Skip to main content

Full text of "Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to arms : teacher's guide"

See other formats

National Endowment for the Arts 


•!{. MuseurriandLibrary 



A Farewell 
to Arms 






A Farewell 
to Arms 








The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting 
excellence in the arts — both new and established — bringing the arts to all Americans, 
and providing leadership in arts education. Established by Congress in 1 965 as an 
independent agency of the federal government, the Endowment is the nation's largest 
annual hinder of the arts, bringing great an to all 50 states, including rural areas, inner 
cities, and military bases. 

•\\ Museum Library The I nsnrute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for 

the nation's 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create 
strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The Institute 
works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain 
heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support 
professional development. 

Arts Midwest connects people throughout the Midwest and the world to meaningful arts 
opportunities, sharing creativity, knowledge, and understanding across boundaries. Based 
in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest connects the arts to audiences throughout the nine-state 
region of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South 
Dakota, and Wisconsin. One of six non-profit regional arts organizations in the United 
States, Arts Midwest's history spans more than 25 years. 

The Boeing Company is the world's leading aerospace company. It is the largest 
manufacturer of satellites, commercial jetliners, and military aircraft. The company is 
also a global market leader in missile defense, human space flight, launch services, 
aerospace support services, and homeland security services. As a leading contractor to 
the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Boeing works together with its DoD customers 
to provide U.S. Armed Forces and U.S. allies around the world with fully integrated 
high-performing systems solutions and support. 

Additional support for the Big Read has also been provided by the WK. Kellogg 
Foundation in partnership with Community Foundations of America. 

Published by 

National Endowment for the Arts 
1 100 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W 
Washington, D.C. 20506-0001 
(202) 682-5400 

Works Cited 

Excerpts from A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway. Copyright 1929 Charles Scribner's 
Sons. Copyright renewed © 1957 by Ernest Hemingway. 


We gratefully acknowledge artist John Sherffius for the cover portrait. 

Written by Philip Burnham and Sarah Cunningham for the National Endowment for the Arts, 
with Molly Thomas-Hicks 

Graphic Design: Fletcher Design/Washington, D.C. 

Photo Credits 

Page iv: Book cover courtesy of University of Delaware Library, Newark, Del., used by permission 
of Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group; Battle of the Somme, 
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. Page 1: Dana Gioia, image by Vance Jacobs. 
Inside back covenThe John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, photo by 
Helen Pierce Breaker (circa 1895-circa 1939). 

Table of Contents 

Introduction 1 

Suggested Teaching Schedule 2 

Lesson One: Biography 4 

Lesson Two: Culture and History 5 

Lesson Three: Narrative and Point of View 6 

Lesson Four: Characters 7 

Lesson Five: Figurative Language 8 

Lesson Six: Symbols 9 

Lesson Seven: Character Development 10 

Lesson Eight: The Plot Unfolds 11 

Lesson Nine: Themes of the Novel 12 

Lesson Ten: What Makes a Great Book? 13 

Essay Topics 14 

Capstone Projects 15 

Handout One: World War I— The Great War 16 

Handout Two: Modernism 17 

Handout Three: Hemingways Writing Style 18 

Teaching Resources 19 

NCTE Standards 20 









w % 



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.... Abstract words such as glory, honor, 
courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete 
names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of 
rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates." 

— from A Farewell to Arms 




Welcome to the Big Read, a major initiative from the National Endowment 
for the Arts. Designed to revitalize the role of literary reading in American 
culture, the Big Read hopes to unite communities through great literature, 
as well as inspire students to become life-long readers. 

This Big Read Teacher's Guide contains ten lessons to lead you through 
Ernest Hemingway's classic novel, A Farewell to Arms. Each lesson has four 
sections: a thematic focus, discussion activities, writing exercises, and 
homework assignments. In addition, we have provided capstone projects 
and suggested essay topics, as well as handouts with more background 
information about the novel, the historical period, and the author. All 
lessons dovetail with the state language arts standards required in the 
fiction genre. 

The Big Read teaching materials also include a CD. Packed with interviews, 
commentaries, and excerpts from the novel, the Big Read CD presents 
first-hand accounts of why Hemingway's novel remains so compelling eight 
decades after its initial publication. Some of America's most celebrated 
writers, scholars, and actors have volunteered their time to make these 
Big Read CDs exciting additions to the classroom. 

Finally, the Big Read Reader's Guide deepens your exploration with 
interviews, booklists, time lines, and historical information. We hope this 
guide and syllabus allow you to have fun with your students while 
introducing them to the work of a great American author. 

From the NEA, we wish you an exciting and productive school year. 

£5UA^ H$fy\(x. 

Dana Gioia 

Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts 

National Endowment for the Arts 




Day One 

FOCUS: Biography 

Activities: Listen to the Big Read CD. Read 
Readers Guide essays. Write a second 
chapter to the novel. 

Homework: Chapters l-VII (pp. 1-41).* 


Day Two 

FOCUS: Culture and History 

Activities: Listen to the Big Read CD. Read 
Reader's Guide essays and Handouts One and 
Two. Play "exquisite corpse." 

Homework: Chapters VI I l-XI I (pp. 42-78). 


Day Three 

FOCUS: Narrative and Point ofView 

Activities: Tel I story from the point of view of 
a secondary character. 

Homework Chapters XIII-XVIII (pp. 81-116). 


