A Farewell To Arms - Ernest Hemingway : background notes September 6, 1988
Hemingway based the narrative on factual history of the war
between Austria and Italy; 1915 - 1916
He read military histories and first-hand reports to get a
The Italians fought the Austrians with only limited success.
August 1917. The Italians captured Bainsizza. There were no more
victories, and they were demoralised.
October 1917. Italy was occupied by Germany.
Bombarded Tolino-Caporetto October 24th. Italians retreated.
Germany reached Udine on the 28th; on the 31st Tagliamento.
Neeeooooww!! Commander Cordisma sacrificed 250000 men. They became
Italians lost approx. 600000 men in a week. Lowest point of the war.
Here, Frederic deserts.
The progress of other fronts, eg. Somme July 1916, is reported on
too. Mainly, it is only Italy though.
The United States enters the war April 1917 - Rinaldi etc. is
excited. The Americans were a major source of moral and physical
significance to the outcome of the war.
Catherine's death of March 1918 coincided with a major German
Hemingway served Italy 1918. Taken to MILAN for treatment.
Hemingway put his own experiences into a book
He was a Red Cross driver.
He was wounded in the legs (while giving out food) - thought he may
Descriptions are the same.
Evacuated to a field hospital / to a big hospital.
During his illness he fell in love with a nurse.
Interested in strategy - tests in bravery and strength - fighting.
Both men - Frederic and Hemingway - grew up in rural America.
Hemingway came to think of war as an atrocity where the common man
was sacrificed for patriotism and glory. He became disillusioned,
and got rid of the ideas of "fighting for democracy". The ideas went
to war as a personal experience.
Frederic loved fishing/hunting/good food and wine/sport/restaurants.
Frederic arrives in Italy earlier than Hemingway. This is significant
as it keeps the book fiction rather than an autobiography.
Hemingway was the first American wounded and this makes the storyline
Hemingway minimised his experiences.
Hemingway chose a different year for his novel, because he wanted to
use the Caparetto defeat to show the demoralising effect of Frederic,
and to give a reason for Frederic's desertion. Also, if he had set
it earlier there would not have been enough time for Catherine to have
The book was written 10 years later.
Hemingway's novel, with Fred's desire to make a separate peace,
reflect the mood of disillusionment with the war and with the
effectiveness of international diplomacy.
America were isolationist and did not want to fight.