A Farewell to Arms

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Catherine Barkley Character Analysis

An English nurse in Italy, she bears the spiritual scars of having lost her fiancé in the Battle of the Somme. When she meets Henry, she is ready to throw herself into a new relationship in order to escape the loss of the old one, enlisting Henry to pretend that they are deeply in love almost as soon as they meet. Emotionally damaged, she can never bring herself to marry Henry, but wants to be with him in an idealized union apart from the rest of the world. Through the constant understatements and deprecating humor in her dialogue, even at moments of extreme danger such as the labor that goes wrong, she reveals herself to be a stoic match for Henry, the female side of the Hemingway hero, who does much and says little.

Catherine Barkley Quotes in A Farewell to Arms

The A Farewell to Arms quotes below are all either spoken by Catherine Barkley or refer to Catherine Barkley. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
War Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Scribner edition of A Farewell to Arms published in 2014.
Chapter 6 Quotes
"You don't have to pretend you love me. That's over for the evening. Is there anything you'd like to talk about?"
"But I do love you."
"Please let's not lie when we don't have to."
Related Characters: Lieutenant Frederic Henry (speaker), Catherine Barkley (speaker)
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley have this exchange during their second rendezvous at Gorizia. Rinaldi has stopped pursuing Catherine, having noticed that she prefers Henry.

Though Catherine often seems giddy and lighthearted, and somewhat divorced from the dire nature of certain situations, here she is serious and reflective. She seems to want to avoid the “game” of romance, to lift the burden of that game off of the evening’s shoulders, and engage in conversation with more meaning than mere flattery. Henry tries to reassure her (“But I do love you”), yet Catherine maintains the line between truth and falsity, reality and fantasy. She wants to preserve the truth, seeing the performance of courtship as an unnecessary guise. She perhaps realizes her own complicity in performing--her desire to replace her late lover--and so she sees through Henry's own performance, which he's engineered in an attempt to have sex with Catherine. But Catherine wants to avoid ‘lying’--in the general sense of performing, acting, or not being realistic--as much as possible.

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Chapter 14 Quotes
God knows I had not wanted to fall in love with her. I had not wanted to fall in love with any one. But God knows I had.
Related Characters: Lieutenant Frederic Henry (speaker), Catherine Barkley
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:

This is almost a direct evolution of the previous quote, this statement by Lieutenant Henry occurs after he’s settled at the American hospital in Milan, where his leg injuries are to be treated.

Henry previously claimed: “I don’t love much,” but here we see that statement buckling under the pressure of his admiration for Catherine. He also invokes God, the God he claims to fear in the night, saying that this God knew about his resistance to falling in love. But Henry's stoic withholding of love is becoming undone.

The God Henry references doesn't appear to be a profoundly religious, rigidly defined deity. This is not the priest's God. Rather, this God is more of a turn of phrase: "God knows" this, "God knows" that. This God seems to represent an intimate region internal to Henry's own psyche, rather than anything external to it. This God is at once the limit of Henry's own psyche but also an aspect of it; it marks the limit of Henry's own self-knowledge.

Henry knew he didn't want to fall in love, and he did everything he could to try not to. But love has happened, almost of its own will, and defied all of Henry's resistances. The fact that love has happened on its own, of its own will--perhaps this is why Henry invokes God. He is not conscious of any explanation within himself, or within his own mind.

Chapter 16 Quotes
"There, darling. Now you're all clean inside and out. Tell me. How many people have you ever loved?"
"Nobody."
Related Characters: Lieutenant Frederic Henry (speaker), Catherine Barkley (speaker)
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs while Catherine Barkley is cleaning Lieutenant Henry's wounds, in preparation for his surgery with Dr. Valentini.

This exchange is an epitome of the flightiness that characterizes Hemingway's dialogue--Catherine rapidly jumps from discussing Henry's wounds to inquiring about the history of his love life, in a split second. "Tell me" gets a sentence all to its own, embodying the terseness that is essential to Hemingway's writing.

