Chapter 9 of A Farewell to Arms is a real turning poitn in the story as it is in this chapter that Frederick is wounded. It is in a certain way the true begining of Frederick's war.
To begin with, in the first pages of the chapter, the words "circus" and "native village" seem very theatrical to describe the front. Moreover the words "native village" can express the lack of civilization of the war and the distance or the exoticism that the narrator feels between him and the war. This clearly shows that Frederick doesn't take the war very seriously or that is doesn't seem very dangerous to him. On top of this, whenever the narrator mentions the dugouts, it is in a positive way. He says that they are "very good" and that he feels "relaxed" in them. The dugouts are supposed to be a horrible place but here it is the complete opposite: they eat, drink and smoke in them, they feel relaxed and seem disconnected from the reality of the war outside. This either shows that the narrator is very naive and doesn't truly understand the war or that he uses the dugouts to create an illusion of safety, considering what is about to befall them. Another way for the author to create an illusion of safety is the use of comic relief or irony. When Frederick calls the other drivers "patriots" he is clearly being ironic and is trying to look detached. He is being ironic to forget the fear and the war and not to let the others know that he is afraid.
The evolution of light is also important in this chapter. In the beginning, "the sun [is] going down" but just as the story, it is getting darker outside and light is disappearing whereas war is approaching. The light slowly disappearing may forecast what will happen a few pages after; Frederick will be wounded. As long as the sun is up and that it isn't completely dark, Frederick is not afraid and even feels relaxed. But as soon as it is dark, the first bombings start and fear slowly overtakes the soldiers.
There are a few references to fate as well as to Christ. In the beginning Frederick describes the front as "a one road show". It shows that indeed there is only one way to go and that he doesn't have a choice. He also says a few pages later: "I'll take what you can give me". Literally he is speaking about food but implicitly about life. He will take what life will give him: good or bad, death or life. He doesn't have any power over this. It may forecast the end of the book and his powerlessness when facing it. The sentence "Lift it high Tenente" may be an allusion to the Last Supper as if Frederick was Christ, Once again this might forecast the end of the chapter as it is the last true meal that they will have together. Frederick is compared to Christ another time at the end of the chapter when he has been rescued but insists on the fact that he doesn't need to be healed right now. He is portrayed as a savior, sacrificing himself like Christ.
The most important part of this chapter is of course the moment when Frederick is wounded. The way Hemingway describes this scene is very interesting and particular. Indeed it feels like everything is happening in slow motion because Hemingway describes every detail but at the same time the reader feels that it is happening very fast. Hemingway's style is innovative because at this time they didn't have much in terms of slow motion movies or special effects as we have today but nevertheless he manages to describe it the way we would imagine it with all of these modern effects. Moreover, he evokes what his five senses perceive to make the reader understand that this war profoundly touches every single part of you and it also makes the scene look a lot more realistic.
The other important part of this passage is Passini's death. This scene is very tragic because, even though the reader can't see him, he can imagine Passini agonizing, screaming because of the pain and begging God for mercy. It feels unfair to see him dying as he was the most pacific of the drivers. Indeed in one of their conversations, Passini says "there's nothing worse than war". Maybe he is the first one to die because of his ideas, which are similar to –though stronger than- the narrator's ideas. His death may forecast the end of the book and what will happen to the narrator as if it was a message. It might also be a way to convey his loss of belief in mankind and in life in so far as the wise and “respectful” always die first.
Once he is rescued, Frederick realizes for the first time in the book, the true impact of war as he has seen Passini die in front of him: "Passini's dead." "Yes. He's dead." Clearly there is nothing more to say. He then meets an English man that lies to the doctor so that Frederick can be healed more quickly. The English man says that Frederick is the legitimate son of President Wilson. This shows a certain lack of unity in the Italian army as Frederick doesn't mind being healed before the other Italian soldiers. But more importantly, it’s another element of comic relief, allowing the tension to ease up a bit. At the end of the chapter, Frederick is in the ambulance and begins to feel the pain due to his wound, From that moment pain becomes the most important thing for him, nothing else matters, not even the dying man above him that is losing all his blood. In fact, the deaths don't seem to bother anybody as when the man dies they just replace him with another body. Nobody is touched by the deaths anymore, they are so many they got used to it and are well aware there is no point in trying to do or say anything.
In chapter 9, we finally see some changes in the character of Frederick. He is wounded and realizes what war is really about. This chapter will impact the whole story as it will permit Frederick and Catherine to live their love story to the fullest but also marks the end of Frederick's naiveté and innocence. He will no longer be able to ignore his place in the war or the war itself.
Ludmila, with Khalil & Yoen