World War II propels the characters in A Farewell to Arms. Fredrick Henry’s actions are determined by his position until he deserts the army. It is during his escape Henry resolves that he is through with the war, a war in which he really has no place, and decides that all he wants is to be with Catherine. Henry doesn’t seem to be agonizingly concerned with matters of right or wrong in the war and it seems, in fact, separate from him. Even when he is injured it doesn’t appear that he is really a part of the war, which surrounds him.
He maintains a distance from it and this distance isn’t really closed until Aymo is killed by his own army, he discovers that Bonello is only staying with him out of respect, and he is almost killed as a spy. After this he resolves to desert the army and be reunited with his love, Catherine. Fredrick and Catherine are playing the ‘game’; of love, both for different reasons, but eventually move to play it as a team. Henry is role-playing to regain the sense of order he has lost when he realizes the futility of the war and his lack of place in it.
Catharine is role-playing to deal with the loss of her fiance and to try to find order in the arena of the war. When they are able to role-play together, ‘ the promise of mutual support’; is what becomes so important to them as they try to cope with their individual human vulnerability. Floating down the river with barely a hold on a piece of wood his life, he abandons everything except Catherine and lets the river take him to a new life that becomes increasingly difficult to understand.
The escape to Switzerland seemed too perfect for a book that set a tone of ugliness in the world that was only dotted with pure love like Henry’s and Cat’s and I knew the story couldn’t end with bliss in the slopes of Montreux. In a world where the abstracts of glory, honor, and sacrifice meant little to Fredric, his physical association with Catherine was the only thing he had and it was taken away from him long before she died.
The love that Fredric and Catherine had for each other was more than could be explained in words and Fredric makes it known that words are not really effective at describing the flesh blood details. Their love during an ugly war was not to be recreated or modeled even as much as through a baby conceived by their love. The baby could not be born alive because their love was beautiful yet doomed so that nothing could come out of it.