Henry is an ambulance driver and Catherine is a nurse, so each of them has a responsibility to others during wartime. However, as Henry's love for Catherine deepens and Henry begins to see that the war is unjust, he begins to adopt a philosophy of "every man for himself." When the Italian Army fractures during its retreat and the military police Henry because he is an officer, Henry makes a final break from the army and throws off his responsibilities. Following the priest's advice to find something he can commit to, for the second half of the novel Henry's chief and only concern is for Catherine. Even after escaping the war, neither of them wants the responsibility of having a child. By turning away from the world and trying to seek their own happiness, Henry and Catherine find more meaning in their relationship than in any other obligation.
The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Self vs. Duty appears in each chapter of A Farewell to Arms. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Below you will find the important quotes in A Farewell to Arms related to the theme of Self vs. Duty.
Chapter 27 Quotes
I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious and sacrifice and the expression in vain. We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it.
Chapter 29 Quotes
"I killed him. I never killed anybody in this war, and all my life I've wanted to kill a sergeant."
Chapter 30 Quotes
The questioners had that beautiful detachment and devotion to stern justice of men dealing in death without being in any danger of it.
Chapter 32 Quotes
Anger was washed away in the river along with any obligation.
I had the paper but I did not read it because I did not want to read about the war. I was going to forget the war. I had made a separate peace.
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.
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.