A Farewell to Arms

by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms is about an American ambulance driver in World War I who is serving in the Italian army. There, Frederic Henry falls in love with Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. You can see that the protagonist's name sort of looks & sounds like the author's own name, and indeed, this novel is semi-autobiographical. Ernest Hemingway himself served in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps in WWI.

So I think was in 11th grade when I first read A Farewell to Arms, and I even recall having to write a report on it. (There were some other Hemingway books in that report too: The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast, hmm...something else? Had to have been For Whom the Bell Tolls, but I can't remember specifically.) In that paper, I remember writing about a passage in this book in which Hemingway treats eating a piece of cheese with the same weight as being blown up by a mortar shell. And there—albeit in a junior-year-mentality nutshell—you have the essence of the writing of Ernest Hemingway. It is spare, stripped down, straightforward, male, and impassive. Many point to the fact that Hemingway's writing style was honed by his early career as a newspaperman (for The Kansas City Star). But I might have to toss in that I have never read even a newspaper article with so little detail and scarce sentiment. I can't even say that his style is oft imitated...is it? You don't see the elementary adjectives "fine," and "good," used in rapid succession, in the same sentence repeatedly, and to the exclusion of other adjectives in writing much these days. Conversely, you can see why his style is copied for comedic effect in "Write-Like-Hemingway" competitions that crop up periodically.

As for Classic Bitch personally, I think Ernest Hemingway's writing works best when employed to depict a tense action-packed scene, but falls achingly flat when maintained through the description of, say, a love scene. (And, yes, I do realize that may the point entirely.) In the former, things happen fast and the reader tends to want "just the facts." In the latter, there is so much going on on an emotional level (perhaps that is indescribable anyway) that simply "reporting" on it comes off as a bit ridiculous. All that being said, I like A Farewell to Arms. I liked it when I read it back in high school, and I like it today. The only caveat I would attach is: The writing of Ernest Hemingway is not going to be to everyone's liking. It is unique, to say—a la Ernest Hemingway himself—the very least.