Before the semester is over…

What was your favorite piece we read this semester? Why?

Or, what is something you didn’t expect to learn in this class, but did?

Or! What was the most shocking thing we talked about, read, or found this semester?

The Power and Ethics of Language

I think the point of literature is to encapsulate the human experience in any way it can, but, as we talked about in class, I often feel conflicted about who can write about what and how authentic the encapsulation of the truth is. In the words of Prof. Rochelle, all text stems from an initial truth. At what point though are we willing to accept an authors’ credentials but deny the experiences they write about?

I think collectively we’ve agreed that Not So Quiet, even though it has been written by someone who never first-hand experienced the war, was based so much on personal experience, that we approve of it as an accurate retelling of the war. With The Forbidden Zone, we’ve read in the author’s note that the broken retelling is a stylistic representation of the war, and we can inherently agree that the text is an authentic one. But are books like A Farewell to Arms that lie so heavily in a fictional story-line, authentic and as worthy of telling as the others?

Reactions to Death in the End

A common occurrence with these novels is the protagonist witnessing the death of another right before the end of said novel. With Paul it was his friend Kat, for Nellie it was the other cooks, and for Henry it was (spoiler alert) Catherine. What I found interesting was the way they reacted to the deaths.

Paul spent the time in denial, acting as if Kat had merely fallen unconscious and eventually walked away numbly. Nellie was completely numb to it the entire time. Henry was the only one to completely break down internally, bargaining with God to ensure Catherine’s survival (pg 330).

It’s a common theme that war experience changes a person. Here’s an opening for discussion: how different was Henry’s experience with the war in comparison to Nellie and Paul’s, in that he reacted in a such a way to Catherine dying? Was it the war experience, or was the in-the-moment situation the deciding factor for his reaction?

Morgan’s Bridge to the Blog

Hey guys! So today in class we spent a lot of time talking about the relationship between Catherine (Cat) and Frederic Henry’s relationship in the novel. We talked about the layers of their relationship, how they pretend that the hospital room and the hotel room is their own little house and even contemplated if their relationship was real or fake. Obviously, both Cat and Henry have some personal things going on and maybe that is why they are together, they could be a comfort for each other in some weird way. Being someone who has always been in love with the idea of being in love, I got really caught up in the romantic relationships we have seen so far this semester.

But how does the portrayal of love in “All Quiet,” “Not So Quiet,” and “A Farewell to Arms” do? How are they similar or different? Have we seen the type of relationship that Henry and Cat have before?

I think this all goes back to the glorification of wartime and the idea that everything works out in the end. It is the true romantic story: man goes off to war, gets injured, a pretty nurse takes care of him, nurses him back to health, they fall in love and get married, have a family and live happily ever after. Super sappy and in the end everything is wrapped up nicely with a pretty little bow and they live in a house with a white picket fence. It is like this was the dream of the time, the type of relationship people adored and wished themselves to be in. Pictures from this time and posters like that of which Dr. Scanlon showed us in class today add to this belief of the romanticized war.

However, we have already seen how Henry and Cat’s relationship deviates from this idea since she gets pregnant out of wedlock. Their mental states, their perspectives, and their actual relationship is everything outside of what the desired relationship was. So, could their relationship be here to mock this idea of romance during the wartime or is it an accurate depiction of two broken people finding relief and comfort within one another which makes life a little more bearable? And if so, what is trying to be shown here? Now, thinking back to our other books, how about the relationship Nellie finds herself in at the end of “Not So Quiet”? We discussed how she said she would never marry someone who was in the war and was injured because it would be a constant reminder of the things she witnessed, however, she gets engaged to Roy and accepts him even after his injury. Does this make their relationship the same as Henry and Cat’s? If so how? Do you think that these relationships that we see in these wartime stories are parodying the expectations that everyone believed would happen at the time, making fun of the dreams young women had of falling in love with brave soldiers, or do you think that they are just showing the actual “romance” that would come about during a time like this?

Word Count: 523


The Military Hospital

Can we talk about how Henry’s medical leave was depicted in contrast to how such things were in the other novels?

Paul got holed up in that church hospital, where orderlies had to be flagged down and there were rumors of a room they brought men to die in. Henry got a total of four doctors to look at his knee, massages, baths, and chances to visit the town’s restaurants and horse races. It was as though he were on vacation instead of recuperating from injured legs.

What do you think Hemingway is trying to say by presenting Henry’s recovery to us this way?

The Grey

So during class today we wrote on the board “war profits” as a major topic in the text, but I feel like we didn’t go into it in A Farewell to Arms as much as we did others. That being said, I couldn’t help myself from being a total reject of a student during my sociology class and only thinking about the questions I had about it.

I think one of the reasons I like this book particularly more than the others we’ve read this semester is because Hemingway does a fantastic job of writing the grey. Frederic Henry is a grey character. He joined the war because he happened to be in Italy and he happened to speak Italian and he shows no real commitment or tie to anything. He is neither black nor white because he doesn’t feel a strong connection to any real part of the war or any consequence thereof and it was this realization that got me thinking.

The other characters in the text bring up the question of who profits from the war and we don’t get a strong response from Henry. In fact, he is one of the first people in the books we’ve read this semester that hasn’t really explained to us either his patriotism or nationalism (for all the confusion the pair offers). This is nothing short of puzzling to me.

Logically, America would’ve been one of the few nations to have profited off of the war. They entered the fighting late which must’ve already saved the American people a lot of money, but on top of that, they’ve had to have supplied some type of weaponry or finances to the countries at war or it would’ve risked jeopardizing previous alliances. So while these men are discussing in front of Henry’s character the idea that someone profits, I wonder if Henry was considering the profit his own nation gained or if he was simply being blissfully ignorant?

I think one of the most dangerous things we see in either of the world wars is this conflation of patriotism and nationalism and Hemingway’s decision to write Henry as a character who is either blissfully ignorant or completely and totally unwilling to acknowledge the threat of his own country to the lives of other people is both (if intentional) masterful and disheartening…or perhaps I’m just reading into things a little too much…