Instability In The Lives Of Henry And

Catherine Essay (English 2 Honors) Essay, Research Paper

Spontaneously moving from country to country as well as neglecting their patriotic duties, Henry and Catherine are the poster children for instability. In the novel, A farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, the characters Henry and Catherine struggle with stability. They can?t handle the trying times of life and use several different ways to temporarily relieve themselves from their problems. Henry and Catherine lacked self-control and had an inability to handle the realities and hardships of life.

Catherine seems to enjoy the relationship she and Henry share but when marriage is mentioned she seems to avoid it and make excuses for not wanting to get married at that moment. Such is the case when they are in their cabin in Montreux,

?Let?s get married now?, I said

?No,? Catherine said. ?It?s too embarrassing now. I?ll show too plainly. I won?t go before anyone and be married in this state?

?I wish we had gotten married?? (p. 293)

In several other cases she acts in the same way, she keeps putting marriage off, perhaps simply because she doesn?t want to get married while pregnant or because of an earlier experience such as the one she tells Henry about while at the Austrian front. In the quote Henry and Catherine are referring to a man that Catherine was previously engaged to be married to.

?Had you been engaged long??

?Eight years. We grew up together?

?And why didn?t you marry??

?I don?t know,? she said. ?I was a fool not to. I could have given him that anyway. But I thought it would be bad for him.?? (p. 19)

Judging by the actions and words of Catherine, it looks as if she does not want to commit to a marital relationship.

At the beginning of the novel, Henry struggles with commitment to any type of intimate relationship. When talking to Miss Barkley Henry reveals that he has never been in love,

?‘Have you ever loved anyone??

?No,? I said.? (p. 19)

Later in the novel, when asked by Catherine if he has told her that he loves her, he lies by saying yes.

?She looked at me, ?And do you love me??


?You did say you loved me, didn?t you??

?Yes,? I lied. ?I love you.? I had not said it before.? (p. 30)

Henry obviously is intimidated by relationships and love, one can only speculate why he has such feelings, perhaps a failure with love earlier in life or just one of his natural personality traits. Whatever the reason though, it shows his difficulty with handling life and what problems it presents him with.

Henry can be considered by many to be a dipsomaniac character that can?t handle his emotions or the situations that bring those emotions on. With World War I and personal problems effecting Fredrick Henry, there are many reasons for him to be running from the world. When he is wounded in in combat on the Austrian front and placed in a hospital, Henry is accused of drinking himself to jaundice. In the following quote, Miss Van Campen, a nurse in the hospital, finds eleven bottles of brandy and one bottle of Kòmmel in a bear shaped bottle, ?‘Brandy,? she said. ??Eleven empty bottles of brandy and that bear liquid.??(p.143) She continues to scold him for what she thought was an intentional attempt at making himself sick to avoid being sent back to the front, ?‘I supposed you can?t be blamed for not wanting to go back to the front. But I should think that you would try something more intelligent than producing jaundice with alcoholism.??(p. 144) On top of his problem with alcohol, other characteristics of an unstable person are found in his personality in the novel.

Throughout A Farewell to Arms, both Catherine and Henry act as if they would be nothing without the other. Catherine tells Henry she wants to look like him by cutting her hair and Henry?s lack of contacts outside his relationship with Catherine suggests that she?s the only one that he cares about. On top of her wanting to have the same hairstyle as Henry, she even says she wished that she had had syphilis to be like him.

?‘I wish I?d had it.?

?No you don?t?

?I do. I wish I?d had it to be like you?? (p. 299)

She continues to show her dependency as does Henry when she tells him she wants to be one with him.

?‘Oh, darling, I want you so much I want to be you too.?

?You are. We are the same one?? (p 299)

Their dependency on each other and their instability shows that they weren?t ready to enter a serious relationship and needed to settle down more than they were before they became so involved with each other.

In conclusion, their poor self-control and inability to handle the realities and hardships of life showed Henry and Catherine?s lack of stability in their lives. The issues of alcohol, fear of commitment, and codependency illustrated their inability to be function like a normal person and their overall lack of confidence. The two characters almost parallel the characters of Romeo and Juliet with their thoughtless actions and impulsiveness. People, especially Henry and Catherine, should learn to accept themselves before they enter a serious relationship.


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