A Farewell to Arms is a typical love story. It is much like Romeo and Juliet. Frederick Henry representing a similar role to Romeo and Catherine Barkley to Juliet. Like the love of Romeo and Juliet, the conflicting environment and people around them challenged their love. Frederick and Catherine are placed against significant odds in this novel. They must survive the obstacles of World War I. War-torn Italy serves as a background adding to the tragedy of the love story.
The turmoil over the war affects the emotions and values of each character. The love between Frederick and Catherine are challenged by long separations, life-threatening situations, and the vagueness of each other's location and state of being. This is an amazing and beautiful story of a love between two people in a time of hate, pain, and disarray. Hemingway portrays Frederick as a lost man searching for order and value in his life. Frederick is an American who serves as a lieutenant in the Italian army to a group of ambulance drivers.
Frederick strongly opposes the war, which he is fighting in. He sees it as violent and immoral. However he remains fighting because the army puts some form of discipline in his life. At the start of the novel, Frederick drinks and travels from one house of prostitution to another and yet he is discontent because his life is very unsettled. He admires his friend the priest because lives his life by a set of values that give him an orderly lifestyle. Further into the novel, Frederick becomes involved with Catherine Barkley.
He slowly falls in love with her and, in his love for her, he finds commitment. Their relationship brings some order and value to his life. Compared to this new form of order in his life, he finds the losing Italian army as a sinking ship and yearns to escape it. Frederick's desertion from the Italian army is the turning point o the novel.
When Frederick puts aside his involvement in the war, he realizes that Catherine is the order and value in his life and that he does not need anything else to give meaning to his life. At the end of the novel Frederick realizes that he cannot base his life on another person because, eventually, they will leave or disappoint him. He realizes that the order and values necessary to face the world must come from within him. Catherine already possesses the understanding that her life cannot depend on another. She learned this through the death of her fianc. Her love for Frederick is what her life revolves around, however she still knows that she shouldn t rely on him to be the order in her life.
If she had been, she would not have been able to allow him to be involved in the war for fear of losing her own stability with his death. He and Catherine make a life for themselves totally cut off from everything else. Frederick feels stable and secure in life which is now completely in order. However he needed to learn how to depend on himself and not on her love. Her death taught him to look for it within himself.