A Farewell To Arms: Chapter 41 - Summary and Analysis

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CHAPTER 41

SUMMARY

In the Hospital
      One morning Henry woke up at about three o’clock in the morning as he heard Catherine stirring. She was beginning to have pains. Henry takes her to the hospital where a woman entered her name in the hospital book. She was then taken to a room and prepared for delivery. The doctor was not yet there but Catherine began to have pains at regular intervals and slackened off. Catherine was very excited and said she wanted to be a good wife having the baby without any foolishness. She tells Henry to go and have breakfast. Henry goes and when he returns he finds that Catherine has been taken to the delivery room. As she was having too much pain, the doctor was giving her gas as an anaesthetic to soothe the pain.

Protected Labour, Cesarean Necessary
      Catherine was taken to the hospital at three in the morning. It was now noon and she was still in the delivery room. Her contractions had been regular and had given her a lot of pain but now it had slacked and the baby had not yet been delivered. She was very tired but was still cheerful. Then doctor allows Henry to give the gas to Catherine. As time wore on the baby didn’t come, Catherine began to worry that the baby might not be born at all. Henry went out for lunch and came back again. This time the doctor was with Catherine who looked grey and tired. He tells Henry to wait while he examined her. Later he informs Henry that a cesarean operation had to be done and quickly. Henry agrees.

Catherine’s Death
      Catherine was removed to the operation theatre. However, the child is stillborn and Catherine was very grey and weak and tired. Henry muses about his stillborn child, a big baby boy. And he feels that he should have been baptized even though he had no religion. He then thinks that Catherine is going to die. She herself had been saying that she was going to die.

      Later, coming back from supper, he finds that Catherine has had a hemorrhage and she was in a dangerous condition. Henry prays to God to not let her die. He prays “I’ll do anything you say if you don’t let her die”. He goes in and on seeing her breaks down. He offers to bring a priest but she declines saying she wanted only him. She wants that Henry should not do the things they did with another girl after she died but she wants him to have girls. Henry says he doesn’t want them. The nurse wants Henry to leave and Catherine says she isn’t afraid of death as it was only a dirty trick. But she dies due to one hemorrhage after another. Henry insists that he should be left alone with her, but it was of no use: “It was like saying goodbye to a statue”. He leaves and walks back to his hotel in the rain.

CRITICAL ANALYSIS

Catherine Brave and Loving till the End
      Hemingway’s portrayal of Catherine in this last chapter is very touching and very beautiful. An extremely moving chapter, the sensitive reader shall hardly be above to hold his tears. We are struck by her bravery and courage as she undergoes a long and arduous labour. Even on the verge of death she doesn’t whimper. She is calm and restrained only feeling anxious for the baby and for Henry. She is not afraid of death. She begins to cry not because she is scared but because she feels that Henry must be having a difficult time. She is in a lot of pain and she wants to have the baby quickly but she cannot help it. She cries due to the intense pain she is suffering but the thought of death doesn’t make her cry. She only wants that Henry should be happy. Her last words are that he should have other girls only he shouldn’t do the things they did together with another girl.

Henry
      As Henry watched Catherine slowly dying in front of his eyes, suffering intense pain, his thoughts became deep and philosophical. For instance, ‘Poor, poor dear cat. And this was the price you paid for sleeping together. This was the end of the trap. This was what people got for loving each other. He is numb and cannot feel anything for his son. He says he doesn’t feel anything as “he nearly killed his mother”. At this juncture, Henry who has not religion and did not believe in God feels that his son should have been baptized. He prays fervently to God for Catherine and tells Him that he would do anything if he didn’t let Catherine die. He later on also offers to Catherine to call a priest to see her in her last moments. Catherine meets a tragic and moving end which we feel is underserved. However the tragedy is not in her but in the feeling that Henry has lost everything.

The Significance of the Introductory Chapter
      The Introductory chapter of the novel is an expository chapter which serves various functions. Firstly, it establishes the dominant mood of doom and failure. Secondly, it establishes a series of images especially of the mountain and plain, for future symbolic cultivation and thirdly compels the reader to become a detached observer of the events and actions.

      In the very first para of the opening chapter, the narrator fixes the milieu a house in a village near the war front, from where he can take a long view across the river and the plain to the distant mountains. The river, the trees and the dust and leaves and especially the plain and the mountain shall be seen to have a fundamental value as symbols. The weather is autumnal and the tone of the language also takes an autumnal tinge which is important to establish the mood of the chapter as autumnal too.

      The paragraph also established the setting of the novel through painting the grim and sometimes desolate landscape.

      The mountain background serves to throw the idea of a high, unreachable, unconquerable place where the war cannot reach and from the view of the mountains, we move to a view of the river which produced a sense of clearness and dryness and a feeling of sunny, white calm. This sense and picture shall grow subtly in the author’s hands as the story progresses and the image of the river clearly flowing shall eventually merge with the image of the mountain symbol one of the two dominant symbols of the novel. However, the river is also subtly connected with the plain symbol. The river flows through the plain and across the plain, on the dusty road among the trees, pass the men-at-war, faceless and voiceless and unidentified against the background of the spreading plain, the river flows.

      The first paragraph also contains vivid descriptions of the war troops marching and the long line of different vehicles slowly filing past the narrator’s eyes. The reader has an elevated vantage point and therefore can look down on the plain, the river and the road and seen from this vantage point the soldiers are reduced in size and scale. This makes the soldiers appear smaller and more pathetic than they would appear if the reader had been brought face to face with them or had been close enough to near their conversation or had known them as individual personalities.

      Also in this chapter, the author clearly states the change of the climate. First it is summer then late summer and then comes autumn closely followed by winter. In fact autumn itself came early that year. This inevitability of seasonal change prepares and paves the way for the study in doom that the author is about to embark. Again the natural elements take on symbolical meanings. In the late summer, it is so dry, that the dust covers everything. Especially the dust raised by the marching troops which cover even the leaves on the trees. Then in the late summer and early autumn the dust and the leaves fall and again the troop marching through the falling leaves and both times the troops are seen from an impersonal and detached view. This picture and the reminder through the dust, of the words of a Christian funeral service makes the atmosphere bleak and gloomy and the gloominess is further strengthened by the picture of the leaves falling. The leaves fall, decay and become dust. Into the dust the soldiers are going and all men are made of the dust and into the dust they shall all go eventually as all men shall.

      In the chapter he goes on to describe the next seasonal change from autumn to winter. With the coming of winter the rain evident during the autumn becomes a permanent rain and with this permanent rain came the disease cholera. Now the rain is established as a symbol of disaster. For with the permanent rain and cholera in its wake killed seven thousand men in the army. The permanent rain lays the dust and rots them as they never existed. The rain is also responsible for the death of the seven thousand soldiers. The first chapter shows a grim picture, there is no sense of peace or beauty in Gorizia and in and around the country near it. Everywhere there is gloom and sadness. The first chapter carefully avoids the presentation of any kind of natural beauty however, all natural elements presented has a symbolic function.

Conclusion
      The first chapter is therefore significant for establishing the setting and the doom and death that is going to be the subject of the novel. The characters have not as yet been introduced but that the novel is going to be a tragedy is made clearly manifest.

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