Day Four 

FOCUS: Characters 

Activities: Explain protagonist and antagonist 
Introduce foil. 

Homework Chapters XIX-XXIV 
(pp. I 1 7- 1 59). 


Day Five 

FOCUS: Figurative Language 

Activities: Document figurative language used 
in first five chapters. Use metaphors in 
personal description. 

Homework Chapters XXV-XXVII 
(pp. 1 63- 1 93). 

Page numbers refer to the 332-page Scribner 2003 edition of A Farewell to Arms 


National Endowment for the Arts 



Day Six 

FOCUS: Symbols 

Activities: Explore the symbol of the snake. 

Homework: Chapters XXVI 1 1 -XXX 1 1 
(pp. 194-233). 


Day Seven 

FOCUS: Character Development 

Activities: Explore Henry's beliefs. 

Homework: Chapters XXXIII-XXXV 
(pp. 237-263). 


Day Eight 

FOCUS:The Plot Unfolds 

Activities: Chart a time line of the story. 
Write the opening of a sequel. 

Homework: Chapters XXXVI-XXXVII 
(pp. 264-285). 

Day Nine 

FOCUS:Themes of the Novel 

Activities: Develop an interpretation based on 
a theme: Hope/Hopelessness or 

Homework: Chapters XXXVIII-XLI 
(pp. 289-332). 


Day Ten 

FOCUS:What Makes a Great Book? 

Activities: Explore the qualities of a great 
novel and the voice of a generation. Examine 
qualities that make Hemingways novel 
successful. Have students review each other's 
paper outlines or drafts. 

Homework: Essay due next class period. 

National Endowment for the Arts 




The authors life can inform and expand the readers understanding of a 
novel. One practice of examining a literary work, biographical criticism, 
looks through the lens of an authors experience. In this lesson, explore the 
authors life to more fully understand the novel. 

Ernest Hemingway grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, one of six children. In 

1917, the year President Wilson declared war on Germany, Hemingway 
graduated from high school. Instead of going to college, he became a 
reporter for a small newspaper. As a journalist, Hemingway learned to write 
concisely, using active verbs and brief, clear paragraphs. Many young men 
were entering the military, but Hemingway's vision did not meet military 
standards. So he applied to the Red Cross as an ambulance driver and, in 

1918, found himself in France and then in Italy. A Farewell to Arms, 
published in 1929, draws on the details of his wartime injury, his 
friendships, and his love affairs. 

Discussion Activities 

Listen to the Big Read CD. Students should take notes as they listen. Ask them to 
present the three most important points they learned from the CD. 

Copy and distribute Readers Guide essays, pp. 2-3, 4-5, 6-7. Divide the class into 
groups. Assign one essay to each group. After reading and discussing the essays, 
groups will present what they have learned to the class. Ask students to add 
creative twists to make their presentations memorable. 

Writing Exercise 

Have students read Chapter I (pp. 3-4). Ask students to write a two-page second 
chapter using this reading. Students can further explore the landscape, or begin to 
develop the main character. Use this as an opportunity to talk about creative 

EJ Homework 

Prepare to read roughly 30 pages per night, so as to complete the novel in ten 
lessons. Readers first meet a group of soldiers and a priest debating how the 
narrator should spend his holiday. Why might Hemingway have drawn out this 
debate at the beginning of the novel? Is the narrator choosing between the 
soldiers life and a more religious one? Read Chapters l-VII (pp. 1-41). 


National Endowment for the Arts 

Lesson Two 


Culture and 

Historical and cultural contexts give birth to the dilemmas and themes at 
the heart of the novel. Studying these contexts and appreciating the 
intricate details of the time and place assist us in comprehending the 
motivations of the characters. In this lesson, use cultural and historical 
contexts to begin to explore the novel. 

During the war, artists, writers, poets, philosophers, and musicians gathered 
in Paris. Hemingways Europe hosted American expatriates pursuing 
inventive forms of expression, challenging traditions, and idealistically 
embracing a new century. Inevitably, these young thinkers would influence 
one another through friendship, collaboration, or antagonism. 

The American poet Ezra Pound, changed Irish writer James Joyces life by 
inviting him to come to Paris. Pound, as well as the American writer 
Gertrude Stein, would also become a mentor to Hemingway. Pounds work, 
like Hemingway, would be characterized by concise, clear language that 
rejected ornament. 

Extending such minimalism, the Surrealist Movement came to life in Paris. 
Visual artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali, and Rene Magritte 
sought to free the human voice, by disposing with ideas crafted, revised, 
and carefully shaped through reason. In 1924, "The Surrealist Manifesto" 
claimed that automatic responses may hold more truth than statements 
filtered through layers of reason and revision. A culture, or the collective 
unconscious, might be revealed, so they thought, through "automatic 

Discussion Activities 

Read and discuss Reader's Guide essay "Hemingway and the Lost Generation." 
Play the Surrealist game "exquisite corpse." Go to to see 
samples and learn to play. 

Writing Exercise 

Henry experiences remorse at neglecting to visit Abruzzi, the priest's hometown. 
He feels guilty about ignoring the priest's advice. This guilt reflects an internal 
conflict between following a religious path and following the path where "we did 
not do the things we wanted to do; we never did such things" (p. 1 3). Could 
Hemingway be foreshadowing the outcome of the novel? In which direction might 
Henry's life unfold? Write a few paragraphs about what you think might happen, 
based on this fork in the road. 

