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Love and War Love is an unexplainable relationship between a man and a woman. The relationship can start one way and then transform into something completely different without warning. Each character in this novel has a different understanding of love. In A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, the relationship between Catherine Barkley and Frederick Henry closely parallels Rinaldi and the priest’s different views of love.
The character Rinaldi does not take love seriously; he is always in and out of love and always has many short-term flings. For example, Rinaldi is always looking for a new girl conquer, “That’s nothing. Here now we have beautiful girls. New girls never been to the front before” (Hemingway 12.) Rinaldi looks at girls and relationships as if they are a game that he can play. Girls to him are material possessions that he can keep as long as he wants, and then get rid of. Furthermore, Rinaldi can only see one facet of relationships, “Where did you meet her? In the Cova? Where did you go? How did you feel? Tell me everything at once. Did you stay all night?” (Hemingway 11.)
He can only see the physical and sexual side of his and others love affairs. He doesn’t go deeper into what truly makes up the relationship, the feelings that a couple has for one another. In addition, Rinaldi is phony towards the women, he does whatever it takes to get what he wants, “I must make on Miss Barkley the impression of a man of sufficient wealth” (Hemingway 12.) When it comes to women, Rinaldi is never his true self. He feels that it is better to be someone you aren’t and get what you want, than not get anything at all. He is unlike the priest in his views of love, he is shallow and does not understand what it is to love.
The priest has a sincere and deep understanding of love, his relationship with God symbolizes the true awareness of what love is. For example, the soldiers try to make fun of the priest because he does not take advantage of girls like they do, “He should have fine girls. I will give you the addresses of places in Naples. Beautiful young girls””accompanied by their mothers. Ha! Ha! Ha!” (Hemingway 8.) The priest is the butt of all the jokes because he is unlike the other men. He does not always have to be involved in the physical act of love like the others do. Furthermore, he does not participate in the immoral actions that the soldiers do, “We go whorehouse before it shuts” (Hemingway 9.)
The men have a constant desire for physical gratification, it is like a emptiness they always have to fill. The priest’s relationship with God keeps him continuously satisfied. In addition, God provides the priest with an endless fulfillment of all his spiritual needs, “People soon become thirsty again after drinking this water. But the water I give them takes away thirst altogether. It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life” (John 4:13-14) The physical needs the men have are short term and will not last. The spiritual needs the priest has, the ones that are most important, are met by God. The soldier’s relationships leave them empty and wanting more, while the priests relationship with God keeps him full with love.
Catherine and Henry start off as a fling, but then grow into something more, a love that is real. For example, when the relationship first takes shape, it is not a true love that exists between them, “The love that he feels is almost entirely sexual, however, and derives from the pleasure she gives him”¦” (Donaldson 157.) The love Henry feels for Catherine it is more of a lust. It is purely physical and he is using her for the pleasure he gets from being with her. In addition, throughout the novel Henry does not show any true feelings for Catherine, it is not until the end of the novel where he begins to show true love, “Throughout their affair, Frederic rarely displays honest and thoughtful concern for Catherine’s feelings.
Where she invariably thinks of him first, he often does not think of her at all. Only when she lies dying of childbirth in the Lausanne hospital does he finally begin to want to serve and to sacrifice for her” (Donaldson 160.) It is not until Catherine is threatened with death that Henry’s true emotions begin to form. The thought of life without her sparks this reaction inside Henry. Furthermore, Henry’s sacrifices show how his love for Catherine has changed, “Please go and get something to eat,’ Catherine said. “˜I’m fine, really.’ “˜I’ll stay awhile,’ I said.” (Hemingway 314.) Henry gives up eating so he can stay be side her. This action shows a big change in Henry, he is beginning to think of her before himself. This is the beginning of what true love really is.
In conclusion, Henry’s love for Catherine began to mature when he put her needs above him. In reality this is what true love is. True love is not just a physical one; it is emotional, and spiritual as well. “Mature lovers share equally: they give and gain by giving” (Donaldson 173.)
Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Scriber Paperback Fiction, 1995.
Donaldson, Scott. “Contemporary Literary Criticism.” Rev. of A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. Gale Research Company 1980 The New Living Translation: American Bible. “John 4:13-14” Bible.Crosswalk.com 2001.