The “War to end all Wars”, eradicated millions of innocent, vexed souls and desecrated the survivors morally. In the novel A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemmingway elaborately illustrates his motifs to create deep meaning and intricate ideas for Frederick Henry. Hemmingway uses recurring symbols known as motifs, including rain and snow, masculinity, and Catherine’s hair to accentuate symbolic ideas and realistic perspectives about WWI.
Rain represents the disintegration of happiness, whereas snow exhibits the contrary, a temporary delay to the abominations of the war, each weather condition intricately exhibiting the use of iceberg principles to constitute meaning and foreshadowing. Three forms of masculinity exist in the novel; the domineering personality, competence, and the macho man that visits whorehouses and drinks alcohol on a regular basis. Henry is a round character, and his form of masculinity changes throughout the novel, realizing that the war was much more complex than he had originally anticipated, thus loosening his responsibilities.
There is also Catherine’s hair which is seen as a true beauty in Henry’s perspective, erasing any thought of the war, and bringing him to an ephemeral solace from the harsh realities of the world while developing their relationship. The two most potent motifs are snow and rain, controversial denotations, used multiple times in the novel to represent happiness and its destruction. In Henry’s analysis of the geography in his Cabin in Switzerland, he notices, “That fall, the snow came very late” (289).
The snow implies that war will be temporarily delayed, bringing about an ephemeral solace for the soldiers involved due to their inability to fight in the weather condition, putting them in stand-downs. Since snow represented happiness, it also expressed Henry’s mood of happiness, away from war, in a peaceful country with his beloved Catherine. The strong use of snow creates an abstract tone in the passage, because with all snow, there comes rain because happiness and love does not last forever.
Catherine expresses her consternation towards the rain numerous times in the novel, such as when Henry questions her thoughts, in which she replies, “I’m afraid of the rain because sometimes I see myself dead in it… and sometimes I see you dead in it” (126). Her fear of the rain emanates from her explicit memories of her fiance’s death report, which took place during the rain. She pictures Henry and herself dead in it and cannot brush the feeling off. “After a while, I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain. ” (332).
At the end of the novel, rain is used again for the last time to represent the disintegration of happiness effectively represent his delineating fear and depression. It is the last thing Hemmingway emphasizes in the novel, due to its significance to Henry’s thought process and it’s powerful meaning, because while war can be avoided, rain cannot. To avoid this feeling of hopelessness and confusion, masculinity is an important aspect that many men in A Farewell to Arms undertake, whether they display a form of dominance, mature/good-mannered, or the macho-man. Rinaldi is a macho man, asking Henry, “Have you any money… loan me fifty lire. He wants to make a striking impression on the girls by seeming rich and very confident. As the novel progresses, Rinaldi’s form of masculinity in visiting whorehouses and having alcohol on a regular basis, gives him an STD know as syphilis. He maintains his sexual distinction by attacking the priest’s inability to have a relationship with any girls. Henry displays a noble form of manhood at the beginning of the novel when one of the ambulance drivers get wounded severely, “I tried to get closer to Passini to try to put a tourniquet on the legs, but I could not move.
I tried again and my leg moved a little. ” (55). Henry is a round character, meaning he changes throughout the novel. During Henry’s stay in Milan’s hospital he displays a different, less considerate form of masculinity after becoming jaundiced from heavy alcohol assumption, as displayed to the hospital superintendent, “Miss Van Campen… did you ever know a man who tried to disable himself by kicking himself in the scrotum? ” (143). His new, less caring manhood, contributed to alcohol, which resulted from his change in masculinity.
When Henry is first at the front, he displays a great deal of honor and sacrifice, even achieving a silver medal for his service. After the mortar bombardment however, Henry realized that his “little adventure” was much more serious than he had originally thought, slackening his appearance and feeling less responsible for the war effort. Due to his behavior, he drinks himself to jaundice and challenges Mrs Van Campen, which in term causes his deportation back to the front.
In the interval of time that Henry is involved with and tries to get away from war, he takes every opportunity he can to get his mind off of it. The main contributor is Catherine’s hair, a very significant symbol that intrigues Henry into a complicated relationship, representing the couple’s isolation from the war and temporary solace. When Henry is first introduced to Catherine as an acquaintance, he tells her, “You have beautiful hair” (19). The first aspect Henry notices about Catherine is her hair, foreshadowing future affiliation and relationships.
Henry is so enthralled by Catherine’s appearance, that when Catherine tells him that she was going to cut it as a contribution to her fiance’s death, he insisted that she didn’t. He ensured that she looked too beautiful the way she was and insisted that she would be able to withstand the urge and guilt. “She had wonderfully beautiful hair and I would lie sometimes and watch her twisting it up in the light… ” (114). Henry’s unsophisticated and childish attitude is present through his description, on account of his inconspicuous relationship with Catherine.
Unable to live a normal life together, stuck in a world of meaningless destruction, Catherine’s hair “surrounds him like a waterfall” blocking out rational thought. In the short interval of time that Henry see’s Catherine and her hair, he is drifted away from the war, creating that temporary solace in the same way snow does. Hemmingway’s elaborate usage of metaphors and deep details create sensory image, which efficaciously develops Henry’s personality and his contemplation towards Catherine and the war.
Through incorporating these symbolic ideas throughout the novel, Hemmingway elegantly evaluates Henry’s perspective on the war, his change in the principles of masculinity, and his love for Catherine. Powerful uses of iceberg principles accounted with multiple recurrences elaborated his life during war both physically and mentally. Snow representing happiness, not only showed Henry’s mood in the new environment, but also presented an iceberg principle and the foreshadowing of a dark future.
The weather was no longer snowy, but it was raining, which developed Henry’s mood and perspective of his depression resulting from his beloved Catherine’s death. His views on masculinity changed from a noble, self-sacrificing man, not once thinking about what horrors the war comprises of. As the story progresses, Henry grows more fond of his relationship with Catherine, and becomes more detached from the war, ultimately bringing him to a form of complete disregard, in which he challenges his hospital superintendent’s authority in pure spite.
His view on masculinity may have not changed had it not been for his relationship with Catherine, mostly described with her hair. Explicit uses and details of her hair develops Henry’s relationship with her immensely, and helps represent their isolation from the war. Henry is really just a reflection of Hemmingway’s life, so “carpe dium” seize the day, as Henry did multiple times to acquire temporary solace as described using motifs, for tomorrow may never come.