A Farewell To Arms: Book 3 - Summary

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BOOK III
      In Book III we are back at the war front. Things have changed for the worst. Most men are depressed. Rinaldi, the major, the priest all express their feeling of despair. The unspoken wish is for the war to end.

      The written Book in then devoted to the Caporetto retreat which happens soon after Henry returns. The Italian offensive has been a failure and their army has been routed by the Austro-German forces. An order to retreat is given. There is also some patriotic talk and Henry expresses that for him words like ‘sacred, glorious and sacrifice and the expression in vain’ were rather embarrassing. He says, ‘He heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through and had read them ....the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards of Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except bury it ...Abstract words such as glory, honour, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the number of roads, the name of rivers, the number of regiments and the dates”.

      It is the retreat that opens Henry’s eyes in the reality of war. As it becomes chaotic and confused from the ordered style that it had started out as. He sees the disorder and disarray the whole country and the army is thrown into. Henry is forced to abandon his cars, shoot at the sergeants, and run for his life. In the process, Bonello leaves to give himself up and Ayno is killed by the Italian rearguard. Henry observes the Battle police summarily executing officers suspected of deserting their post. He himself is under threat of being executed. In a split-second decision, he jumps into the Tagliamento river and escapes. Officially he has deserted the army. He gets into a freight train and having bid farewell to the war thus, makes his way towards love and Catherine.

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