Monday, September 11, 2006

A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

A classic I’d never read, I’d been looking forward to this one. While a compelling read, I was surprised to find this so depressing. Hemingway has a very bleak outlook on life, as captured in this quote: “But those that will not break [the world] 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.” If there is a literary antithesis to Chicken Soup for the Soul, this is it!

I like to believe that life is what you make of it. I believe that hard work will lead to well-deserved rewards. I believe that Superman and Robin Hood are still alive in Hollywood. I believe in true love and karma. This book, however, incessantly espouses the exact opposite ideology, hammering on the inability of positive forces such as love and friendship to counter the grim realities of life. Yes, this is about a soldier during World War I—hardly a situation that simply whistling a happy tune will make pleasant—but the further the hero gets from the front, the more bleak his existence becomes. Even Shakespeare ends Romeo and Juliet, one of the most tragic epics ever written, with the grieving, feuding families realizing the error of their ways. While I don’t need every story to end with the hero and his soul mate riding unicorns into paradise and riches, I do prefer a heavier dose of karma than found here.

First Sentence:
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.

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