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."____________________