A Farewell to Arms – a Critical Response Essay

What can be more excruciatingly painful than knowing that you are about to lose a loved one, and yet can be but a spectator to the closure? How helpless does one feel, attempting to reclaim that stolen treasure? Yet one clings on to desperate hope. One last plea. One last prayer. Don’t let her die. Oh God, please don’t let her die. The extract from Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms deals with the plight of a husband dreading his wife’s verdict. His wife has delivered a stillborn child, and is fighting for her own life.

The protagonist is distressed and escapes to a cafe to pacify his frets. His anxiety has numbed him so, that he begins to take notice of inconsequential details of the order of things. The author has employed a very unique way to bring out the protagonist’s state of mind. The sentences are terse and specific and irrelevant to the situation. It conveys how disoriented he is. He seems to talk about the random, abstract objects and on-goings just because they happen to be present and not with any purpose.

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Emotionally, he is preoccupied with concerns about his wife’s health and thus he narrates his observations in a detached and matter of fact way. His experience of premonitions and intuitions has been subtly brought in through the lines ‘Suddenly I knew I had to get back’ and ‘Something dropped inside me. ’ I admire the manner in which the text shows the building emotions of the husband and gradually reveals the aspects of his personality. Even before he has heard of her haemorrhage, he is in a whirl, thus showing he is an ‘on the edge’ person.

He comes across as a man, deeply devoted to his wife. She seems to be the centre of his universe, as he passes off the death of their child as tolerable in comparison to losing her. Although he has realised that her death is inevitable, he frantically prays to God to save her. He repeatedly begs for her life. It shows his desperation and need to have her back with him. With every repetition, the impact becomes progressively emphatic, until it tears your heart and his tears become your own.


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