A Farewell To Arms: Chapter 21 - Summary and Analysis

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The Italian Army Suffers Loses
      In September, the first cool nights came. Summer was coming to a close. The fighting at the front went very badly. The Italians were unable to take San Gabriele. There were riots. The Italians had lost one hundred and fifty thousand men on the Bainsizza plateau and on San Gabriele and forty thousand on the Carso. The offensive in Flanders was going bad. The Italians had bitten more than they could chew and if the losses continued like this then the allies would lose the war.

      Henry’s leg had improved considerably by now but he had to continue his treatment for some more time. He had been given three year’s convalescent leave, after that he had to go back to the front. The letter intimated that he should report back on duty on 25th October. He received letters from his grandfather the priest at his mess, Rinaldi and others.

Catherine is Pregnant
      When Catherine comes in, Henry tells her about his leave and his papers. She wants to know where he is going so that she can arrange for her to be there too. She doesn’t care where they go and seems upset. Then she reveals that she is three months pregnant but she pleads with him, not to worry. She says, she had been a “good girl” in their relationship. She had tried not to let him know and she had tried everything but it hadn’t made any difference. She doesn’t want him to worry because it is natural and everybody had babies. She wants to know if he felt “trapped” and Henry answers yes, but he felt biologically trapped and not to her.

      However, in the end, they reconcile themselves to the fact and as they wonder about where to live together after the war. But they feel that the war will go on for a long time and even talk about their son becoming a general.


The War and Their Love
      This chapter is crucial as it marks important developments in both the theme of war and theme of love. The war is raging on but the Italians are suffering heavy loses and Henry feels that the Italians are cooked and if - they continue to lose then the Allies are “cooked”. And Henry himself who had been away from the scene of actual war is how going back to the front. On the other hand, Henry finds out that Catherine is pregnant. The mood suddenly become tense. They are self-conscious and sit apart from one another. But slowly they both cheer up and are more worried about the war going on for long. And Catherine even says that their son will have time to try out for the post of Lieutenant Commander and that of the general at the way the war went on.

Realistic Details
      A horde of details is crowded into this chapter that contributes to rich and detailed milieu that forms the background of the novel. This realistic effect can be observed when the author inserts such details as that the major’s boots were “smoothly polished dull leather” and that “they were beautiful boots”. The paragraph beginning ‘I went on to the hospital. There were some letter.....” contains such insignificant details that make Henry less of a fictional and more of a real-life person going about his day-to-day details.

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