Henry's equally terse reply, "Nobody," is--as he reveals shortly after--a lie. (He doesn't go into any detail in describing his past; he just vaguely reveals that there have been others before Catherine.) This is ironic, considering Catherine's earlier request in Chapter 6: "Please let's not lie when we don't have to." Henry avoids disclosing his romantic past, it seems, in order to protect Catherine's feelings--to preserve the current sanctity and freshness of their relationship.

This scene raises the questions: is it possible to maintain a romantic relationship while only ever telling the truth? Is there not an element of fantasy integral to any such relationship, which must be protected by lying, or beautifying the reality of the past?


Chapter 18 Quotes
"You're my religion. You're all I've got."
Related Characters: Catherine Barkley (speaker), Lieutenant Frederic Henry
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Lieutenant Henry is still at the American hospital in Milan. It's summer, and he and Catherine are discussing the prospect of getting married. Catherine notes that if they are legally married, she will be sent away to another hospital. Henry suggests getting married privately, but Catherine doesn't see the point in it, because she's not religious. She then calls Henry her "religion."

Catherine's equation of her love for Henry with religion itself, despite her claim to having no religion, is striking. It shifts the idea of religion from something which regards the supernatural or divine to something more immediate to human experience. Religion, for Catherine, seems to connote a strongly-felt emotion, or a very intimate sense of connection to another human--not a connection with something 'higher.' This is echoed later in the novel, when Count Greffi calls Henry's love for Catherine a "religious" feeling. 

Further, "You're all I've got" is spoken by Catherine as if it's the defining condition of "religion." In other words, the fact that Henry is "all she has"--like an intense kind of lifeline--seems to be why she feels compelled to call him her "religion." The extraordinary power and meaning of Henry's presence in Catherine's life achieves for her a religious status.


Chapter 19 Quotes
"I'm afraid of the rain because sometimes I see me dead in it."
Related Characters: Catherine Barkley (speaker)
Related Symbols: Rain
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote, spoken by Catherine Barkley to Lieutenant Henry, occurs in the America Hospital in Milan. Henry has just returned from an afternoon in the city. Outside, it's raining.

There's a substantial association between rain and death in this novel: Catherine either quite literally hallucinates seeing her corpse in the rain, or is reminded by rain about the inevitability of death--and the foreshadowed, fatal ending of the novel is cloaked in rain.

Hemingway brings out rain's overwhelming power. Even though rain can be light and subtle--i.e., drizzling--it's always something beyond human control. Like death, it's a force that cannot be stopped by human intervention. Rain can only be avoided by seeking shelter; death can only be postponed by medicine. Ultimately, these extra-human forces win out and endure beyond our interventions. Hemingway makes the lightness of rain into a massive, nearly omnipresent reminder of human mortality.

Chapter 40 Quotes
We knew the baby was very close now and it gave us both a feeling as though something were hurrying us and we could not lose any time together.
Related Characters: Lieutenant Frederic Henry (speaker), Catherine Barkley
Page Number: 266
Explanation and Analysis:

Having escaped to Switzerland, Catherine Barkley and Lieutenant Henry are staying at a hotel in Lausanne.

At the same time that this quote conveys a sense of emerging life and hopeful ambition, it also foreshadows the fatal ending of the novel, which invokes radically opposite qualities. Indeed, Catherine and Henry cannot afford to lose any time together; but this will take on a different meaning in the end. The baby, hurrying the couple to appreciate their last days alone together, is also hurrying them towards their fatal split from one another. This tragic irony gives this quote an ominous sense of double-meaning.

Chapter 41 Quotes
God please make her not die. I'll do anything you say if you don't let her die. You took the baby but don't let her die. That was all right but don't let her die. Please, please, dear God, don't let her die.
Related Characters: Lieutenant Frederic Henry (speaker), Catherine Barkley
Page Number: 282
Explanation and Analysis:

A nurse has just informed Lieutenant Henry that Catherine has had a hemorrhage after delivering her baby--a condition that could be fatal.

