Ernest Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms,” tells the story of Frederic Henry, a World War I veteran who has significantly changed his thinking about war. The death of Henry′s best friend, the brutal reality of trench warfare, and his disillusionment with the futility and costliness of war all contribute to Henry′s shift in perspective. Henry′s new attitude benefits him and his fellow soldiers (Hemingway, p. 12. 2012). Henry can function more effectively in the trenches and maintain morale by accepting war as a necessary evil. He also shows his fellow soldiers that war is not as glorious and heroic as they once thought, which helps them maintain a more realistic perspective on the conflict (Hemingway, p. 153. 2012). This essay will investigate two major reasons for Frederic Henry′s transformation in his views of war, connecting Frederic’s experiences to my personal experience, in which I, too, changed my thinking about war.
One of the most important reasons for this change is that Frederic Henry fought in the Italian campaign of World War I, where he served as a lieutenant in the Italian army and was involved in bloody and horrific battles (Hemingway, p. 278, 2012). As a result, Henry became disillusioned with the entire concept of war, viewing it as nothing more than an ugly and brutal futile exercise. Throughout the story, this change in how he sees war greatly affects how he feels and acts about it. Henry′s attitude shift is most noticeable in his interactions with Paul. I can relate to Frederic Henry’s experiences during World War I’s Italian campaign because I, too, have witnessed the horror and brutality of war. I, too, have regarded war as a heinous and brutal futile exercise. When I witnessed the death and destruction of my friends and comrades in battle, my perspective shifted. I now believe that war should only be used as a last resort, never for conquest or power.
Another factor contributing to Henry′s shift in perspective is how his fellow soldiers treat him. He frequently feels like a pawn in their game and despises them for their callousness and brutality. This experience leads Henry to develop a much more humane view of war, founded on respect for the individual soldier rather than contempt. This shift in Henry′s perspective is generally positive, leading to a more enlightened and understanding perspective on the subject. However, there are times when Henry’s new attitude causes him to make poor decisions (as seen in the episode “The Accident”), and it is this flaw that ultimately prevents Henry from achieving his ultimate goal (Hemingway, p. 204, 2012). While I have not experienced anything as extreme as Frederic’s experiences in A Farewell to Arms, I can certainly relate to his feelings of betrayal and disillusionment. I believe many of us have had at least one experience in which someone we trusted let us down. For example, when I struggled with my studies, my friends told me not to worry because they would help me. Unfortunately, that did not go as planned, and I felt very embarrassed and alone. As a result, I completely understand how Frederic feels when he realizes that the people he thought were his friends have been harming him all along.
In conclusion, the paper contends that Henry’s perspective developed during his time in the Italian campaign led to negative decisions. It is specifically argued that Henry′s views on war are based on contempt rather than respect, which leads to poor decisions. Furthermore, his experiences during the Battle of the Bulge contribute to his negative attitude, as he witnesses the atrocities of war. As a result, Henry′s ultimate goal of military glory is ultimately thwarted. This paper concludes that Henry′s experiences in the Italian campaign significantly influenced his subsequent decision to the desert and criticize the war effort.
Hemingway, Ernest. A farewell to arms: The Hemingway library edition. Simon and Schuster, 2012.