A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms

Written when Ernest Hemingway was thirty years old and lauded as the best American novel to emerge from World War I, A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Set against the looming horrors of the battlefield—weary, demoralized men marching in the rain during the German attack on Caporetto; the profound struggle between loyalty and desertion—this gripping, semiautobiographical work captures the harsh realities of war and the pain of lovers caught in its inexorable sweep.

Herald John was unable to fight in the big war due to an irregular heartbeat, but that didn’t stop him volunteering as an ambulance driver.  In this position he is forced to see the horrors of war, transporting mangled soldiers to the local hospital camps.  But there is a bright light in every drive, it’s the beautiful nurse Eliza.  She’s an englishwoman, so he rarely gets to see her, and even when he does it’s only for brief moments, but each moment is the new greatest one of his life.

And soon, Eliza notices.

She starts finding excuses to be near the entrance whenever ambulances arrive, and soon Herald John and Eliza are sweethearts.

It’s hard, being in love on the warfront, but the couple do all that they can to make it work.  On days when they both have breaks they stroll through the desolate, heavily shelled towns talking about the future.  they both can only hope to make it through the war, but promise each other that as long as they stay safe, they will be married the day the war ends.

Then one day as Herald John drives his ambulance away from the battlefront, a cannon rips into the engine, and the car is engulfed in flames.  He’s brought the the nearest hospital, where Eliza is anxiously awaiting the now late ambulance’s arrival.

She barely recognizes the mangled body, and in order to keep him nearby lies and identifies him as a English soldier.  His uniform is too burn and bloodied to tell any difference, and her tiny fingers Herald John loves so well pulls away his dog tags before anyone can identify him as an American.

Still, both his arms must be amputated in order to save his life.

Eliza nurses her man back to health slowly, and helps him cope with the reality of his new, armless life.  He realizes that without the arms, he will need to rely on Eliza for monetary support until he can find an employer willing to give an armless man a chance.  Together, the work through the needed change in lifestyle.  Herald John becomes more and more flexible as he uses his legs more and more for functions usually performed by his arms.  And then the war ends.

That night the couple find a weary preacher, who pronounces them husband and wife.

A week later they are both sent to Great Britain, since the army officials still believe Herald John to be English.  Herald John learns to write with his feet, and becomes a scribe for the House of Commons, and Eliza has four children.


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