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Themes

There aren’t very many women in A Farewell to Arms, but the ones we do meet are unforgettable characters. In many ways they fulfill traditional female gender roles, or even female stereotypes – they are all either nurses or prostitutes. Yet, as they to try to find happiness and do the right thing in a war-torn world, they transgress and challenge gender roles revealing themselves as simply human – flawed, breakable, strong, daring, and often full of love.

Questions About Women and Femininity

  1. Some critics say that the female characters are all flat and underdeveloped, even Catherine. How do you feel about this?
  2. Does Helen Ferguson’s view of what a woman is supposed to differ from Catherine’s? If not, how are they similar? If so, how are they different?
  3. Why did the Italians want to keep women away from the battlefield? What are the different roles the women play in the war? Has this changed since the novel was written? How or how not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Catherine is completely inaccessible in A Farewell to Arms because we only see her through Frederic, and Frederic is unrealizable.

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