We’re going to talk about the representation of the war in chapters 1 and 2 of a Farewell to Arms.
First, the soldiers are represented as responsible for bringing nastiness and dirtiness with them, everywhere they go, even when the landscape is initially beautiful. « The leaves fell early that year » « the dust they raised » « the feeling of a storm coming »: these quotes announce the bad events that are going to happen later in the story, even though for now, nothing really seems to affect the narrator directly. The soldiers are represented like dirty men: « troops were muddy and wet in their capes ». Also, the word « grey » is repeated several times in the chapter, which we can link to the fact that at the beginning the reader doesn’t know if Frederick is an actor or a spectator. He is more of a spectator as the reader can guess from such expressions as “we saw”, we could see” or “we heard”. Grey represents indecision as it is somewhere between black and white.
We can also link the dirtiness brought by the soldiers to the cholera, which is mentioned and usually follows wars, bringing even more damages. The image of the soldiers’ weapons “bulging forward under their capes as though they were six months gone with child” convey the sense they are literally carrying death in their wombs, and might also foretell of Catherine’s still-born baby.
The grey which represents indecision could also be linked to the quote « the river had been captured very handsomely », hoping that it might be livable soon if the war should end quickly. This shows Frederic wants the war to end quickly as though he did not really care for winning while it was his choice to serve Italy: once more it shows that he has confused feelings. In the same time, as all the fighting evoked so far takes place in the distance or “in the mountains”, the narrator is not really affected physically but also emotionally as he coldly says that “only seven thousand” men died of the cholera in the army. Obviously none of these men was his friend. War is just something to be described, not to be taken part in. Likewise, the fact that he is the only one to go on leave as the snow arrives raises the question of how needed he truly is.
In chapter 2, we can see that the war is getting closer as it is “only a mile away” but still it is not quite there yet as the atmosphere is quite peaceful with a “fountain”, some “vines”, a “garden” as well as “very fine” house. Could it be a sort of paradise – the same as in the first lines of the book - waiting to be corrupted by the evil influence of war? Arguably the question makes sense as the war makes the soldiers do bad things, because of the situation they’re in, they just try to distract themselves « everyone ate very quickly and seriously » It shows that there is no leisure, no happiness, they don’t have enough to eat so when they do they eat until excess. Also, the war makes the impossible become possible, like in the quote: « priest to-day with girls » whereas we all know that it is strictly forbidden for a priest to have any kind of relationship with a woman. « The priest smiled and blushed » He doesn’t look shocked by all the sins happening around him, maybe he even thinks about this type of things too, which is totally unbelievable. It would never happen anywhere else than in a war. They also mention « finger games » « whore house » They talk a lot about sexuality as if they were trying to remember good old times. This being said, none of the above-mentioned "bad things" equal the horrors that can be committed when true war and true chaos happen, these horrors can simply be imagined, like with the "storm coming" in Chapter 1 or the "cloud coming" in chapter 2.
Finally we can also say that the pope is corrupted : « the pope wants the Austrians to win the war » « that’s where the money comes from » This means that the money from the war comes from Austria, the pope supports them even if they are supposed to be enemies.
In conclusion in these 2 chapters the war is represented as a potential source of corruption and perversion but it seems that the danger is not totally felt or understood by the narrator.
Shirel, Yulius, Elodie & Océane
Posted by Shirel.