Before we embark on this tragic tale of love and war, we’d like to discuss a few issues that might be confusing. A Farewell to Arms is narrated in the first person and in the past tense. The narrative is the protagonist's memory of the events he’s narrating. We don’t get any kind of name for him until Chapter Five, and we don’t get his first and last name until Chapter Thirteen. Also, although the novel is written in the past tense, we talk about it here in the present tense, or the "historical present," because that’s the standard way of talking about literature. So now, here’s the story:
- It is late summer. The narrator describes living in "a house in a village." The village is separated from the mountains by a river of clear water, full of different sized rocks. Soldiers pass the house and kick up the dust on the road.
- The house is on a plain, which is abundant in foodstuffs. At night, flashes from gunfire can be seen in the mountains, where combat is going on. Marching troops and vehicles carrying their supplies go by the windows of the narrator’s house at night.
- In the fall, the weather turns rainy and the dust on the road turns to mud, but the troops continue passing through.
- The winter stays rainy, and there is an outbreak of cholera. The narrator says that, by the war’s end, 7,000 army soldiers die of the disease.