A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms Chapter 4 Summary
- The next morning the narrator wakes to sounds of battle and goes out to talk to the mechanics working on the ambulances. They address him as "Signor Tenente" [which means Lieutenant] and ask about his travels.
- The narrator looks at all the working ambulances and sees that things didn’t fall apart while he was gone.
- He thinks about his job of finding those wounded in war and getting them back to the hospital. He had thought it could not be done without him, but realizes that he was wrong.
- He has some coffee, goes to the military posts in the mountains, and then comes back to town.
- He thinks things were smoother with him gone than with him there, and he hears about the war starting up again.
- The major tells him that he will be working up the river during the attack planned by the military division which they work for.
- He goes up to his room to wash up and finds Rinaldi there. Rinaldi invites Frederic to visit Miss Barkley with him, and they drink some grappa [Italian grape brandy]. Then they walk to the British hospital.
- They see Miss Barkley and another nurse.
- Miss Barkley comments that the narrator isn’t Italian, and says it’s strange that he works for the Italian army when he isn’t Italian. While Rinaldi is talking to the other nurse, the narrator says he only does ambulance work and that it’s not quite the army.
- She asks him why he’s in a foreign army, and he tells her "there isn’t always an explanation for everything."
- He asks her what she is holding, some kind of riding crop-looking-thing. He sees she is in what looks like a nurse’s uniform, is tall, blond, gray-eyed, and gorgeous.
- She says the thing belonged to her ex-fiancé, who was killed in the Battle of Somme the year before. [Since the Battle of Somme occurred in 1916, this lets us know that the year is 1917.]
- The narrator questions her about the relationship. They had been engaged for 8 years, and the narrator asks why so long. She says that she had thought it might not be good for him, but laments her decision now.
- She asks the narrator if he’s been in love, and he says no.
- The narrator compliments her hair, and she says she had planned to cut it when her fiancé died. She laments not having given him more before he died.
- He asks her who Rinaldi is talking to and she tells him the other nurse is Helen Ferguson.
- She asks him to confirm that Lieutenant Rinaldi is a doctor, and he confirms that he is, and a good one.
- When he asks, she tells him she’s been a nurse since the end of 1915, motivated by the fantasy of her fiancé coming into where she was stationed with a minor wound that she could patch up.
- She says that he was completely blown up instead.
- They discuss whether or not the war will end, and then go over to Rinaldi and Helen.
- Rinaldi is trying to find out if Helen loves Italy or England, but they don’t understand each other well. She tells him she’s Scotch.
- The narrator explains that she’s from Scotland, and that Scots don’t like English people. Rinaldi wants to know if that means Helen doesn’t like Miss Barkley, and Helen tells him that it isn’t the same thing.
- The narrator and Rinaldi leave, and Rinaldi tells him that Miss Barkley likes the narrator better than him, but that he finds the Scotch girl attractive. When the narrator asks if Rinaldi likes the Scotch girl, Rinaldi says no.
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