Here, Henry's control over external reality has reached an overwhelming limit. He is totally powerless (emasculated, Hemingway suggests), and only prayer seems to alleviate his sense of uncertainty and fear. But further, his prayer, his attempt to communicate with God, seems genuine; this moment displays a much more heightened and intensified openness to the possibility of God compared to any previous instance of Henry's narration. Though a main motif of the novel has focused on connecting the human feeling of love with religion--connecting a phenomenon that occurs within the human world with the purportedly "supernatural" realm of religion--this scene shows how the threat of imminent death, something fundamentally opposed to the concrete human world and outside of human existence, is the cause of religious sentiment. Death has chased Henry into a corner where he has no control, and his only hope is to appeal to something higher than himself that may.

But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the lights it wasn't any good. It was like saying good-by to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.
Related Characters: Lieutenant Frederic Henry (speaker), Catherine Barkley
Related Symbols: Rain
Page Number: 320
Explanation and Analysis:

These are the last three sentences of the novel, describing what Lieutenant Henry thinks and does after Catherine dies from her (failed) childbirth. Despite their protesting, Henry orders the nurses out of Catherine’s room in order to have a moment of privacy with her. But he finds that nothing of “her” remains—now she is a lifeless “statue,” and every trace of her former being is erased. Saying good-bye brings no satisfaction, no reconciliation with Catherine's departure. Henry's fantasy of communicating with Catherine is eclipsed by the reality of her death.

Henry’s act of leaving the hospital is narrated with a lifelessness similar to Catherine’s corpse, devoid of any explicit sense of grief or sadness. Henry just leaves, and that’s it. There's a sadness in Henry's action, but not in anything he expresses--he does not relay any inward feeling. He just walks out of the hospital and into the rain which, ironically, Catherine tells us (earlier in the novel) she always saw herself dead in. The rain, which Lieutenant Henry describes as "permanent" in the first chapter, further demonstrates its unrelenting power and the unstoppable force of death. It keeps pouring and pouring, without any regard for the particular circumstances of human affairs. Henry's character blends into and merges with this perpetual force, which practically erases him and his entire history into the very last word of the novel: "rain."

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Catherine Barkley Character Timeline in A Farewell to Arms

