A Farewell to Arms


Ernest Hemingway

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A Farewell to Arms: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

At Pavla, the site of the battle, Henry and the drivers he commands—Gordini, Passini, Manera and Gavuzzi—wait for the battle to begin while sitting in a bunker. The men fall into a philosophical argument. While all the men hate the war, Henry argues that defeat is more terrible than war, and that if the entire Italian army just stopped fighting everything would be worse. Passini disagrees, arguing that the war will never end until one side decides to stop.
Henry is an officer, but instead of telling the drivers under his command that they're being insubordinate, he engages them in a debate. He has no ideological commitment to the Italian Army, though he does think that the war is a necessary evil. Passini, however, argues that the war is fundamentally unjust.
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When the men get hungry, Henry and Gordini run out and grab some macaroni and cheese from another bunker. As they return, the shelling begins and they rush back to their dugout. The drivers are eating the food when suddenly a mortar shell hits their bunker, killing Passini and wounding Henry in the leg. The remaining drivers carry him out on a stretcher and a medical captain examines his leg. Henry is in terrible pain as they load him into an ambulance to leave the battle.
Henry risks his life not for glory, but to get some macaroni and cheese. He is wounded, and Passini killed, in similarly inglorious circumstances: not attacking the enemy or saving anyone, but just filling their stomachs. This illustrates the absurdity and chance nature of battle, and critiques the heroic ideals of honor and bravery in war.
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