Riley Smith’s Reading Questions for 2/24

Question 1:

Books IV and V narrate the transition from the tumultuous war to Catherine and Frederic’s blissful time together in Switzerland before they are torn apart by her death. What role does their domestic existence in the mountains play in the novel? How do their identities change throughout Books IV and V as they make their escape to Switzerland? Consider Catherine’s statement “It might be short. Then we’d both be alike. Oh, darling, I want you so much I want to be you too”(270) and Frederic’s “Knotting my tie and looking in the glass I looked strange to myself in the civilian clothes”(233). 

Question 2:

While Catherine is usually the one to contribute the more profound statements in dialogue, Frederic contributes several wise statements himself as the narrator. On page 226(in my copy), soon after the two reunite, Frederic has a very abrupt, but intense thought. 

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them. 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”(226).  

What impact do the abruptness and stylistic elements, such as repetition, have? Does your interpretation of the passage change after rereading it now that you have finished the novel? Would you qualify Catherine as very good, very gentle, very brave, or none of those?

Question 3:

As several people discussed on here before, the novel’s opening paragraph is a beautiful use of simple, descriptive language. 

“In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. The bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves”(1). 

This short, final paragraph leaves more unsaid, but delivers a strong emotional impact and proves Hemingway’s brilliance. 

“But after I got them out and shut the door and turned off the light 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”(297). 

Compare the first and last paragraphs to one another now that you have finished the novel. What does each convey and how do they play off each other?

Bonus Questions: 

A: When I read this in high school, my teacher felt there were three people who taught Frederic about love: Catherine(obviously), the priest(I went to Catholic school, so naturally he had to be included), and Count Greffi(no one in my class even remembered him when she first said his name). At the end of the novel, he has been impacted by a range of people and events to reflect on as he walks alone in the rain. What is the most important thing each of these people taught him? Is there anyone else you would include on this list? 

B: When Henry sees his child, he says “I had no feeling for him. He did not seem to have anything to do with me. I felt no feeling of fatherhood”(291). How important is this statement? What does it tell us about Frederic? Do you have any theories about what happens to Frederic after the novel? What would it have been like if his child had survived and Catherine died, or the other way around(given she would have probably felt a stronger sense of grief over the child’s death)?

7 thoughts on “Riley Smith’s Reading Questions for 2/24

  1. I am surprised no one has commented on your amazing bonus questions! Question B is fascinating and deserves analysis. Much like how women go through postpartum, I would argue the loss of Catherine made Frederic numb to his own child. Some could view him as cold and only caring about the puppy love filled life with Catherine but I think this is a part that Hemingway depicted well when it came to nuance. I think Frederic and Catherine would have worked through losing a child together but I don’t think there is any hope with Frederic and his son. I have no clue where Frederic would be after this. Maybe he killed himself. Maybe he took the baby with him. In all honesty, it feels bleak.

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