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The Role of Environment and Personal Choice — an article on the Smart Living Network
November 10, 2019 at 9:54 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

The Role of Environment and Personal Choice

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A Farewell to Arms is a novel written by Ernest Hemingway during World War I. The novel is a first-person account of an American Frederic Henry who serves as a Lieutenant ("Tenente") in the ambulance corps of the Italian Army. The main themes of the novel are war and love affair between Henry and Catherine Barkley. Immediately after reading this book, I was surprised with how tragic and full of pessimism it seemed in comparison with, for instance, The Old Man and the Sea, but then I understood that despite Henrys tragedy the book promotes ideas of humanism, pacifism, high moral values, and human strength when writing article review. Due to the war and its destructive effect on human personality, not all these things remain pure and untouched. War changes everything and Hemingway has managed to depict it with astonishing accuracy and truthfulness. In life, people would find entirely positive or entirely negative things. War has had a great influence on Henrys personality, but some key human features of his character have remained unchanged because A man can be destroyed but not defeated. This essay tries to prove that decisions made by Henry and events that happen in his life result not only from the influence of environment where he lives, but also from his own choice.

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Frederic Henry is a representative of The Lost Generation. He has been living in Italy for a long time, so he decides to join the Italian Army. Young Henry thinks that war is something thanks to which he could feel alive and fulfill his ambitions, yet soon he realizes that war is nothing but the outcome of human ignorance. Hemingway does not try to emphasize horrors of the war. The main character perceives them distantly and readers can decide that he experiences no emotions. To understand the importance of his impressions, one needs to remember the Hemingways saying: If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-ninth of it being above water. The author does not depict precisely all horrors of the war and their effect on peoples psychology, but one could clearly observe the results. Henry and the majority of his fellows are disappointed with the religion and resounding speeches about glory and duty. Some of them are still patriots, but Henry does not share the Italian patriotism. They are tired and dream about the end of the war. Henry and his friends consume a lot of alcohol. They are frustrated and do not see any purpose in life.

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War devalues importance of human lives. Henrys friend Aymo is killed gratuitously like many other people. Readers are shocked to read that Henry shoots an engineer who refuses to help him. However, even war leaves room for good deeds. Henry is not completely deprived of positive features. He does not mock the priest like other officers and does not allow his friend Rinaldi to joke about his affair with Catherine. He is not ambitious and tries to explain that he does not want to receive a medal. After being wounded, he insists that there are other soldiers who have been wounded more seriously than he and they must receive help first. As one can see, the Henrys personality is significantly influenced by the war and by his environment, but nevertheless he manages to preserve some good features.

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At the beginning of the book, Henry is quite skeptical about love and is satiated with women. He likes Catherine and decides to seduce her just for fun: I knew I did not love Catherine Barkley nor had any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards. Henry cares neither about feelings of Catherine who has lost the man she loved nor about the reaction of his friend Rinaldi who tells Henry that he wants to marry Catherine. One could call Henry an egoist, but readers know nothing about the world where people live under the constant threat of death or injury. Catherines love is sacrificial and overwhelming; she almost loses herself in this feeling and Henry soon realizes that he also loves Catherine. Their ideal love affair causes an extended conflict between them and the society. Catherine says: Because there's only us two and in the world there's all the rest of them. If anything comes between us we're gone and then they have us. Now, readers could hardly adequately assess the choice made by Catherine. In that historical period, traditions though strongly affected by the war still remained strong and extramarital affairs were socially unacceptable. Readers often blame Catherine for weak will and lack of self-respect, but she is actually a strong and bold woman. Henry has a point calling her brave. Love helps Henry to find happiness and a new purport of life, making a breach in his individualism and removing the despair.

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Critique has paid a lot of attention to existential perspectives that could be found in Hemingways works, including A Farewell to Arms. When the battle police catches Henry and is going to execute him, he finds himself in a limit situation. This term in existentialism refers to situations that pose a serious threat to ones life and forces people to make a choice immediately or otherwise someone else would make it for them. Besides, limit situations in existentialism help to understand the essence of life and its value. In such situation, Henry chooses to live. He reveals great courage and craftiness while fighting for his life even though he believes that life is nothing, but waiting for being killed.

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After escaping from the battle police, Henry decides to make a separate peace. He avoids any news about the war and wants to forget it. Henry understands the danger of being a deserter, but his desire for peace and happiness is stronger. He makes every effort in order to flee to Switzerland. Henrys decision to give up the pointless war is also indicative of his activity and humanism.

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Henry is often blamed for the lack of character by readers. I believe that this point of view is completely groundless after taking into account all the above arguments. Henry as one of the Lost Generation does not have something to live for. The only thing, which makes him feel alive, is love so that after the death of Catherine his world is broken.

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Thus, one can see that A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is a novel asserting eternal human values and anti-war ideas. The main character Frederic Henry is a representative of The Lost Generation. He is frustrated and disillusioned. Henry does not believe in God and has no ambitions; Italian patriotism does not inspire him. The young lieutenant understands foolishness and absurdity of the war. Only love has power to change his life, but it also causes a conflict between him and the society. In limit situation, Henry decides to fight for his life and in the end gives up the war for his own happiness. Ironically, Henry used to think that war could make him feel alive, but at the end of the novel he understands that love does it: I'm no good when you're not there. I haven't any life at all any more.

rn

The role of environment in the development of Henrys character should not be diminished. Probably, Hemingway says nothing about the Henrys past to emphasize importance of the presents influence. Nevertheless, personal choice is also extremely important in the Henrys tragedy. The conflict between innate personal features and the necessity to continue military service, between a man and the society affects his decisions, but Henry has always had the choice. Hemingway seemed to always believe in people and the humanity; thus, it is possible that ones personal choice was more important for him than influence of the environment, but such conclusion is very subjective and controversial.

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