EJ Homework 

Read Chapters VI I l-XI I (pp. 41-78). How does the main characters point of view 
emerge in Book One? At this point, is the narrator a hero? Why or why not? 

National Endowment for the Arts 



and Point of 

The narrator tells the story with a specific perspective informed by his or 
her beliefs and experiences. The narrator can be a major or minor character 
within the novel. The narrator weaves her or his point of view, including 
ignorance and bias, into the telling of the tale. A first-person narrator 
participates in the events of the novel, using "I." A distanced narrator (often 
not a character) does not participate in the events of the story and uses 
third person (he, she, they) to narrate the story. The distanced narrator can 
be omniscient, able to read the minds of all characters within the novel. 
Ultimately, the type of narrator determines the point of view from which 
the story is told. 

American volunteer Frederic Henry tells the story in A Farewell to Arms. 
While Frederic narrates this account, he does not refer to himself until the 
second chapter of the novel. First, he must orient us to the landscape, the 
changing seasons, and the shifting war. Similarly, Hemingway waits to 
reveal Henrys name until Chapter V, when a nurse bids him goodnight. 
Note also that this novel takes place before America enters the war. When 
Henry says, "I believe we should get the war over" (p. 75), he is referring to 
his comrades and the Italian forces. 

Discussion Activities 

In Chapter IX, a heated debate takes place regarding the nature of war, 
foreshadowing the conflagration that will injure Frederic (p. 50). There are many 
views reflected in the heated debate: "nothing worse than war," "defeat is worse 
[than war]," "war is not won by victory," "the ruling class caused and runs the 
war," and "war is fought for money." What position, or point of view, does Henry 
take regarding war? Does this inform how he tells the story? If so, in what way? If 
not, why not? In addition, why might Hemingway introduce this debate just before 
men are injured and killed? 

Writing Exercise 

Rewrite the novel's beginning from the point of view of Catherine Barkley, Rinaldi, 
or the priest Before writing, decide whether you will write in first-person or 
third-person narration. If you write in the third person, will the narration be 
omniscient? Before you begin writing, decide what view of war (see above) 
informs your character. 

E2 Homework 

Have students read Chapters XIII-XVIII (pp. 81-1 1 6). This reading concludes with 
the statement "You're my religion" (p. 1 1 6). What are Catherine Barkley s and 
Frederic Henry's primary motivations? Come to class with a list of their top three 


National Endowment for the Arts 



The main character in a work of literature is called the "protagonist." The 
protagonist often overcomes a weakness or ignorance to achieve a new 
understanding by the works end. A protagonist who acts with great courage 
may be called a "hero." A protagonist of dubious tenacity and questionable 
virtue is an "antihero." Readers often debate the virtues and motivations of 
the protagonists in an attempt to understand whether they are heroic. The 
protagonists journey is made more dramatic by challenges presented by 
characters with different beliefs. A "foil" provokes the protagonist so as to 
highlight more clearly certain features of the main character. The most 
important foil, the "antagonist," opposes the protagonist, barring or 
complicating his or her success. 

We encounter the secondary characters through Henry's point of view. 
Hemingway does not profile Henrys comrades in great detail. As Henrys 
lover, Miss Barkley provides the foil for Henry's character, leading him in 
unexpected directions: "God knows I had not wanted to fall in love with 
any one. But God knows I had and I lay on the bed in the room in the 
hospital in Milan and all sorts of things went through my head but I felt 
wonderful..." (p. 93). 

Discussion Activities 

Divide the class into groups. Assign each group a secondary character, for 
example: Rinaldi, the priest. Miss Gage, or Miss Ferguson. Ask students to review 
the chapters they have read, selecting the chapter that best captures this character. 
Have them present the key attributes of that character, citing quotes from the 
text Conclude by discussing moments when these characters draw reactions 
from Henry. Do these characters deepen our understanding of Henry? 

Writing Exercise 

Who is the antagonist in the novel? Does the antagonist require Henry to look 
at himself in profound new ways? Write a brief essay answering these questions, 
supporting your argument with quotes from the text 

^] Homework 

Have students read Chapters XIX-XXIV (pp. I 1 7- 1 59), concluding Book Two. 
Hemingway alludes to a poem by Andrew Marvell,when Henry recites:"But at my 
back I always hear, time's winged chariot hurrying near. . ." (p. 1 55). Why does 
Henry recite this poem at this moment in the novel? Why is "time's winged 
chariot hurrying near?" 

National Endowment for the Arts 


Lesson Five 



Writers often use non-literal language to invite readers to visualize events, 
view internal conflicts, glimpse social themes, or grasp abstract concepts like 
beauty, truth, or goodness. An author uses figurative or non-literal language 
to stretch our imaginations, challenging us to decode the references and 
meanings bound within images, similes, metaphors, and symbols. Such 
devices require a reader to participate actively in the novel, as the reader 
begins to (implicitly or explicidy) interpret non-literal elements of the tale. 

While figurative language provides an essential tool for many writers, 
Hemingway avoided figurative descriptions. Rather than describing 
through symbols, images, or metaphors, he preferred to imply change of 
mood, meaning, or direction subdy. As his work developed, dialogue came 
to serve as Hemingways principle tool for breaking open a character, a 
scene, or a theme. 

