For this week, we read chapters 1-10. Here are this week’s questions, feel free to join the discussion.
So far, how do you feel about Hemingway’s writing style? Are you enjoying it?
S: His style for this one is a bit mysterious at first. You’re not sure where you are exactly, though you know that there are troops moving outside, advancing toward battle. You’re not even sure who the narrator is at this point. While the mysterious narration helps keep readers moving through the first chapters, it also can become a bit distancing as well, even though there is a first person narration. It also seems as though the narrator is telling the story from some point in the future and talking about the past. I’m on the fence about the narration right now, and wondering if I’m going to feel a connection with these characters. However, I do enjoy the description of the mountains and the roads that Henry journeys on; it helps frame the story and the action for me and gives me a clear image of his surroundings.
A: I’d really been looking forward to reading Hemingway, but then I read the first chapter and wasn’t so excited anymore. Did he know what a comma was? Was he the king of the run-on sentence? I must admit, I was really bored at first. The descriptions of the mountains and the town are so bland. And I don’t like how little information was given about the setting and the characters at the very beginning. It’s like the narrator is keeping us at a distance.
Rinaldi and Henry seem to have a brotherly relationship. Do you think that this friendship will survive throughout the novel or will something come between them? Speculate.
S: At first I wondered if Catherine would come between them as Rinaldi was the first to talk about how beautiful she was. But then when he took Henry to introduce her to him, Rinaldi seemed more interested in the other nurse. He’s an odd duck. They do seem to be very chummy, but I wonder if the affection is more one-sided than we can see given the point of view. Rinaldi always seems to be looking to live vicariously through Henry in one capacity or another — looking to Henry to regale him with heroic tales or tales of female conquests. I wonder if this relationship will last. I fear that something will happen to Rinaldi or that he will be forced to save his friend and lose his life in the process.
A: I guess it really depends on how long Rinaldi lives. Rinaldi seems overly friendly, while Henry is more reserved. It’s a bit of an odd pairing at this point, but then again, we’re not really given much to go on. Honestly, it seems that all these men do is drink, visit the “bawdy house,” and poke fun at a priest. The narrator doesn’t really tell us much about the men, nor are we given much of a glimpse of his inner thoughts, other than the occasional opinion about the war.
What kind of relationship do Lieutenant Henry and Nurse Catherine Barkley seem to have? Are they in love or is it something else?
S: It seems as though Catherine Barkley is looking to relive the moments she was unable to have with her fiance who died in the battle of the Somme, while Henry seems to be looking for a deeper connection than the relationships he’s had with women in the past — brief flings. However, he also does not believe he’s in love with her — at least not yet. In a way, this relationship seems to be one of convenience or at least mutual comfort.
A: I don’t think they are in love, not at this point anyway. Catherine is a hard one to figure out; she’s obviously scarred from the death of her childhood sweetheart. I think they both realize that war is hell and this “relationship” provides some sort of comfort or distraction.
Please post your thoughts (and any questions you might have) in the comments below, or feel free to link to a post you’ve written on your blog. Thanks for participating!
Next week, we’ll be reading Chapters 11-20. We’ll post discussion questions on Friday, June 15.