A Farewell To Arms: Chapter 5 - Summary and Analysis

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CHAPTER 5

SUMMARY

At the War Front
      The next day the narrator goes to survey the area in and around the war front. He finds the Italian soldiers all in the dug-outs. He looked across the barbed wire at the Austrian lines on the other side. Their trenches were above on the hillside hardly a few yards from the Italian lines. The Italians were constructing a new wide road that would go over the mountain and zig-zag down to the bridge on the river. This, road was meant to make the Italian traffic more smooth and the offensive would start as soon as it was completed. As the narrator drives back towards the town a shell explode close to the road, followed by three more. However, he drives back safely.

The First Encounter
      After coming back from the fronts the narrator goes to call on Miss Barkley, in the afternoon. However, she was on duty. Eventually he meets her after dinner. As he looked at her in the dark he felt that she was very beautiful and took her hand. She let him but objected when he tried to put his arm around him. And as he bent to kiss her, she reacted by slapping him hard. He quickly apologized and her anger subsided quickly too. As they chat, she calls him a “dear” and says she wouldn’t mind kissing him. And as he kissed her hard she resisted still but suddenly gave in completely. He is surprised as she begins to cry, calling him ‘darling’ and asking if he would be good to her. Nevertheless he strokes her hair and pats her shoulder and thus comforted her. Later Rinaldi comments that his friend was making good progress with Miss Barkley.

CRITICAL COMMENTS

The Theme of Love and War
      The story here begins to take about love, as the love affair between Miss Barkley and the narrator is sparked off. They are attracted to one another and after an initial rebuff, she allows him to kiss and embrace her. The two themes, that of love and war run a parallel course in this novel. This is evident in this chapter itself. The narrator’s survey of the war-front, his encounter with the bursting shell is closely followed by the love scene between him and Miss Barkley. We also begin to understand the war situation better. The opposing parties are the Italians and Austrians. We are also finally acquainted with the nationalities of the various persons whom we have met so far. The narrator is an American serving with an Italian ambulance unit. Miss Catherine Barkely is an English nurse and Miss Helen Ferguson is Scottish. Both are working for the British hospital in Gorizia. Rinaldi is Italian. And for the first time the narrator is addressed as Mr. Henry. Later we learn that he is Lieutenant Frederic Henry.

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