Discussion Activities 

Read Handout Three, "Hemingways Writing Style." Return to the novel and select 
a section of dialogue to examine closely. For example, what remains unsaid in 
Henry's exchange with Catherine on pp. 153-55? Discuss this example with the 
class. Then, allow students a few minutes to review the novel individually and 
select some dialogue for discussion. How does the dialogue selected imply 
meaning beyond the words exchanged? 

Writing Exercise 

Have students write a few paragraphs describing an unusual or exotic place they 
have visited. In their story, the students should use image, simile, and metaphor at 
least twice. As another option, have students write a dialogue between themselves 
and their best friend, a parent, or a relative. When they have finished writing the 
dialogue, discuss how their experience with dialogue relates to Hemingways 
techniques used in the novel. 

El Homework 

Have students read Chapters XXV-XXVII (pp. 163-193). While reading, reflect on 
symbols of war that you see in media, novels, or the general culture. Do you find 
these symbols within the novel as well? 


National Endowment for the Arts 



Symbols are interpretive keys to the text. The craft of storytelling depends 
on symbols that present ideas and point toward new meanings. Most 
frequently, a specific object will be used to reference (or symbolize) a more 
abstract concept. The repeated appearance of an object suggests a non- 
literal or figurative meaning attached to the object - above and beyond face 
value. Symbols are often found in the novels title, at the beginning and end 
of the novel, within a profound action, or captured by the name or 
personality of a character. The life of a novel is perpetuated by generations 
of readers interpreting and re-interpreting the main symbols of the novel. 
By decoding symbols, any reader can reveal a new interpretation of the 

Hemingway employs symbols deliberately and selectively. We can find an 
explanation in Henrys comment that "abstract words. . .were obscene beside 
the concrete names of villages..." (p. 185). Idealized heroic figures, symbols 
of victory or defeat, rarely appear in this story. As implied in Henrys quote, 
in the face of this war, the symbols "were obscene." 

Still the changing seasons may just reflect Henrys inner development, his 
developing relationship with Miss Barkley, and the progress of the war. The 
novel begins in harvest time, when the two lovers meet. They later enjoy a 
blissful summer in Milan. But the books second half is filled with 
uncertainty and death, accompanied by a deluge of rain and snow during 
the winter of 1917-18. Catherine says, "I'm afraid of the rain because 
sometimes I see me dead in it" (p. 126). 

Discussion Activities 

Rinaldi says, "I am the snake. I am the snake of reason." Henry responds, "You're 
getting it mixed. The apple was reason" (p. 1 70). Rinaldi has "no sacred subjects" 
and notes that he has no married friends, presumably because he can seduce any 
woman through reason. Finally he admits, "We are born with all we have and we 
never learn. We never get anything new. We all start complete" (p. 171 ). These 
biblical symbols draw us back into questions of religion. Could Rinaldi provide a 
symbol of the atheist or a world without religion? Discuss with the class. 

Writing Exercise 

Using the Discussion Activity, have students write a brief essay on either ( I ) how 
Rinaldi might symbolize a particular point of view, or (2) how Hemingway portrays 
religion in the novel. Please cite references in the text to support your argument 

2J Homework 

Have students read Chapters XXVIII-XXXII (pp. 194-233). How might Henry's 
character (and challenges) reflect the era? Is Henry himself a symbol of the "Lost 
Generation?" In what way might he fail to represent the Lost Generation? 

National Endowment for the Arts 




Novels trace the development of characters that encounter a series of 
challenges. Most characters contain a complex balance of virtues and vices. 
Internal and external forces require characters to question themselves, 
overcome fears, or reconsider dreams. The protagonist undergoes profound 
change. A close study of character development maps the evolution of 
motivation, personality, and belief in each character. Still, the tension 
between a characters strengths and weaknesses keeps the reader guessing 
about what might happen next, affecting the drama and the plot. 

Early in the novel the priest tells us, "It is never hopeless. But sometimes I 
cannot hope. I try always to hope, but sometimes I cannot" (p. 71). While 
the priest may have no hope at the moment, he does have faith that 
something will happen to resolve the war. In Book Three, Henrys knee has 
recovered and he returns to the front. He notes changes in his friends. As 
the priest says, "Many people have realized the war this summer. Officers 
whom I thought could never realize it realize it now" (p. 178). Henry and 
the priest contemplate the hopelessness of the war. Will the war end with 
no victors, or continue on with no obvious victor? Henry explains to the 
priest, "It is in defeat that we are Christian. . .We are all gender now because 
we are beaten" (p. 178). 

Discussion Activities 

In this section, Henry implies that he "believes in nothing." Is this view the result 
of his war experience? Compare Henry's actions and comments in Book One to 
those in Book Three to determine whether this view has evolved. If this view 
hasn't evolved from life-experience, is Rinaldi correct when he says, "We all start 
complete?" Is Hemingway giving us a novel based on Rinaldi's philosophy? 

To further explore this activity, you might present students with the theories of 
existential philosophy to determine whether Henry may be an existentialist 

Writing Exercise 

After shooting a sergeant, being captured, and fleeing, Henry finds solace in 
memories and remembering (p. 23 1 ). Have students choose one character aside 
from Henry and write a brief essay on how that character finds solace from the 
war. Has his or her source of solace changed during the novel? 

