Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview

Catherine Barkley and the Hemingway
Code: Ritual and Survival
in A Farewell to Arms

Sandra Whipple Spanier

"If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and for evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend."

CHARLOTTE BRONTE, Shirley

It is a critical commonplace that there are two kinds of Hemingway women: the destructive ones and the daydreams. Catherine Barkley long has been regarded as the ultimate dreamgirl: "a divine lollipop," in the words of Frances Hackett; "the abstraction of a lyric emotion," according to Edmund Wilson; "idealized past the fondest belief of most people and even the more realistic wishes of some," says Philip Young.To others the dream is a nightmare. Devoid of any personality or character of her own, Catherine becomes Frederic Henry's "leechlike shadow," the siren luring the young man to his destruction through her isolating love (Leo Gurko). Most feminist critics also have assumed Catherine as the antithesis of Frederic, whether objecting to her voluntary submissiveness or simply dismissing her as a colorless figment of the male imagination. Millicent Bell calls her "a sort of inflated rubber doll woman available at will to the onanistic dreamer," and Judith Fetterley views her idealization as a mask for both Frederic's fear of Catherine and his hostility toward her—the message of her death that "the only good woman is a dead one."

____________________
© 1987 by Sandra Whipple Spanier.Published for the first time in this volume.

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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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