A Hurt Like No Other


There are many different things that are repetitively evident throughout Ernest
Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms. Such things as rain, alcohol, and food are talked
about over and over as the novel progresses. At first glance, these reoccurring items
have no real meaning, but after further research and complete dissection of the novel,
there are hidden meanings behind each one. These meanings may vary from person to
person because they are personal opinions, but the items which contain these meanings
remain the same. The first of these items which offers more than first thought is the
use of rain throughout the novel.
In any novel that takes place over a long period of time, there is bound to be a
stretch, or a few stretches, where it rains. Rain is not first thought of as having hidden
meaning, but in A Farewell To Arms, rain symbolizes many different things. The war
goes back and forth throughout the novel, and neither side seems to get anywhere. The
fighting stops one time in the novel due to the harsh winter weather. The days are very
gloomy, and the weather is brutal. Lt. Henry gets injured very badly, and things seem
to go badly whenever the rain begins to linger overhead. The relationship between
Frederick Henry and Catherine Barkley is evidently problem prone during rainy, misty
periods. Sometimes Lt. Henry tries to escape these bad times through drinking
alcohol.
Lt. Henry and Rinaldi drink socially at the beginning of the novel. Drinking is
a way for the two to relax, and enjoy their days away from the front. As the novel
goes on, alcohol becomes increasingly present at all times. Lt. Henry is drinking wine
when he gets hit by the mortar shell, which seems sort of ironic. Tenente is having a
glass of wine with his dinner when he is at the front, moments later he is injured very
severely. After his operation, he begins to drink heavily to get away from all of his
problems caused by the injury. The drinking becomes so bad that, at one point in the
novel, he get jaundice. When Lt. Henry returns to the front, he finds that Rinaldi has
become a heavy drinker, and a womanizer. What started out as something
social, became something very troublesome.
As large a role as alcohol played in the novel, food also seemed to play a large
part in the hidden meanings. As I stated earlier, Lt. Henry was drinking wine with his
dinner as he was hit by a mortar shell. The same ironic features that alcohol contains,
pertain to food. The turning point in this novel is when tenente gets hurt. It is strange
that something as far from war as eating dinner can have such a lasting effect on a
novel. Whenever tenente leaves the hospital to go out, he always seems to end up
eating something. He meets many new friends when he goes out to eat, which makes
his life more enjoyable. It's funny that the same thing that hurts him, eating dinner,
makes his life better. The same thing happens with Catherine, but in the opposite
manner. The thing that makes his life better, her love, hurts him in the end, her death.
Alcohol, food, and rain all have their own significant meanings. Each thing
seems to hurt Lt. Henry and everyone else in the novel, almost as much as it seems to
help them, with the exception of rain. There are many things in life that people take
for granted; things that occur each and every day, things that nobody takes the time out
to see whether or not there is something more to it, things that have a profound effect
on a person's life. What doesn't hurt you, can only make you stronger; except in this
novel where whatever hurts you also helps you