A Farewell to Arms : Characters, A Farewell to Arms Summary

Published on 20-Sep-2022

A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms was published in 1929 by Earnest Hemingway. The story is about an American man named Frederic Henry serving as a lieutenant in the Italian Army during World War I. His life is portrayed as a soldier, a lover, and a human. The story shows themes of the reality of wars and the pain of love. 


  1. Lt. Frederic Henry: The protagonist of the story. He worked as an ambulance driver for the Italian Army. 
  2. Catherine Barkley: Catherine is an English assistant nurse. Henry met Catherine when he got injured on the battlefield. 
  3. Rinaldi: Henry's friend who likes Catherine in secret.  
  4. Dr Valentini: The doctor who agrees to operate on Henry even though he might die in the process. 
  5. The Priest: Another friend of Henry. The young priest always listens to Henry and tries to provide him with solutions. He made Henry realize his love for Catherine and helped him feel at ease after returning from war. 

A Farewell to Arms full Summary

The story begins with Frederic Henry working as an ambulance driver in the Italian Army. He served in the front row as a part of the Army in Italy. One day he meets Catherine in a British Hospital and grows interested in her. Henry's friend from the Army, Rinaldi, also likes Catherine, but Catherine is more attracted to Henry. They both get into a relationship, but Catherine does not commit to anything. Her grief for the recent death of her fiancé kept Henry away from her heart. Henry, however, liked Catherine more and felt at peace near her. His heart was warming up with emotions after returning from a cold war. 

He had to return to the war. He bid his goodbyes and left for Milan. On the battlefield, Henry gets injured and is rushed to a hospital in Milan. Upon examination, several doctors suggest he take bed rest for at least six months for his knee. Henry becomes frustrated and disagrees with everyone. Then he meets a fearless, talkative surgeon who agrees to operate on Henry. He warns Henry he might die in the process or go into a coma.

Henry quickly consents and undergoes surgery anyway. After the successful surgery, Henry recovers in Milan. Soon he learns that Catherine was transferred to Milan and happily begins his physical therapy under Catherine's care. Following the months of Henry's recovery, Catherine and Henry fall for each other deeply. Henry secretly met a priest who made him realize that he loves Catherine, and it's not just physical attraction any more. The priest's words of confirmation made Henry realize that he indeed loved Catherine with genuine emotions. 

Once Henry recovered from his injured leg, the Army granted him three weeks of leave as condolence, but he will have to return to the front again. He decides to tour with Catherine during his leave but finds out Catherine is pregnant. The next day Henry falls ill, and the doctors tell him he has jaundice.

The hospital's superintendent believes Henry is getting sick to delay his army duties. His three weeks' leave was revoked, and Henry was sent to the battlefield as soon as he recovered. Catherine promised him that she would wait for him as Henry left. 

Henry returns to a more dreadful war against Germany. People were bombed every minute, and dead bodies were piling up. The Italian Army was losing manpower and realized they had to retreat. Henry led the allied troops and ambulance drivers from a secret column for evacuation. He helps two engineering sergeants and two young girls on the way. On the muddy road, their vehicle gets stuck and cannot move. Henry asks the engineers to come down and help the vehicle to push ahead.

Upon rejection, Henry instantly shoots one of the engineers. Henry told the drivers and young girls to continue the journey towards Udine on foot. Henry and the three remaining drivers kept walking toward safety when one of the drivers was shot and killed. The other driver ran off to surrender himself. Henry and the last driver take refuge in a farmhouse. The next day when Henry joins the retreating force of the Italian Army, he realizes all the soldiers will be executed for their defeat.

When the battle police try to arrest Henry, he escapes by jumping in a river and swimming away. After swimming safely, Henry quickly boards the train towards Milan and hides under a tarp along with the war weapons. He just wanted to escape the war and return to Catherine. 

Henry finds Catherine, and the two reunite in the town of Stresa. From there, they both flee to Switzerland in a small boat. When they arrive in Switzerland, Henry marries Catherine in a small town called Montreux, and they settle there. Henry feels guilt for leaving his Army alone to be executed, but he soon finds peace again with Catherine. The two lived a beautiful life in Montreux and soon moved to Lausanne to be close to the city hospital. Soon after the move, Catherine goes into labour and is rushed to the hospital.

The doctors tell Henry it will be a complicated and painful delivery. Catherine delivers a stillborn baby and later dies of a haemorrhage. Henry stayed with her through the night but was unable to say goodbye. Losing everything in a single night, Henry lost the ability to express emotions. He walks in the rain to return to the hotel. The story ends with Henry being lost and defeated in his own life.


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