EJ Homework 

Have students read Chapters XXXIII-XXXV (pp. 237-263). Students should come 
to class ready to present the two most important turning points in the novel. In 
this section, we find that Henry makes "a separate peace." What does he mean by 

I * THE BIG READ National Endowment for the Arts 


Lesson Eight 


The Plot 

I he author artfully builds a plot structure to create expectations, increase 
suspense, and inform character development. The timing of events, from 
beginning, to middle, to end, can make a novel predictable or riveting. A 
plot, propelled by a crisis, will reach a climax, and close with a resolution 
(sometimes called denouement). Foreshadowing and flashbacks allow the 
author to defy time while telling the story. A successful author will keep a 
reader entranced by clever pacing built within the tale, sometimes 
confounding a simple plot by telling stories within stories. 

Some turning points in the novel include Henrys first meeting with 
Catherine, the serious wound he suffers at the front, Catherines unplanned 
pregnancy, Henrys escape from execution, and Emilio's intercession that 
allows the couple to escape to Switzerland. 

Discussion Activities 

Use the homework assignment from the last lesson to have students present the 
most important turning points in the novel. Ask them to refer to key passages. 
Use this information for the next activity. 

In small groups, have students map a time line that depicts the development of the 
story and the building of drama. This time line should include the most significant 
turning points, but also examine lesser events that build tension. As students 
develop their time lines, they should define the beginning, middle, and end of the 
novel. Groups should present their time lines to the class.You might also divide 
the thirty-six chapters among students, with each student contributing part of the 
time line. Could one delete any chapters and still tell a good story? 

Writing Exercise 

Ask students to imagine a sequel to A Farewell to Arms and have them outline it 
What would the beginning, middle, and end of the sequel look like? Then write the 
opening paragraphs to the sequel, imagining a beginning that plunges the reader 
into the story. Students should come up with a provocative first sentence. 

EJ Homework 

Have students read Chapters XXXVI-XXXVII (pp. 264-285). They should come 
to class ready to discuss the meaning of the novel. What sort of statement does 
Hemingway make by telling this story, and by crafting the story in sparse language 
with frequent dialogue? 

National Endowment for the Arts 



Themes of 
the Novel 

Profound questions raised by the story allow the character (and the reader) 
to explore the meaning of human life, and extract themes. Themes 
investigate topics explored for centuries by philosophers, politicians, 
scientists, historians, and theologians. Classic themes include intellectual 
freedom versus censorship, personal moral code in relation to political 
justice, and spiritual faith versus rational commitments. A novel can shed 
light on these age-old debates, by creating new situations to challenge and 
explore human nature. 

Discussion Activities and Writing Exercise 

Use the following questions to stimulate discussion or provide writing exercises in 
order to interpret the novel. Using historical references to support ideas, explore 
the statements A Farewell to Arms makes about the following: 

Hope/Hopelessness: Hemingway writes, "Abstract words such as glory, honor, 
courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the 
numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates" 
(p. 185). Henry, in a moment of reflection, explains: "If people bring so much 
courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it 
kills them" (p. 249). 

1 . In the first passage, what is Hemingway saying about abstract words? 

2. Do the concrete facts of life provide more hope than abstractions? 

3. Using several references from the novel, how might hope be a complex 
state of mind, rather a simple promise of brighter days? 

4. Or, as indicated on p. 249, should Henry relinquish any hope in order to 
survive in the world? 

Relationships: Does the novel depict love and friendship? Or are these merely 
mechanisms to deal with the loss of hope? For example, Rinaldi tells Henry, "You 
are my best friend and my war brother" (p. 171). Henry describes his relationship 
with Catherine, "We could feel alone together... but we were never lonely and 
never afraid when we were together" (p. 248). 

1 . What kind of friendship exists between Rinaldi and Henry? In what 
passages do we find proof (or disproof) of this friendship? 

2. What kind of love exists between Catherine and Henry? Try to prove that 
they do not love one another. How might you develop and support this 
argument by citing passages from the text? 

3. Using your arguments about friendship and love, explain whether these 
relationships supply Henry with hope or serve only as an escape from 
dealing with the hopelessness of his situation. 

EJ Homework 

Have students finish reading the novel, Chapters XXXVIII-XLI (pp. 289-332). Ask 
them to begin their essays, using "Essay Topics" at the end of this guide. Outlines 
are due for the next class. 

12 * THE BIG READ National Endowment for the Arts 

Lesson Ten 


What Makes 
a Great 

Novels illustrate the connections between individuals and questions of 
humanity. Great stories articulate and explore the mysteries of our daily 
lives, while painting those conflicts in the larger picture of human struggle. 
Readers forge bonds with the story as the writers voice, style, and sense of 
poetry enchant the plot, characters, and themes. By creating opportunities 
for learning, imagining, and reflecting, a great novel is a work of art that 
affects many generations of readers, changing lives, challenging 
assumptions, arid breaking new ground. 

Discussion Activities 

Ask students to make a list of the characteristics of a great book. Put these on the 
board. What elevates a novel to greatness? Then ask them to discuss, within 
groups, other books they know that include some of the same characteristics. Do 
any of these books remind them of A Farewell to Arms? Is this a "great" novel? 
Make sure you clearly define what you mean by "great." 

A great writer can be the voice of a generation. What kind of voice does 
Hemingway provide through Henry? What does this voice tell us about the 
concerns and dreams of Hemingway's generation? How does this voice represent 
the era of the Lost Generation? 

