There are many uses of symbolism in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Most of the symbolism is hidden so that the reader must fully comprehend the novel before realizing and understanding the symbolism. Could ‘darkness’ be one of the symbolism uses in this novel? Could ‘darkness’ represent something more than just being dark? Throughout the book, there are many examples of darkness, which Henry takes advantage of. “Night is “better” (page 13), Henry explains how during the night he parties, drinks, and has sex.
“Hills dark in the sunset; attack starts at sunset” (page 46), night is coming; they are going to attack. Darkness is filled with unknown attractions. It expresses the power to surprise someone with anything you can imagine. Three important qualities of the novel one would have to understand to know about the symbolization of darkness are mood, setting, and danger. Knowing the mood will show the reader the feeling of the novel.
Henry, the main character, lives a tough life fighting in the war.
There is tragedy behind every corner, which causes the story to have a feeling of despair. Moods of continuous boredom, disappointment, and apathy, with also a touch of fate twisted throughout all the depression, are the main outlooks. The feeling readers tend to describe as gloomy or a melancholy feeling, describing the horrors of war, turns tragic, as it details the problems of undergoing the extreme actions of attack. The mood throughout the novel is one of disappointment, dullness, and pain. Henry has a main part in experiencing these dreadful feelings of love, loss, and pain.
He started as a ‘young’ man, knowing not much more than to party and drink, loving someone only for their lack of sensibility and giving in to his pressures of self-dishonesty, growing into a reliable and honest man, who falls deeply in love with a woman who is destined to have his child, only to die from her cesarean operation. Darkness, applying itself to the deterioration of the soul, seems harmless enough from a distance, but close up, it can be a very painful thing if one makes it to be. “Waiting in the dark for treatment outside the field surgical station” (page 56), this example of darkness in the novel explains how darkness symbolizes hurt and pain, either physical or emotional, leaving henry wounded and waiting in the dark for treatment. During the time period of the novel, there was war going on between Italy and Switzerland; World War I, to be exact. The main setting of the story is Switzerland.
Switzerland is the place where, after Henry falls deeply in love with Catherine once he has already gone through so many tough times in the past months, Catherine and he stay until their death. The novel was placed in the time frame of 1916-1918. Henry was one out of the many fighting for Italy, but none has quite the same story as he does as life in the war. Switzerland has many memories for Henry including where Catherine got pregnant with his baby and dies from her cesarean operation, and where he stays until his death, never to leave the side of his beloved. The time period during World War I was recognized as dark and depressing.
This hints that darkness could symbolize the era of world war I or also simply as hatred and pain. These are 2 of the purest feelings during World War I especially between Henry and his companions. World War I was a dangerous time to be living through, much less having to fight in the war too. Much of the actions taken place during this time was either fighting and shooting at other countries or drinking and partying, trying to forget what you are forced to live through. Henry followed both of these categories of actions. One might think of this time to be a dim reality of life, twined between the cruelness of war. This is where darkness comes into the novel once again. Loving Catherine Barkley changed Henry’s life forever. Leaving him with a love torn heart and a small child, two things a person can never replace.
Every mention of night is accompanied by a harsh reality of life, and with night comes darkness. Darkness includes hate, pain, truth, loss, and love; everything that makes life truly livable. One might not want these in life, but must contain every one to become real. Without hate, one would be too likeable. Without pain, one would think to be invincible. Without truth, one would be dishonest. Without loss, one would be spoiled and selfish. And Without love, one would be heartless. Although darkness can mostly be a daring thing to bring along with you through the journey of life, it can also be one of the best things to keep with you at all times.