Rinaldi: Character Analysis in A Farewell To Arms

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      Another minor but key character in the novel is Rinaldi. He is very warm and likable person. Everything about him is in excess. He is overtly sexual and very garrulous by nature. He has a wit and sense of humor peculiar to himself. He is warm-hearted and is very cordial. He also has a predilection for drinking and is impious and hardly concerned about God and religion and yet he is a very good and loving friend to Henry. He is also a sincere and hard-working surgeon.

Garrulous by Nature

      Rinaldi is an Italian surgeon serving in the war front. He is Henry’s roommate and they are quite good friends. It is through him that Henry and Catherine get to know one another. Rinaldi had the intention of wooing Catherine but when he notices the mutual attraction between them, he backs off and teasingly protests at Henry. He and Henry are almost of the same age and he chatters away nineteen to the dozen whenever they are together. He has a rambling way and talks of things here and there continuously. An example of this can be seen in his outburst when Henry returns from his leave. He starts immediately shooting off questions rapidly. He says, “Where did you go and what you did? Tell me everything at once. Tell me really what was the best. Where did you meet her? In the Cora? Where did you go? How did you feel? Tell me everything at once. Did you stay all night?” etc. In the same breadth, he informs Henry that some new girls have come to the brothel and some new English girls have also, nothing remarkable happened except for frost-bites, chilblains, jaundice, gonorrhea, self-inflicted wounds, pneumonia etc. Every week someone gets wounded by rock fragments. There are a few really wounded. The next week the war starts again. They say so. Do you think I would do right to marry Miss Barkley after the war of course ?” Rinaldi is thus quite capable of talking about everything in a few sentences.

Rinaldi Provides Comic Relief

      As the priest visits Henry as he lay wounded, so does Henry. He brings a bottle of cognac for him. And then immediately launches into a rapid questioning. He wants to know if Henry has done any heroic act. He says Henry can be awarded a silver medal. Then he says that in any case, he shall get a medal because he has been seriously wounded. And he keeps on chatting. He offers to go and bring Catherine. He says he is lonely in his room without Henry and there is nobody to borrow money from either. He also complains that there are no new girls in the brothels. He says it is an outrageous shame that the girls in the brothels become friends due to having known them for a long time. During the course of their bantering talk, he tells Henry that he was really an Italian. All fire and smoke and nothing inside. They are war brothers and love each other. In the same way, he displays his garrulous nature in talking about Catherine. He is ebullient and boisterous and his nonstop chatter lends a comic touch to the atmosphere.

Depressed and Dejected by the War

      We come across Rinaldi next when Rinaldi returns from his convalescence in Milan. Rinaldi immediately examines Henry’s knee and expresses the opinion that he should still be undergoing treatment as the knee was not yet properly healed. However, Rinaldi himself looks under the weather and then he reveals that the war was “killing” him. The war has depressed him terribly. Throughout the offensive, during the summer he has been overworked. All the other doctor had also dumped their jobs on him. He had been operating on the wounded soldiers and was therefore overworked. Bitterly, he says, the overwork had made him a better surgeon. He feels that they should get drunk in order to stay cheerful in the terrible war. But Henry declines saying he had jaundice but Rinaldi brushes him off saying one drink won’t hurt. Then he says, “I will get you drunk and take out your liver and put in you a good Italian liver and make you a man again. He also wants to know if he has married Catherine. This shows that he hasn’t forgotten the sexual aspect. The war has meant a great strain on Rinaldi, and he is enormously depressed. But he has been visiting the brothels regularly. So much so that the girls have become friends. The result of this coupled with his depression is that he believes he has caught syphilis and that has made him bitter. He has been treating himself for it. However, he has not lost his sense of humor completely and he keeps up an appearance of mirth. And this can be seen in his affection to Henry and the way welcomes him back to the front.

Contrast to the Priest

      Rinaldi like the other officers baits the priest. But here we see him being somewhat obsessed with it. Later the officers express that it was due to the excessive stress and strain that he had undergone during the summer. Rinaldi is a character completely in contrast with the priest in his view of love. However, this has already been discussed.

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