A Farewell to Arms

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Love and Loss Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
War Theme Icon
Love and Loss Theme Icon
Reality vs. Fantasy Theme Icon
Self vs. Duty Theme Icon
Manhood Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Farewell to Arms, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Love and Loss Theme Icon

Much is made throughout the novel of Henry's aversion to falling in love. Yet in spite of his natural cynicism about love, he falls for Catherine. At the other end of the spectrum, Catherine craves love to an unstable degree, to the exclusion of everything else in the world. But their relationship is always surrounded by loss: the loss of Catherine's former lover to war before the novel begins, and the foreshadowing of the loss Henry will have to live with at the novel's end, when Catherine dies in childbirth. In fact, the incredible intensity of Henry and Catherine's relationship seems almost dependent on the loss surrounding them. Without the specter of loss threatening them from every side, Henry and Catherine would not have had to fight so hard to be together.

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Love and Loss Quotes in A Farewell to Arms

Below you will find the important quotes in A Farewell to Arms related to the theme of Love and Loss.
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 11 Quotes
"You do not love Him at all?" he asked.
"I am afraid of Him in the night sometimes."
"You should love Him."
"I don't love much."
Related Characters: Lieutenant Frederic Henry (speaker), The Priest (speaker)
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

This exchange, between Lieutenant Henry and the priest, occurs in the field hospital Henry is taken to after he’s wounded at the mountain post. The priest comes to visit Henry, and brings him a bottle of vermouth. 

The priest asks Henry about his love for God, but Henry does not respond with a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Rather, Henry replies that he is sometimes afraid of God, and this seems to take the place of a ‘yes’ answer. Henry seems to affirm that he believes in God, and has some sort of relation with God, but his affirmation is couched in a language of fear.

Henry's thoughts on God are still somewhat unclear at this point. However, his God doesn’t seem particularly "religious;" it’s not a God to be worshipped or loved. It seems to be more of a force of nature that inspires more fear, and causes more chaos, than it does either goodness or harmony--yet it's still not a religious force. It seems rather that Henry has an abstract idea of God which he dislikes, and he feels no personal connection to any deity. The exchange ends with Henry’s stoic “I don’t love much,” a sentiment that further echoes his sense of toughness, inwardness, and ultimate godlessness. 

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 32 Quotes
The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
Related Characters: Lieutenant Frederic Henry (speaker)
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Lieutenant Henry reveals a core belief he holds about the world: it is violently opposed to human desire. The human mind, the way it wishes for and wills to do things, the way it organizes its experience, is fundamentally in discord with external reality. The world “breaks,” thwarts and mocks human desire; it fractures the fantasies which try to hide from the facts of war and the inevitability of death.

Though Catherine and Henry are building a new life together, they will never be able to outrun these forces of the world which perpetually threaten to defeat enjoyment and life itself.

For Henry, everyone is affected by this discordance with the external world, even the good, the gentle, and the brave—even those who mean well and want to be a positive force in the world. And those who are none of these things—those who see nothing redeeming in the world, in life, those who do not try to cultivate goodness or gentleness in the world, or who cower from it—these people are equally at odds with the world. The world “breaks” good people, but it seems that, for Henry, “bad” people avoid or run from this fact of breakage. They will be killed, in the end, but they will not suffer the particular frustration that good people face in interacting with the world. 

Chapter 35 Quotes
"Then too you are in love. Do not forget that is a religious feeling."
Related Characters: Count Greffi (speaker), Lieutenant Frederic Henry
Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

After having lunch with Catherine and Ferguson in Stresa, Lieutenant Henry is invited by Count Greffi--a ninety-four-year-old retired diplomat well-known in Milan--to play a round of billiards with him. Greffi mentions how he always expected to become more devout with old age, but hasn't. Greffi seems to have presupposed that the closer you get to death, the closer you get to God--but this God hasn't intervened in Greffi's life; he says he's never had any religious feelings, and thinks he may have outlived them. For Greffi, it's as if, nearing death, he's left only with the empty room of his life--nothing religious has emerged from his proximity to death.

Here, Greffi unknowingly reiterates Catherine's earlier remark that her love for Henry was religious--more particularly, that Henry was her religion. By affirming love as a religious feeling, it's as if Greffi turns away from death as the guarantor of piety, and looks towards life, towards what stems from within life--from concrete human behavior and actions--as the the sources of religious feeling. This kind of "religion" is something very immediate to the human world and to human feeling--it's not something, for Greffi, that randomly sprouts up when approaching death, as if death made you forget about the world and created a relationship with something beyond it.

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."