A Farewell to Arms

5th Six Weeks IRP

"A Farewell to Arms" VS 1932 Film Rendition

While the movie is very similar to Ernest Hemingway's novel in terms of over-arching themes, the manner in which the story is conveyed varies slightly from one literary form to the other. The director of the movie, most likely due to time constraints, chooses to omit several scenes and to place less importance on several details. These differences have a massive impact on the way that story is received by audiences.
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The novel begins with a vague desrciption of the war. Hemingway does not introduce many characters, instead he describes the men walking along the raod and the officers driving by on their way to battle. The movie begins by quoting a scene from later in the book, although it uses a random man in the place of Henry. After this, the book and the movie jump to descriptions of the officers making fun of the priest at the brothel. Henry acts in the same manner in both, defending the priest despite the fact that he is not religious.

Nurse's Point of View

Hemingway only provides his reader with insight into the lives of the Italian military officers, and through that, one can deduce what the lives of the British nurses are like. In the movie, there are several scenes where the men are not present and the viewer gets to see how the women interact with one another. The most notable of these scenes occurs at the beginning and adds foreshadowing to the film. The women are working in a back room and listening in on a discussion between their supervisor and Molly. Molly is a British nurse who has become pregnant and therefore must be sent away. Because only the women are witnesses to this scene, and at the time they are not close to the military officers, there is no place for this scene in the novel.

Meeting of Henry and Catherine

Rinaldi is obsessed with Catherine. In the book, he is the reason for Henry and Catherine's meeting, and in the movie, he is responsible for Henry and Catherine's official meeting. It is important to specificy "official" because Henry and Catherine meet earlier in the movie and have an extremely awkward encounter. The city in which the two reside is under a bombing attack, so everyone takes cover. Henry is drunk and has the shoe of a woman from the brothel and, upon seeing Catherine, believes that she is the woman the shoe belongs to. He tries to force it upon her, garnering a very negative reaction. Catherine runs away mocking Henry to another nurse, but the characters never introduce themselves. It is not until Rinaldi organizes a meeting between them at a dinner event that they realize who they had met.
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Relationship Escalation

In the book, Catherine and Henry get to know each other gradually, and they do not allow their relationship to get physical until after they are away from the front. Catherine does not even allow Henry to kiss her right away. In the movie, they have sex on the night of their first official meeting. The difference in the pace of their relationship reflects a more intense but less meaningful passion. It also demeans the strength of Catherine's character. In the book, she is more resolute and thoughtful, but in the movie, she has no spine.
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Hemingway portrays Rinaldi as a detached womanizer. While Rinaldi is initially infatuated with Catherine, he quickly moves on, returning to the officers' brothel without any second thoughts. He teases Henry about his relationship with Catherine but shows no envy of it himself. His actions in the movie are shockingly different. Rinaldi is shown to be extremely jealous of the relationship that Henry has with Catherine. He reveals their relationship to his superior, causing Catherine to be sent to a hospital in Milan. The lovers are reunited when Henry is injured and sent to the hospital, but upon Henry's return, Rinaldi intercepts the letters from Catherine explaining her pregnancy and new whereabouts. This causes a temporary rift between Catherine and Henry because each believes that the other is not responding to them. Rinaldi attributes his behavior to looking out for his friend Henry, but his actions are truly out of jealousy.
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Alcohol is present in both the book and the movie; however, it is seen much more often in the book than the movie. Both renditions of the story contain the scene where Henry is in the hospital in Milan and gets in trouble for his alcohol stash, but aside from that, alcohol is hardly mentioned in the movie. In the book, it seems to be on almost every page. Its influence overwhelming. At times, readers may even find themselves wondering when the men intend to fight the war because it seems as though all they do is get drunk. Alcohol seems to be used as a coping mechanism that allows the men to escape from their abysmal surroundings.


In the book, Henry and Catherine journey to Switzerland together upon learning of Catherine's pregnancy. In the movie, however, Catherine makes the journey alone and is not joined by Henry until she is lying on her deathbed after delivering a still born child. This difference can be attributed to Rinaldi's jealousy bringing hindering the couple's communication. Rinaldi does provide Henry with a boat to row to Switzerland in the movie, though. The boat is provided by the manager of a hotel in the book.

Symbolism of Rain

The director of the film adaptation made the creative decision to use rain to intensify the scene of Henry rowing to meet his beloved. The lake water is choppy, and there is an added sense of danger and urgency in the small wooden boat. The rain continues as Henry waits anxiously in the hospital. It does not stop as he learns that Catherine's outlook is not good and that his baby did not survive. The weather is Switzerland is touched upon briefly in the book but not enough to give any sort of symbolic meaning to the scenes. This decision does not detract from Hemingway's original story in any way, rather it adds to the visual interest of the movie.

Critical Acclaim

Hemingway's novel, like his others, is well respected today for its portrayal of human impulses and a certain way of life. The reception of the film is for the msot part favorable. The greatest critiques are that movie does not place enough emphasis on the war intself, focusing too much on the interaction between the two lovers. The film was successful at the Academy Awards, receiving nominations for Best Picture and Best Art Direction and winning Best Cinematography and Best Sound.
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