Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

"I kissed her and saw that her eyes were shut. I kissed both her shut eyes. I thought she was probably a little crazy. It was all right if she was. I did not care what I was getting into. This was better than going every evening to the house for officers where the girls climbed all over you and put your cap on backwards as a sign of affection between their trips upstairs with other officers."

A Farewell to Arms seems to follow Hemingway's typical format for both novels and short stories. All the essential components are present with his stoical and somewhat autobiographical man along with an unreasonable woman struggling to satisfy these same unemotional demands.

Many critics feel that it lacks the emotional punch of its predecessor, Hello to Legs, but I think it was actually better, possibly because arms are easier to relate to than legs. Have you ever known anyone without arms? How about without legs? I rest my case.

Parts of the book do strain credibility. For example, it's hard to believe that a nurse with all four appendages intact would fall for a double-amputee, but when we learn later in the book about (SPOILER) her lack of a pelvis, it explains both her attraction and Hemingway's description of her as "an amorphous blob, beautiful and fragile, a vision of boneless beauty." Hemingway's prose, by the way, is as brief as always, with all of the sentences in the second half being three words long or shorter.

But seriously folks, Hemingway is far too caught up with emotionless undeveloped characters, drinking, women, sex, war, and Americans living in foreign countries. I did think his minimalist style was creative and unique and the frequent dialog told the story well. Obviously Hemingway was obsessed with his own experiences, and although he wrote them simplistically, his attempts to unveil his emotional pain paints a beautiful picture. His story is sad, bitter, and depressing, but it is a story he tells with sincerity.


Christopher said...

You think Hemingway's characters are undeveloped? Hmmmm...

Carlton said...

I don't know what to believe and what not to believe from this post.
Hello to Legs...nice.