Divide students into groups and have each group determine the primary theme of 
the novel. Have spokespeople from each group explain the groups decision, 
supporting the group's conclusions by referencing the text. Compare and contrast 
differences of opinion that might emerge within the class. 

Writing Exercise 

If you were the voice of your generation, what would be your most important 
message? Why might you choose to convey this in a novel rather than a speech 
or an essay? What story would you tell to get your point across? 

Have students work on their essays in class. Be available to assist with outlines, 
drafts, and arguments. Have each student partner with another to edit outlines 
and/or rough drafts. Provide students with the characteristics of a well-written 

EJ Homework 

Students should begin working on their essays. See "Essay Topics" at the end of 
this guide. For additional questions, see the Reader's Guide "Discussion 
Questions" (pp. 1 4- 1 5). Turn in outlines and/or rough drafts for the next class. 

National Endowment for the Arts 


The discussion activities and writing exercises in this guide provide you with possible essay topics, 
as do the Discussion Questions in the Readers Guide. Advanced students can come up with their 
own essay topics, as long as they are specific and compelling. Other ideas for essays are provided 

For essays, students should organize their ideas around a thesis about the novel. This statement or 
thesis should be focused, with clear reasons supporting its conclusion. The thesis and supporting 
reasons should be backed by references to the text. 

Hemingway reveals almost nothing about the 
background of Frederic Henry or the other 
characters. How does the elimination of 
character history contribute to Hemingways 
crafting of the novel? Instead of biographical 
histories, how does Hemingway provide us 
with insight into character development? In 
other words, what devices substitute for 
personal histories? Has Hemingway used these 
devices successfully? 

"Perhaps wars weren't won anymore," Henry 
muses. "Maybe they went on forever. Maybe it 
was another Hundred Years' War" (p. 1 18). The 
tactics and strategy of war have changed since 
Hemingway wrote A Farewell to Arms. Research 
the facts of World War I in Italy, military 
technology, and strategy. Write a historical 
essay on how actual events have been depicted 
in the novel. How does Hemingway's tale 
follow or diverge from the actual events of the 
war? How might this affect an interpretation of 
the novel? 

3. Henry tells us of Ettore, an Italian-American 
who had received numerous medals, "He was a 
legitimate hero who bored every one he met" 
(p. 1 24). What concept of heroism does 
Hemingway present through Henry and 
others? Could Catherine be considered a hero? 
What kind of hero? Or, does Hemingway 
depict Henry as an anti-hero? Cite passages to 
support your argument 

4. Catherine tells Frederic, "You're my religion. 
You're all I've got" (p. I 1 6). Henry implies that 
he has no religion. The priest advocates 
religion under very difficult conditions and 
admits that he is hopeless. Returning to our 
lessons, use one of the following (culture and 
history, characters/character development, 
figurative language, plot, or themes) to provide 
a portrait of religion in the novel. Is Hemingway 
making a statement about the relation of 
religious belief to the war? Support your 
argument with quotes from the text 


National Endowment for the Arts 


Teachers may consider the ways in which these activities may be linked to other Big Read 
community events. Most or these projects could be shared at a local library, a student assembly, 
or a bookstore. 

1 . Public presentations: Explore creative writing 
skills through the following exercises: ( I ) write 
a short story without depicting the main 
character's personal history, (2) write a short 
story using only dialogue, or (3) write a short 
story using few adjectives and no figurative 
language. Revise this work and share the results 
at a student assembly or a meeting at a local 

2. Parents' Night Ask students to write a letter 
from Frederic Henry to his parents after the 
novel ends, describing what he thinks of the 
war. The letter should reflect what he has 
learned about war during the previous two 
years. Students should use their imaginations, 
but also references to the novel. Have them 
read the letters aloud. 

3. Photo gallery/docent exercise: Ask students to 
find different photographs, paintings, or images 
of Hemingway and/or the novel in books, 
magazines, or on the Web. Describe what the 
image tells us about Hemingway or the novel. 
Students should discuss the image and point to 
details that explain why they chose it 
Collaborate with a local gallery or library. To 

vary the excercise have students create their 
own images, writing a statement to explain 
how the compositions relate to the novel.. 

4. Arrange students in groups of four and have 
them stage a scene from the novel. Students 
can use dialogue from the book, but are 
welcome to invent their own, making sure to 
stay in character. Have students act out the 
scene at a local library or bookstore. After each 
scene, have the students explain their choices. 

5. Explore the historical period of the First World 
War and the 1 920s by creating posters that 
provide in-depth information on what was 
happening in the following artistic areas: music 
and jazz, theater, visual arts, photography, and 
dance. Display these posters in the school or 
classroom. This would create an opportunity 
for examining propaganda related to World 
War I. 

National Endowment for the Arts 



World War I — The Great War 

World War I (1914-1918) is known by many 
names: the Great War, "the war of illusions," "the 
war to end all wars." When the shooting finally 
ended, an estimated 10 million people were dead 
and 20 million were wounded. It was the war that 
introduced the deadly arsenal of modern weaponry 
to soldier and civilian alike. 

The assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand 
of Austria-Hungary triggered the war in June of 
1914. But the real causes of the conflict go deeper. 
A brand of aggressive nationalism had taken root 
across all Europe. Germany, France, and England 
had become imperial powers with economic 
rivalries around the globe. The interlocking royal 
families of Europe created far-flung political 
alliances and pledged to take sides in case of 
conflict. Add to this the coming revolutionary 
struggle in Russia, and all the pieces were in place 
for a catastrophe. 