The timeline below shows where the character Catherine Barkley appears in A Farewell to Arms. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
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Manhood Theme Icon
...Henry loans him fifty lire (Italian money) so that Rinaldi can impress one of them: Catherine Barkley. (full context)
Chapter 4
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That afternoon, Rinaldi invites Henry to accompany him to the British hospital to meet Catherine Barkley. Catherine is beautiful, with long blonde hair, and she and Henry begin flirting as... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Henry goes to pay a visit on Catherine the next day. At the hospital, he speaks with the head nurse, who asks why... (full context)
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When Henry returns that night, Catherine is in the garden with Helen Ferguson, another English nurse. After Helen departs, they talk... (full context)
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Catherine eventually relents and lets Henry kiss her. Afterward, she cries on his shoulder and asks... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Henry can't find time to visit Catherine for two days. When he does visit, Catherine tells him how much she has missed... (full context)
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After they kiss for a while, Catherine surprises Henry by acknowledging that they are playing "a rotten game." They continue to kiss,... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...major. Midway through a mug of wine, Henry remembers he was supposed to go see Catherine. By the time he gets there, she has gone to bed. He feels lonely and... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...Hospital, Henry forces the driver of his car to stop. He runs in to see Catherine, and tells her that he will be in "a show" and that she shouldn't worry.... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...that he did nothing at all heroic during the battle. Rinaldi leaves, promising to send Catherine to visit Henry. (full context)
Chapter 12
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...the U.S. will soon declare war on Austria as well, while Rinaldi informs Henry that Catherine is also being sent Milan to work at the hospital there. (full context)
Chapter 14
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...had told her so that they could have shared a drink. Then she tells him Catherine Barkley has arrived, and that she doesn't like her. Henry promises her that she will... (full context)
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A bit later, Catherine appears in Henry's room. He knows that he is in love with her the moment... (full context)
Chapter 16
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Catherine spends that night in Henry's room, making love and watching searchlights roam the sky. In... (full context)
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Catherine then asks Henry how many other women he has loved. He says "None." Next, she... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Henry feels very sick after the operation, and Catherine doesn't visit him for a while. While he recovers, three new American soldiers appear in... (full context)
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Henry also comes to like Catherine's friend, Helen Ferguson, who has started working at the hospital and passes his notes along... (full context)
Chapter 18
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Henry recovers enough to walk on crutches. He and Catherine share an idyllic summer together in Milan, taking romantic carriage rides and eating at fine... (full context)
Chapter 19
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When apart from Catherine, Henry spends time with a number of people, including a man named Meyers and his... (full context)
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At the hospital that night, Catherine tells Henry that she dislikes Moretti, and prefers quieter heroes. It soon begins to rain,... (full context)
Chapter 20
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A few days later, Henry goes to the horse races with Catherine, Helen Ferguson, Crowell Rodgers (the boy who had been wounded by the shrapnel shell), and... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Henry notices that Catherine seems upset, and after a little pressuring he gets her to tell him what's wrong:... (full context)
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Henry comments that Catherine is too brave for anything bad to happen to them, though Catherine counters that even... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...Henry reserves a seat on the train and goes to a wine shop to meet Catherine. They stroll down the street. When they pass a soldier kissing a girl against the... (full context)
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...Henry buys a pistol and ammunition to bring to the front. Then he suggests to Catherine that they go some place where they can be alone. They go to a hotel... (full context)
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...at my back I always hear / Time's winged chariot hurrying near." Henry worries about Catherine being alone when she has the baby, but she tells him not to worry. (full context)
Chapter 24
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Henry and Catherine say their goodbyes in front of the train station in the rain. (full context)
Chapter 25
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...heavily than ever. Rinaldi notes that Henry seems like a "married man," then asks whether Catherine is good in bed. Henry refuses to tell him. Rinaldi notes with surprise that this... (full context)
Chapter 28
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...frightened of the vulgar soldiers around them. Henry looks up at the rain and wishes Catherine good night, promising not to leave her, and falls asleep. He wakes to find that... (full context)
Chapter 32
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...he hides, Henry tries to avoid thinking about how hungry he is by thinking about Catherine, but thinking about her without being able to see her makes him feel as if... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...Emilio directs Henry to the hotel where "two English nurses" are staying. When Henry arrives, Catherine is thrilled to see him, but Helen Ferguson angrily accuses Henry of ruining Catherine's life.... (full context)
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After Henry and Catherine make love in Henry's hotel room, Henry lies awake and thinks about how he never... (full context)
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...the morning, Henry doesn't read the newspaper while they eat breakfast. He promises to tell Catherine about his experiences once he himself understands them, and she jokes that he shouldn't feel... (full context)
Chapter 35
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While Catherine goes to visit Helen Ferguson, Henry reads the papers and learns that the Austrian advance... (full context)
Chapter 36
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...the morning. He advises Henry to use his boat to escape to Switzerland. Henry wakes Catherine up. They hurry out into the rain and down to the dock. Emilio gives Henry... (full context)
Chapter 37
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Henry and Catherine are elated when they step ashore in Switzerland. Immediately, they go to eat breakfast, leaving... (full context)
Chapter 38
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Henry still wants to get married. Catherine is less interested in marriage, but agrees to marry once the baby is born so... (full context)
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As Christmas approaches, Catherine asks Henry if he is restless. He does sometimes think of Rinaldi, the priest, and... (full context)
Chapter 40
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March and spring arrive, and Henry and Catherine move to the town of Lausanne to get closer to the hospital. Henry reads in... (full context)
Chapter 41
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One night, at three in the morning, Catherine goes into labor. Henry takes her to the hospital, as she talks in a jovial... (full context)
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When Henry returns from breakfast, Catherine has been brought to the delivery room and is strapped to an operating table and... (full context)
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The doctors decide that a Caesarean section is the best option to save both Catherine and the baby. They wheel Catherine away. Soon, the doctor emerges with a baby boy.... (full context)
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...the paper about some success on the British front. When he returns, he learns that Catherine has had a hemorrhage. Henry begs God not to let her die, but when he... (full context)
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...back to his hotel, but he refuses. Instead he goes in to say goodbye to Catherine's lifeless body. But, "it was like saying goodbye to a statue." He leaves the hospital... (full context)