A Farewell To Arms: Chapter 30 - Summary and Analysis

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To Cross a Bridge
      Later, they were on a road that led to a river. There was a long line of abandoned trucks and carts because the bridge had been blown up in the center. As they look for a place to cross, Henry thinks they might be able to use the railway bridge. They finally come across it. It is a beautiful bridge but they are afraid to cross it. Henry offers to go first. Anyway, they can’t mined it to blow with one man. Up the river, on the another bridge Henry saw a car. The men wore German helmets. So they all crouched and waited.

German Troops
      Minutes later, they saw bicycle troops on the other bridge. They were German not Austrians. Henry was angry! He and his companions wondered why a small bridge had been blown up and a large one left intact. He was angry because nothing was being done to stop the Germans. Moreover, he had to reach Pordenone. He had lost his ambulances but he was determined to get to Pordenone.

Firing, Ayno Death
      As Henry and his companions started down the embankment, they heard shots. They tried to go back but Ayno was hit and instantly he died. However, they had been shot at by Italians not Germans. The rearguard was afraid of everything and so they shot. They leave Ayno and move on. He looked very dead. It was raining.

Towards Tagliamento
     Henry, Bonello and Piani find a deserted house when they find a sausage and wine to drink. In the hay-loft Piani tells Henry that Bonello has gone to give himself up as he was afraid that they would get killed. Piani said that she would stay with Henry They slept. As night came they started again. It was a strange night. They lay flat in a ditch waiting for a German Battalion to pass. They came close again but escaped notice. As they walked towards the river Tagliamento he saw that the whole country not just the army was moving. The retreat was gigantic. Before daylight, Henry and Piani were able to reach the bank of the river. They went down towards the bridge where everybody was crossing the river. As they crossed, Henry wondered what would happen if a plane bombed it in day time.

Caught by the Military Police
      At the other end of the bridge, some Italian officers and soldiers were scrutinizing everyone, flashing lights in people’s faces as it was dark. Henry saw then grabbing a Lieutenant Colonel. Soon afterward he saw one of the soldiers coming towards him and suddenly felt him taking him by the collar. Henry retaliates by hitting him in his face. As the soldiers rushed towards him, Henry protected, saying he was an officer and kicking the soldier in his shins. But he was told that he would be shot if he resisted. They were the Battle police and were cross examining all the officers whom they suspected of having deserted their post.

Suspected Deserters Shot
      The battle police grabbed a Lieutenant-Colonel and began to cross examine him. They asked him why he wasn’t with his troops. He answered that because of the retreat he got separated from his regiment. Henry watched thinking it would be his turn next. He heard the one of the interrogators saying that it was because of people like him who were responsible for letting down their country and for the defeat that the enemy had inflicted upon the fatherland. The Lieutenant Colonel was then ordered to be shot.

Henry Escapes
      Henry saw the battle police executing all the officers of the rank of major and above who were separated from their troops. None was allowed to make an explanation. To them Henry would be a German in Italian uniform and summarily executed. Henry without further reflection, ran for the river when nobody was looking and dived into the water. He stayed under the water as long as he could coming up briefly. The second time he came up, he saw a piece of timber and held on to it. He had heard shots when he ran and when he came up. Now he heard no shots. The water was cold and the river was filled with wood. The current was fast. He held on to the timber with both hands and let it take him along.


German Soldiers or Italians?
      This is a very long chapter filled with incidents. In a continuation from the previous chapter, the Caporetto retreat, describing World War I in great detail is one of the notable events. Ayno is killed when some soldiers fire randomly and Henry is not sure whether they had been German or Italians wearing German helmets. Henry feels they were not Germans. Bonello feels the same and says if they had been Germans they would have killed all of them. To which Henry replies that because the rear guard was afraid of everything, they were in more danger from the Italians.

Hemingway’s Use of Irony
      Henry now faces the danger of a military execution. He comes across the battle police executing officers after a summary trial, merely on suspicion. Henry is sure that they would, take him to be a German in Italian uniform. Henry’s thoughts concerning this represent an ironical view of the situation. The Following Lines can be Closely Noted :
I saw how their minds worked; if they had minds and if they worked. They were all young men and they were saving their country. The second army was being reformed beyond the Tagliamento. They were executing officers of the rank of a major and above who were separated from their troops. They were also dealing with German agitators in Italian uniforms. So far they had shot everyone they had questioned. The questioners had the beautiful detachment and devotion to stern justice of men dealing in death without being in any danger of it.

Suspense and Pathos
      This is also a chapter filled with suspense and excitement. As Henry and his companions join the retreat there is a lot of excitement and anticipation. A number of incidents such as crossing the bridge, hiding from the German, Ayno being killed, then being captured by the Battle police lend an atmosphere of intense suspense which reached an exciting climax as Henry plunge into the river and swims away to an escape. Elements of pathos are also evident. Henry and Piani have to leave Ayno’s body behind and he lay looking very dead in the rain. The officers being executed after a brief interrogation also lends to the atmosphere of grim pathos. Henry’s thought about this reflects the irony behind their behavior and the unreasonableness of it all. But all these are again aspects of the realism of the story. Hemingway’s realistic treatment of the war is strengthened by these elements.

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