A four-year conflict followed. Germany, Austria- 
Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire (mosdy today's 
Turkey) fought against the Allies, led by France, 
England, Russia, Italy and, eventually, America. 
The bulk of the war pitted adversaries along the 
Western front in a brutal standoff known as trench 
warfare. The Italian and Eastern fronts, though 
bloody, were secondary to the decisive battles 
consumed the heart of France and Belgium until 
whole landscapes were devoid of life. 

After the Great War, combat would never be the 
same. The trenches were only one aspect of a 
conflict that saw the deployment of revolutionary 
and murderous new technology. The machine gun, 
the airplane, the armored tank, submarines, and 
poison gas were used in warfare, most of them for 
the first time — an arsenal that would dominate 
military strategy and planning for the century to 

Though almost all the great battles were fought in 
Europe — the Marne, the Somme, Verdun, Ypres, 
Tannenberg — the Great War was a global conflict. 
Turkey, where the bloody battle of Gallipoli was 
waged, was a close ally of Germany. Australia and 
New Zealand entered on the side of the Allies. The 
United States did not join the Allies until 1917, 
but played a key role in stopping the final German 
offensive and bringing the war to an end in 
November of 1918. 

The Great War might have been aptly named had 
the combatants heeded its warning. But the Treaty 
of Versailles in 1919, burdening Germany with 
enormous reparations, was pardy responsible for 
setting in motion the rise of German fascism and 
the Nazi party. Before the memory of the first great 
war had dimmed, an even greater threat was on the 

I 6 * THE BIG READ National Endowment for the Arts 



Modernism was a movement that revolted against 
the literature, music, art, and architecture of 
Western culture. A group ot visionaries emerging at 
the turn or the 20th century targeted the classical 
and romantic strains of European tradition as static 
and passe. Depressed by the militarism and chaos 
or the Great War, Modernist finally questioned 
fundamental values such as progress and 
enlightenment, which had long defined the 
Western tradition. 

Modernism emerged in the visual arts as early as 
the 1 860s, with Edouard Manet. Further 
developments in the natural and social sciences 
encouraged a new group of Europeans around the 
turn or the century. The art of this early 
modernism was abstract, innovative, and often 
Utopian. The decades to follow saw a proliferation 
of bold new artists and movements, each 
challenging those that had come before: Futurism 
(Boccioni), Dada (Duchamp), Cubism (Braque, 
Picasso), and Expressionism (Kandinsky). 

Literary modernism flourished during the years 
between the world wars — effectively, the 
movements second generation. Modernist 
technique in poetry and fiction relied on such 
devices as shifting perspective, stream-of- 

consciousness narration, non-linear structure, and 
symbolic fragmentation. In the hands of James 
Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, 
and William Faulkner, the great legacy of the 
Enlightenment and 19th-century realism crumpled 
beneath the force of a sustained literary revolt. 

The struggle for the artistic soul of the West 
reached out to the built environment as well. 
International School architects like Le Corbusier 
and Mies van de Rohe stressed simplicity, 
transparency, glass, steel, and concrete — an affront 
to the tradition that extended from systematic 
Classical temples through intricate Gothic 
cathedrals and Baroque palaces to the overcrowded 
urban jungle. The industrial neighborhoods of the 
West soon heralded the new vision of architects 
who subscribed to the dictum that "form follows 

In the music of Stravinsky, the mythmaking of 
Joyce, or the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, 
Modernism stamped the 20th century with an 
indelible mark. Fueled by innovations in the 
sciences, Modernism critiqued Western tradition 
until, by mid-century, it had itself become a part of 
that tradition. 

National Endowment for the Arts 



Hemingway's Writing Style 

Ernest Hemingways writing is among the most 
recognizable and influential prose of the twentieth 
century. Many critics believe his style was 
influenced by his days as a cub reporter for the 
Kansas City Star, where he had to rely on short 
sentences and energetic English. 

Hemingways technique is uncomplicated, with 
plain grammar and easily accessible language. His 
hallmark is a clean style that eschews adjectives and 
uses short, rhythmic sentences that concentrate on 
action rather than reflection. Though his writing is 
often thought of as "simple," this generalization 
could not be further from the truth. 

He was an obsessive reviser. His work is the result 
of a careful process of selecting only those elements 
essential to the story and pruning everything else 
away. He kept his prose direct and unadorned, 
employing a technique he termed the "iceberg 
principle." In Death in the Afternoon he wrote, 
"If a writer of prose knows enough about what he 
is writing about he may omit things that he knows 
and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, 
will have a feeling of those things as strongly as 
though the writer had stated them. The dignity of 
movement of the iceberg is due to only one-eighth 
of it being above water." 

Hemingway is also considered a master of 
dialogue. The conversations between his characters 
demonstrate not only communication but also its 
limits. The way Hemingway's characters speak is 

sometimes more important than what they say, 
because what they choose to say (or leave unsaid) 
illuminates sources of inner conflict. Sometimes 
characters say only what they think another 
character will want to hear. In short, Hemingway 
captures the complexity of human interaction 
through subdety and implication as well as direct 

The writers of Hemingway's generation are often 
termed "modernists." Disillusioned by the large 
number of casualties in World War I, they turned 
away from the 1 9th-century, Victorian notions of 
morality and propriety and toward a more 
existential worldview. Many of the era's most 
talented writers congregated in Paris. Ezra Pound, 
considered one of the most significant poets of 
the Modernist movement, also promoted 
Hemingway's early work, as did F. Scott Fitzgerald, 
who wrote to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, on 
Hemingway's behalf. 

