Miss Helen Ferguson: Character Analysis in A Farewell To Arms

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      Miss Helen Ferguson is a nurse working with Catherine. She and Catherine are good friends. Slid is a minor character introduced initially to fill the background. She and Catherine are newly posted at the front where Henry is also posted. When Henry and Catherine pair off. Rinaldi turns to her but doesn’t find her as attractive as Catherine. Henry says that she was a fine girl but never knew more about her than that she had two brothers in the war.

Concern for Catherine
      Ferguson is shown the being deeply attached to Catherine. She is genuinely interested in Catherine’s welfare. Later, in the novel, a pregnant Catherine is seen sitting with her and Henry, having deserted the army comes up to them. Immediately, she begins to derate Henry for the mess he had thrown Catherine into. She says she is not at all happy seeing him. In her opinion Henry has played with Catherine and ruined her. She turns to Catherine and says “He’s done nothing but run you with his sneaking Italian tricks”. She even calls him a “snake with an Italian uniform”, Ferguson is really displeased by the way things are going on between Henry and Catherine. Catherine is pregnant but they are obviously not going to get married. She is worried that Henry will leave Catherine with the child and run away. She is angry because she is concerned about Catherine and her child and future.

Her Moral Concerns
      Listening to her outburst, Catherine tells her that they were both going away together. But she still feels annoyed and tells Catherine that she was as bad as Henry. She says “You’re two of the same thing. I’m ashamed of you, Catherine Barkley. You have no shame and no honour and you’re as sneaky as he is.” She sounds like a girl of conservative morals. She is upset that they are having a sexual relationship so blatantly and are not in the least concerned about marriage. When Catherine tries to explain otherwise she is angry and bitterly accuses Catherine of being happy that her seducer has come back and thinking of it very lightly. And she is so depressed over it, she begins to cry and Catherine has to console her. Even Henry tries to console her but she will not be consoled and calls him a ‘dirty sneaking American-Italian. She is so upset, she wants to know if Henry has a wife hidden away somewhere and if that is the reason why he won’t marry her.

Her Anxieties
      Ferguson is anxious about Catherine and she is also worried about herself. She worries about Henry and Catherine being separated and being unable to marry but when told that they are going away together she is anxious about being alone. However, this is not to be interpreted as jealousy. It should be taken more as a case of nervousness due to the war. The war is creating havoc in everybody’s lives, Ferguson’s life is no less in tension. Her two brothers are at war. Her friend is going to have a war body, she doesn’t know what is going to happen next. So it is understandable that she is jittery.

      Ferguson is in a way a foil to Catherine’s character. The differences in their attitude to Catherine’s pregnancy brings out into sharp focus characteristic attributed to Catherine. Ferguson feels they should get married and have a legitimate relationship and a legitimate baby. Catherine is hardly bothered about legalising their marriage. She is more concerned about staying together. Ferguson is concerned about others and society. For Catherine, it is enough that she feels married from within.

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