Dr. Valentini: Character Analysis in A Farewell To Arms

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      Dr. Valentini is the surgeon who operates on Henry’s knee and whom Frederic Henry later thinks about in the freight train, as he escapes and calls his knee Dr. Valentini’s knee. As with the other characters, he appears once in the novel for the operation and then disappears.

A Skilled Surgeon

      Dr. Valentini is a major in the army corps. Therefore Henry considers him of better standing than the house doctors. And accordingly, Dr. Valentini announces that he can operate on his knee the very next day as opposed to the then doctors who had advised Henry to wait for six months and then operate. He is quite a competent doctor. He is also like Rinaldi a good-hearted boisterous and quite a garrulous person. As he checks up on Henry’s knee he keeps talking all the time about this thing and that. He is quite cheerful and open to the opposite sex too. This can be observed from the admiring glances he throws at Catherine as he examines Henry’s knee all the time paying compliments to her. He tells Henry that he is as healthy as a goat, the war is a bloody war and calls him a fine boy. As Rinaldi talks of innumerable things in quick succession so does Dr. Valentini chatter about different things in short sentences that run along together very rapidly and hardly ever waits for his audience to give him a reply. The following passage quoted will amply illustrate the point, ‘You are a fine boy. I’ll make you better than new. Does that hurt? You bit it hurts. How they love to hurt you, these doctors. What have they done for you so far? Can’t that girl talk Italian? She should learn. What a lovely girl! I could teach her. I will be a patient here myself. No ‘I don’t take her away from you thank you. Thank you very much, Miss. That’s all.

A Convincing Personality

      Henry appreciates Dr. Valentini a lot. He had refused the diagnosis of the other doctors because the house doctor was only a captain. Dr. Valentini is a major and Henry has more trust in him. Henry shows his appreciation and also the fact that he was right to trust him and not the other when later Henry retreats and escapes, he wakes half the retreat and swims part of the Taghamento on his stiff knee. Henry is very pleased that the knee has not created any problems and calls the knee Dr. Valentini’s saying that once doctor did something that body part becomes the doctors. Dr. Valentinis is a very entertaining person. The way he goes about is quite amusing. He is also a highly competent surgeon. All these make him in a sense a unique character. There is not much role for him in the novel as there is not much for the other minor characters but for the brief episode that he appears, he is highly visible and he has been drawn so well that he remains etched in our memories. He is such a humorous and fun loving person that, when the other doctors forbid Henry from drinking, he not only allows Henry but accepts on saying that he would have ten drinks. He goes away saying he would bring better cognac for Henry the next day. Here is a doctor who is like an ordinary human being. He does not carry with him the aura of being unapproachable. He is good-humored kind and competent too. He cheers his patients up. Hemingway has drawn him beautifully. He has hardly allocated more than a few pages but he is a brilliant portrait.

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