Internal Conflict Within A Farewell To Arms
Essay, Research Paper
In many works, the conflict involved is an inner conflict within the protagonist. Two external forces pulling in opposite directions which the protagonist must sort out and decide which is more important to follow. This is especially evident in the mind of Frederick Henry, from Ernest Hemingway s A Farewell to Arms, for he must decide to follow his obligations to the Italian army in World War I, or follow his love for Catherine Barkley.
Frederick Henry is an American who serves as a lieutenant in the Italian army to a group of ambulance drivers, whom is portrayed by Hemingway as a lost man searching for order and value in his life. Frederick disagrees with the war he is fighting because it is too chaotic and immoral for him to rationalize its cause, however he fights anyway, in order to achieve the discipline which the army forces into his life. This is the source of the first external force which applies to Frederick s thoughts and decisions.
At the start of the novel, Frederick drinks and travels from one house of prostitution to another and yet he is discontent because his life is very unsettled, and lacking any order. He befriends a priest because he admires the fact that the priest lives his life by a set of values that give him an orderly lifestyle, which is another indication that desire for order is controlling his actions. Further into the novel, Frederick becomes involved with Catherine Barkley, and is first starting to show sighs of another force coming into play. His desire to be with Catherine is acting contrary to his desire to remain in the war, and achieve discipline and order. He slowly falls in love with her and, in his love for her, he finds commitment. Their relationship brings some order and value to his life which is, however, completely different from the sort of order found in the army.
With this new form of order in his life, Frederick sees the losing Italian army as total chaos and disorder where he had previously seen discipline and control. He can no longer remain a part of something that is so disorderly and so, he deserts the Italian army. Frederick’s desertion from the Italian army is the turning point of his internal struggle. When Frederick puts aside his involvement in the war, he realizes that Catherine is the order and value in his life and that he does not need anything else to give meaning to his life. At the conclusion of this novel, however, Frederick realizes that he cannot base his life on another person or thing because, ultimately, they will leave or disappoint him. He realizes that the order and values necessary to face the world must come from within himself.
The theme that Hemingway emphasizes throughout the novel is the search for order in a chaotic world. Hemingway conveys this through Frederick’s own personal search during the chaos of World War I. This is what Frederick must come to realize through his involvement with Catherine, that He cannot rely on another person to make his life fulfilling. Frederick’s affair with Catherine prompts him to leave his wild life of prostitutes and drink. He becomes aware of an element of stability in their affair and realizes that the war that he was involved in was too chaotic, so he learns from his affair that a fulfilling life cannot be gained from an establishment either. He and Catherine make a life for themselves totally isolated from everything and everyone else, when he should have been searching for the fulfillment he desired everywhere, not just with Catherine. Until the conclusion of the novel, Frederick still relies on Catherine as the source of order in his life. With the end of their affair when Catherine dies giving birth to their stillborn love child, Frederick realizes that he cannot depend on any one person, such as Catherine, or any thing, such as religion, war, or frivolity, for order and discipline. This is the message Hemingway is trying to send throughout the whole novel. Hemingway describes Frederick’s enlightenment best in the final paragraph of the novel when Frederick sees Catherine’s corpse for the first and last time. Frederick’s reaction was that “it was like saying good-by to a statue.” Frederick realizes that Catherine was only a symbol of the order and strength in his life. Strength to face life must come from within him and only he will be able to get himself through his own life. He did not mourn or feel like his own life had ended with her death, rather he was able to continue on with his newfound inner strength and face his world alone.
In conclusion, Frederick allowed each of his decisions to be controlled by his desire for stability within his own life. This resulted in his decisions to reflect on whatever he viewed as stable at any given time. Frederick had conflicting events in his life both reaching out to him as stable at the same time, and his final realization demonstrated Hemingway s point in the novel. While the point Hemingway was making was, in essence, the exact conclusion Frederick came to, it was the struggle which effectively brought his point through the pages, and to the reader.