Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

Pseudoautobiography
and Personal Metaphor

Millicent Bell

Autobiographic novels are, of course, fictions, constructs of the imagination, even when they seem to incorporate authenticating bits and pieces of personal history. But all fiction is autobiography, no matter how remote from the author's experience the tale seems to be; he leaves his mark, expresses his being, his life, in any tale. A Farewell to Arms can illustrate both of these statements.

Ernest Hemingway's novel is not the autobiography some readers have thought it. It was not memory but printed source material that supplied the precise details of its descriptions of historic battle scenes on the Italian front in World War I. The novel's love story is no closer to Hemingway's personal reality. He did go to Italy and see action, but not the action he describes; he did fall in love with a nurse, but she was no Catherine Barkley A large amount of the book fulfills the principle expressed in the deleted coda to "Big Two-Hearted River": "The only writing that was any good was what you made up, what you imagined." Still, there is much that must represent authentic recall in the book. Innumerable small details and a sense of general conditions in battle, the character of the Italian landscape, the Italian soldier, the ambulance corps—all impressed themselves upon Hemingway in 1918 in the Dolomite foothills near Schio as surely as they might have further east around the Tagliamento a year earlier. And there are fetishes of auto-

____________________
From Ernest Hemingway: The Writer in Context, edited by James Nagel. © 1984 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. University of Wisconsin Press, 1984.

-113-

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Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Ernest Hemingway's a Farewell to Arms *
  • Modern Critical Interpretations *
  • A Farewell to Arms *
  • Contents *
  • Editor's Note vii
  • Introduction 1
  • The Novel as Pure Poetry 9
  • Tragic Form in a Farewell to Arms 25
  • A Farewell to Arms: A Dream Book 33
  • Going Back 49
  • Hemingway's "Resentful Cryptogram" 61
  • The Sense of an Ending in a Farewell to Arms 77
  • Frederic Henry's Escape and the Pose of Passivity 97
  • Pseudoautobiography and Personal Metaphor 113
  • Catherine Barkley and the Hemingway Code: Ritual and Survival in a Farewell to Arms 131
  • Chronology 149
  • Contributors 151
  • Bibliography 153
  • Acknowledgments 157
  • Index 159
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