How Frederic Gains His Agency

The scene at the very end of part 3 stood out to me. Hemmingway writes, “I had taken off the stars, but that was for convenience. It was no point of honor. I was not against them. I was through. I wished them all the luck. There were the good ones, and the brave ones, and the calm ones and the sensible ones, and they deserved it. But it was not my show any more and I wished this bloody train would get to Mestre and I would eat and stop thinking. I would have to stop” (232).

Frederic, much like our other two protagonists this year, firmly believes that the war is terrible and brutal and not meant for him. But, Frederic contrasts Paul and Nellie in how he actually goes through with deserting his army. He is the first character we see who rips off his stars and denounces them. He looses care for honor or for how those at home will view him, instead he does what is best for his well-being. Frederic even thinks to himself that those stars he wore were not for him and that they were only for the brave, etc. While deserting your army may be seen as a cowardice act, which is exactly how Frederic views it, it is actually incredibly courageous. He is the only character I have seen who has put agency back into his story, who goes against societies notion that this war is great and good, and who has not been turned into a machine who mindlessly does work until he dies. Him leaving the war was something I never saw coming since none of the other books this year have gone that route yet. While Frederic has his many other flaws, I think his actions in this passage are admirable in how they take what we have seen as typical war stories so far this semester in a new direction.

2 thoughts on “How Frederic Gains His Agency

  1. This part also stood out for me because as you said, we see a side of Henry that we haven’t seen before. Instead of getting his romantic side, we really get a sense of what he thought about the war. I guess since it ended, it gave him time to truly reflect on his experience instead of just his day-to-day life. Since he recognizes that he isn’t truly brave that those he believes deserve the stars, I wonder if he’s going to try to find that brave side of him. I doubt it since Frederic has a lot of flaws, but hey, if he got this much agency back, who knows? Maybe he will.

  2. When I think of FH and how he deserted, I have mixed feelings. I think about how he was pretty okay with the war up until this point and decides he is done with it and leaves, but I also feel like I lost a bit of trust or respect for him. I understand that he did what he felt he needed to do, and I don’t dislike him for leaving the war, I just think that he was doing it for himself in some weird selfish way that I have not fully developed yet. But comparing him to Paul, I feel like FH’s character falls short. Paul didn’t like the war, he began hating it and finding it cruel and worthless and said once he made it out of the war he was going to tell people the reality of it and try to stop war all together for the future. He had these plans, he wanted to make something positive out of all of this. But I don’t think FH was running away for the same reason. I personally don’t see FH trying to change things after the fact like I could see Paul doing if he did not die, but that is my own personal readings of both Paul and FH.

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