Ernest Hemingways 1914-1918 autobiographical novel, A Farewell to Arms, takes place on the Italian front during World War I. Frederic Henry, the main character, is a young American ambulance driver for the Italian army during the war. He is extremely disciplined and courageous, but feels detached from life. Rinaldi, a surgeon and friend of Frederics, introduces him to an English nurse named Catherine Barkley. Once introduced, Frederic discovers a capacity for love that he never knew he held. They begin seeing each other frequently, but keep it secret for fear of the army getting involved.
While they were dating Henry was hurt in the war and sent to another hospital away from Catherine. Throughout the novel Frederic changes from an innocent, young soldier to a Hemingway code hero. Critics gave the term code hero to Hemingways novels because of the exact characteristics of writing each has. A code hero is one who is a brave man of action, knowledge, stoical, and a strong survivor. Frederics change into the code hero is displayed through his change in the way he looks at life and war. His experiences show that life is a trap and there is no hope for happiness.
In the beginning Frederic exhibits few characteristics of becoming the code hero. His views on life and the war are extremely naive, innocent, and idealistic. Early in the book he is more of a spectator to the war because he only notices his surroundings, but misses the effects of the situation he is in. When talking about the war and the epidemic of cholera that has come through, he says, “Only seven thousand have died. ” This illustrates his innocent perception of the war because he doesnt acknowledge how many people have actually died. Without understanding the reality of his surroundings he forgets that he too can die from the war.
When the Italian army decides they must attack, Frederic must then leave for the battle site so he will be capable of getting anyone who is injured or killed. On his way he begins to notice the elegance of the countryside. This shows that his views of war are still idealistic through the fact that he still takes time to admire the beauty of the area around him. He still doesnt see the destruction of the war that is happening right before his eyes. At the front, while setting waiting for the attack, he begins a conversation with another ambulance driver named Passini.
Frederic makes patriotic comments to Passini by defending the fighting and commenting that defeat is worse than war. Frederic gets hungry and goes after a piece of cheese. He insists on eating with the other soldiers in an attempt to bring fairness and equality to the army. This is impossible because of the rank status of officers compared to soldiers. He sits down on after getting the cheese and at that moment a shell goes off sending a bright light in front of him. At first Frederic thought he was dead because of the pain, but the blast had sent shrapnel heavily into his leg.
After being taken to hospital and looked at Frederic has surgery done to his knee. He is then put on leave for the summer to let it heal. The bomb that had injured Frederic killed the other ambulance driver, Passini. This reality marked the beginning his of conversion into the code hero. This conversion however, is not brought by just one event. Later on, once Frederic has returned to the war, one of his men, Aymo, got an ambulance stuck in the mud. At this point Frederic had taken on two engineering sergeants. He orders them to help cut brush to free the car but they both refuse.
They begin to walk away and Frederic fires three shots and takes one of them down. Bonello, another member of his crew, goes and finishes off the wounded sergeant. This shows how he slowly begins to convert into the code hero because it represents his courageous character in the fact that he takes any challenging matter into his own hands. Also, once back on their way to rejoin the rest of their people, they must cross a bridge into what has already been claimed German territory. On their way across shots are fired in their direction and Aymo is hit. They move to see where he was shot and Frederic says, “His head ought to be uphill.
They then notice that he has been shot in the back of the neck and the bullet pierced through under the right eye. Once Aymo is dead they turn around only to find that the Germans did not fire the shots, but that it was the Italians. Frederic is now beginning to see the destruction of the war. His idealistic views are converting to those of the code hero. People play a part in the transformation of Frederic into the code hero as well. His friend at the base, Rinaldi, has a very cynical outlook on life. This outlook has the idea that life is a trap and there is no hope for happiness.
Rinaldi begins to lead Frederic into a perspective much like his own. One example is when he and Rinaldi are talking about the war and what has happened since Frederic has been on leave. Rinaldi says, “But now, baby, its all over. I dont operate now and I feel like hell. This is a terrible war baby. You believe me when I say it. ” Rinaldis view of life is being exposed to Frederic. Frederic is understanding that life really is a trap and that nothing will bring happiness. The only thing that keeps him from becoming the code hero is his love for Catherine. But she too is teaching him cynicism.
She shows him the importance of courage in life and gives him the idea that you must be strong to fight through life. When Frederic is introduced to her views, they teach him to believe in them. Another example of Frederics conversion is when he plays a game of billiards with a man named Count Greffi. Count Greffi teaches him the importance of surviving. He tells Frederic that you must value life and what it gives you. Frederic understands this concept and that pushes him even more toward becoming the ccesarean ode hero. Frederics conversion into the code hero is finalized in the end of the novel.
Catherine begins to go into labor and they must go to the hospital. They find out from the doctor that her pelvic bone is too small to have the baby. Therefore they must do a cesarean section. A baby boy was delivered, but never had a heartbeat. He was choked to death by the umbilical cord. Once Frederic finds out he begins to talk to himself about the child and says, “But they killed you in the end. ” Frederic is referring “they” as life and the hopelessness it holds. Also, during the same part, he starts talking about his life and says, “I wished the hell Id been choked like that. No I didnt.
This shows the characteristic of being a survivor. He knows life is inevitable and that he must survive. He then finds out that Catherine is hemorrhaging and that she is going to die. He goes in to see her, but her speech was limited. While he is there she says, “Im not a bit afraid of it. Its just a dirty trick. ” Her cynic outlook on life proves that life is no more than a trick. During her last moments, Frederic is very unemotional. He has acquired the knowledge that life is an uphill struggle, which must be experienced alone and is inescapable to man. This proves his cynic outlook on life, and finalizes him as the code hero.