Study Guide

A Farewell to Arms Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

  • The narrator goes to see Catherine the following afternoon and has a conversation with the head nurse, who tells him that she’s working – reminding him this is a time of war.
  • She’s heard about him and also wants to know why he’s in the Italian Army. She specifically asks why he’s not with the Americans.
  • He asks if he can still be with the Americans and she says, no. As a reason for joining, he cites the beauty of the Italian language. She agrees it’s beautiful, and says he can come see Catherine later.
  • The narrator thinks about his trip earlier that day to the site of the planned Italian offensive mission:
  • There is only one road to the site, which is at a bridgehead [bridgehead: "A fortified position from which troops defend the end of a bridge nearest the enemy."], by the river. Last year, the Italians couldn’t go down it without getting machine-gunned. It’s too narrow, making it impossible to get enough trucks carrying enough weapons and supplies for the soldiers.
  • The Austrian army built their trenches on a hill in neighboring Austria, overlooking the Italian battle lines. There used to be a town there, but not now.
  • A better road is being built to the bridge.
  • He goes over the strategy for getting the wounded out of there.
  • He is optimistic about the new road, thinking of how, on the way back, a pair of carabinieri (Italian cops, with powers over both military and civilians) stopped their car and let them go through the war zone.
  • The narrator eats a quick dinner that night before going to see Miss Barkley, who is with Helen. She says that she has to go write some letter, but Catherine asks her to stay. She goes anyway.
  • Helen calls the narrator, "Mr. Henry" This is the first time we hear him called by a name.
  • Mr. Henry tells Helen not to write things in her letters that the "censors" wouldn’t like.
  • After Helen leaves, Catherine says that Helen is an actual nurse, but that she’s a V.A.D. [Voluntary Aid Deployment nurse]. She has nurse’s duties, but not the formal training. She explains that the female nurses have to stay behind the scenes because Italians don’t want women on the front lines.
  • Mr. Henry says he doesn’t want to talk about the war anymore.
  • It’s getting dark. They look at each, and she lets him hold her hand. When he tries to kiss her, she smacks him.
  • She apologizes, and he thinks this gives him some power. He says it is all his fault, and makes excuses for it.
  • She tells him he’s "sweet," and says she wants to kiss now.
  • Still mad about the smack, Mr. Henry kisses her. She starts crying, and asks if he is going to "be good" to her. He thinks, "What the hell." She asks him again.
  • After he walks her to her door he goes home and talks to Rinaldi, who kids him about being a dog in heat.

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