The powerful impact of Hemingway's writing on 
other authors continues to this day. Writers as 
diverse as Bret Easton Ellis, Chuck Palahniuk, 
Elmore Leonard, and Hunter S. Thompson have 
credited him with contributing to their styles. 
Direct, personal writing full of rich imagery was 
Hemingway's goal. Nearly fifty years after his 
death, his distinctive prose is still recognizable by 
its economy and controlled understatement. 


National Endowment for the Arts 


Baker, Carlos. Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story. New York; 
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1 969. 

Monteiro, George, Ed. Critical Essays on Ernest Hemingways 
A Farewell to Arms. New York: G. K. Hall, 1 994. 

Reynolds, Michael S. TheYoung Hemingway. Oxford: Basil 
Blackwell, 1986. 

Reynolds, Michael S. Hemingway: The ParisYears. Oxford: Basil 
Blackwell, 1989. 

Reynolds, Michael S. Hemingway: The American Homecoming. 
Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992. 

Reynolds, Michael S. Hemingway: The 1930s. New York: 
WW. Norton and Company, 1 997. 

Reynolds, Michael S. Hemingway.The FinalYears. New York: 
WW Norton and Company, 1999. 

Sandison, David. Ernest Hemingway: An Illustrated Biography. 
Illinois: Chicago Review Press, 1999. 

Voss, Frederick. Picturing Hemingway: A Writer in His Time. 
New Haven, CT: Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, in 
association with Yale University Press, 1999. 

Web sites 
Hemingway Resource Center. A site devoted to 
Hemingway, including a biography, bibliography, auction 
center for "Papa" paraphernalia, message boards, and an 
audio portion of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech. 

This site has unusual photos, an extensive FAQ section, a 

quote finder, and contemporary reviews of Hemingway 


This is the site of the Hemingway Society, the alternate 
name for the Ernest Hemingway Foundation, founded in 
1 965 by Hemingway's widow, Mary With the University of 
Idaho, the Society publishes the Hemingway Review, sponsors 
conferences on the author, awards research fellowships, and 
oversees the publication of Hemingway's letters. 

National Endowment for the Arts 


NCTE Standard 

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Standards 

1 . Students read a wide range of print and non- 
print texts to build an understanding of texts, 
of themselves, and of the cultures of the United 
States and the world; to acquire new 
information; to respond to the needs and 
demands of society and the workplace; and for 
personal fulfillment Among these texts are 
fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary 

2. Students read a wide range of literature from 
many periods in many genres to build an 
understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., 
philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human 

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to 
comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate 
texts.They draw on their prior experience, 
their interactions with other readers and 
writers, their knowledge of word meaning and 
of other texts, their word identification 
strategies, and their understanding of textual 
features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, 
sentence structure, context, graphics). 

4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, 
and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, 
vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a 
variety of audiences and for different purposes. 

5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as 
they write and use different writing process 
elements appropriately to communicate with 
different audiences for a variety of purposes. 

6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, 
language conventions (e.g., spelling and 
punctuation), media techniques, figurative 
language, and genre to create, critique, and 
discuss print and non-print texts. 

7. Students conduct research on issues and 
interests by generating ideas and questions, and 
by posing problems.They gather, evaluate, and 
synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., 
print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to 
communicate their discoveries in ways that suit 
their purpose and audience. 

8. Students use a variety of technological and 
information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, 
computer networks, video) to gather and 
synthesize information and to create and 
communicate knowledge. 

9. Students develop an understanding of and 
respect for diversity in language use, patterns, 
and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, 
geographic regions, and social roles. 

1 0. Students whose first language is not English 
make use of their first language to develop 
competency in the English language arts and to 
develop understanding of content across the 

I I . Students participate as knowledgeable, 
reflective, creative, and critical members of a 
variety of literacy communities. 

1 2. Students use spoken, written, and visual 
language to accomplish their own purposes 
(e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and 
the exchange of information). 

*This guide was developed with NCTE Standards and State Language Arts Standards in mind. Use these standards to guide and develop 
your application of the curriculum. 

20 * THE BIG READ National Endowment for the Arts 

a writer of prose knows enough 

about what he is writing about he may 

omit things that he knows and the 

reader, if the writer is writing truly 

enough, will have a feeling of those 

things as strongly as though the writer 

had stated them. The dignity of 

movement of an iceberg is due to only 

one-eighth of it being above water." 



'All good books are alike in that 
they are truer than if they had 
really happened and after you are 
finished reading one you will feel 
that all that happened to you and 
afterwards it all belongs to you; the 
good and the bad, the ecstasy, the 
remorse and sorrow, the people 
and the places and how the 
weather was." 


The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment, 
for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of 
American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in 
partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library 
Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big 
Read brings together partners across the country to 
encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment. 

A great nation deserves great art. 

•>:S ..INSTITUTE.,' .. 

••••.. Museum^Library 


The Big Read for military communities is made possible by