A Farewell to Arms: The Meaning of Life Essay Sample

A Farewell to Arms: The Meaning of Life Pages
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Written as a semi-autobiographical novel during Ernest Hemingway’s experiences as an ambulance driver during World War I, A Farewell to Arms is a distinguished classic that will remain on the list of great literature. It is a love story. In fact, it is a “compelling love story” (Warren 45). But there is a story behind the love story that sets the standards for the whole book. The characters go on a quest of meaning and certitude in a world of “nada” (Warren 45). It is a classic because it sets the character on a quest for a definition of life. Hemingway sets one important thing straight in the novel: he defines the main character, Frederick, as a man who is troubled by living in a world of nothing and is on a quest for to discover why he is in this world. He portrays the novel as a novel of self-identification through Frederick’s relationship with the people who surround him.

Throughout the novel, Frederick goes around dividing people into two groups: the aware and the unaware, “the disciplined and the undisciplined”. The officers he works with fall in the “unaware” category, while his roommate Rinaldi falls in the “aware” category. The officers are the ones “who do not know what is really at stake, who are deluded by big words, who do not have the discipline. They are the messy people, the people who surrender to the flow and illusion of things” (Warren 49). Rinaldi, on the other hand, is a person who would fit in the disciplined category. Rinaldi may party with the other officers and bully the priest a little, but his personal relationship with Frederick shows that he knows what he is around for.

He has the “discipline of his profession” (Warren 49); he loves what he does and that he believes that sensual pleasure isn’t everything to life as the officers believe it is. Rinaldi says in the novel, “I am only happy when I am working” (Hemingway 87) meaning that being able to fully provide for himself and being him and having a true identity is what gives him pleasure. It is Rinaldi that Frederick learns from while moving toward this path to full awareness. An individual who is fully aware achieves his discipline and has the capacity to endure. He cuts himself from bad company, the disordered world. Frederick “is reborn into another world; he comes out into the world of the man alone, no longer supported by and involved in society…he makes a separate peace” (Warren 50). He is ready to embrace the world as himself and not embrace it with what others think or want him to do.

A Farewell to Arms really has had a huge impact on me because it has pushed me to be myself, and live for what I want instead of what others want or want me to do. It has curved me towards the path of discipline. I am like Frederick in a way that I am searching for my own identity, and am one step closer by doing the things Frederick has done in this novel to find the true him. I have separated my self from bad company, and am able to see the world from my own perspective instead of the influence from others. I am able to make my own decisions rather than the disorganized ones my peers tell me to make. A Farewell to Arms isn’t merely a novel, but a guide for my own quest to revealing my true self.

Farewell to Arms is a novel where the main character is searching for the true meaning of life. Hemingway beautifully portrays this pursuit through a tragic war-love story. Frederick, the main character, is able to learn what the definition of life truly is with the people he surrounds himself with and is able to detach himself with whomever he feels like is “unaware” of life. It is a classic because it is one of the greatest books ever written on the mission to find self-identity, and it will remain to be so.

The first scene of the book is important to understand the deeper incentives of the story. The scene takes place at the officers’ dining hall where the captain picks on the priest. The captain explains to Frederick, “Priest every night five against one” (Hemingway 5), but Frederick takes no part in the bullying. “There is a bond between him and the priest, a bond that they both recognize” (45), said Warren. This become clear when, after the officers have told Frederick to make sure he has fun with some girls when he goes on vacation, while the priest turns to him and says that he should go to Abruzzi, his own state. Through this contrast between the officers, who invite Frederick to go to the “whorehouse”, and the priest, who invites him to go to the country, Hemingway shows the simplest form of the motive of the novel. Frederick takes part in the officers’ activities that night, and on his leave he does go to the cities, “to the smoke of cafés and nights when the room whirled and you needed to look at the wall to make it stop, nights in bed, drunk, when you knew that that was all there was, and the strange excitement of waking and not knowing who it was with you, and the world all unreal in the dark and so exciting that you must resume again unknowing and not caring in the night, sure that this was all and all and all and not caring” (Hemingway 86).

Frederick, at the beginning of the novel, lives in the world that is random and meaningless to him, knowing that is “all and all and all”, or thinking that he knows what the meaning of life is. But behind that there is displeasure and aversion. When he comes back from his vacation, he tries to tell the priest how he is deeply sorry for not being able to visit his house. The priest’s home is a “symbolic significance for another kind of life, another view of the world” (Warren 46). By not visiting the priest’s house, he had missed a chance of discovering the meaning. But when Frederick finally understands why the priest told him to go visit his province, he is able to label the priest a person who is aware and disciplined. The priest had always known this aspect about him and had tried to convey it to Frederick to realize the same about him. Even Frederick mentions this in a quote when he says “He had always known what I did not know and what, when I learned it, I was always able to forget. But I did not know that then, although I learned it later” (Hemingway 189). This relationship with the priest is what part of what Frederick with his quest for meaning and certitude.

Frederick is able to separate those who are aware of the meaning of life and those who are unaware of it. Those who are unaware of it just go with the flow; it is “the contrast between the disciplined and the undisciplined” (49), as said by Warren. Frederick’s friend, Rinaldi, is a person who would fit in the same category as disciplined. Rinaldi may party with the other officers and bully the priest a little, but his personal relationship with Frederick shows that he knows what he is around for. He has the “discipline of his profession” (Warren 49); he loves what he does and that he believes that sensual pleasure isn’t everything to life as the officers believe it is. Rinaldi says in the novel, “I am only happy when I am working” (Hemingway 87) meaning that being able to fully provide for himself and being him and having a true identity is what gives him pleasure.

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