a real man. The essayist, Edgar Johnson says that for the loner “it is society as a whole that is rejected, social responsibility, social concern” abandoned. Lieutenant Henry, like Hemingway, leads a private life as an isolated individual. He socializes with the officers, talks with the priest and visits the officer’s brothel, but those relationships are superficial. This avoidance of real relationships and involvement do not show an insensitive person, but rather someone who is protecting himself from getting involved and hurt. It is clear that in all of Hemingway’s books and from his own life that he sees the world as his enemy.
Johnson says, “He will solve the problem of dealing with the world by taking refuge in individualism and isolated personal relationships and sensations”. John Killinger says that it was inevitable that Catherine and her baby would die. The theme, that a person is trapped in relationships, is shown in all Hemingway’s stories. In A Farewell to Arms Catherine asks Henry if he feels trapped, now that she is pregnant. He admits that he does, “maybe a little”.
This idea, points out Killinger, is ingrained in Hemingway’s thinking and that he was not too happy about fatherhood. In Cross Country Snow, Nick regrets that he has to give up skiing in the Alps with a male friend to return to his wife who is having a baby. In Hemingway’s story Hills Like White Elephants the man wants his sweetheart to have an abortion so that they can continue as they once lived. In To Have and Have Not, Richard Gordon took his wife to “that dirty aborting horror”. Catherine’s death, in A Farewell to Arms, saves the author’s hero from the hell of a complicated life.