A Farewell to Arms

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Rain Symbol Icon
Rain is a recurring symbol of death in A Farewell to Arms. From the first chapter, when rain is associated with the cholera that kills 7,000 soldiers, to the last sentence, where it is raining outside the hospital where Catherine has died, the reader is reminded that during wartime, tragedy can fall as randomly and unstoppably as rain. Whenever Henry makes a significant nighttime transition from one place to another—the night that he leaves Milan to return to the front, the night of the large-scale Italian retreat, and the night that he and Catherine row across the lake from Italy to Switzerland—it is pouring rain. The presence of the rain shows that no matter how hard Henry tries to escape death, he can never outrun it.

Rain Quotes in A Farewell to Arms

The A Farewell to Arms quotes below all refer to the symbol of Rain. 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 1 Quotes
At the start of the winter came the permanent rain and with the rain came the cholera. But it was checked and in the end only seven thousand died of it in the army.
Related Characters: Lieutenant Frederic Henry (speaker)
Related Symbols: Rain
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote occurs at the end of the first chapter, when Lieutenant Henry describes how the natural environment has been altered by the war. He’s talking about the area surrounding the village in which his regiment lived prior to their relocation to Gorizia.

Here, we get a sense of how the war has desensitized Henry’s feelings about death: ‘only’ seven thousand died, he casually and unflinchingly says, as if seven thousand were not a significant number, and as if it were an ordinary, passing thought.The rain’s “permanence” only adds to this aura of desensitization, giving the sense of a continual, relentless pelting, the resistance of which--like the onslaught of cholera deaths--seems almost futile.

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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 41 Quotes
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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Rain Symbol Timeline in A Farewell to Arms

The timeline below shows where the symbol Rain appears in A Farewell to Arms. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 19
Love and Loss Theme Icon
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
...Catherine tells Henry that she dislikes Moretti, and prefers quieter heroes. It soon begins to rain, and as they lie in bed, Catherine cries and tells Henry that she has always... (full context)
Chapter 28
War Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
Self vs. Duty Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
...girls, who are 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... (full context)
Chapter 36
War Theme Icon
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
Self vs. Duty Theme Icon
...his boat to escape to Switzerland. Henry wakes Catherine up. They hurry out into the rain and down to the dock. Emilio gives Henry and Catherine some sandwiches and brandy, and... (full context)
Chapter 41
Love and Loss Theme Icon
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
...to a statue." He leaves the hospital and walks back to his hotel in the rain. (full context)