Harsh realities of war may make many people question their views, and literary characters are not an exception to this rule. Henry from Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms is initially eager to play his part in the war, but then is almost executed for no fault, and this lack of recognition is important, as it leads him to rethink his attitude toward war – an experience I can relate to in my career choices.
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Initially, Henry perceives war as something he should contribute to, but this attitude changes when he faces its hard and unjust reality. When a nurse asks him how he, an American, joined the Italian army, he answers: “I was in Italy, and I spoke Italian” (Hemingway 22). That is reason enough for original Henry: he can make a difference by participating in the war, and he seizes the opportunity. Yet during the retreat from Caporetto, military police almost execute him because he “speaks Italian with an accent” (Hemingway 238). This experience changes Henry’s perspective: he understands that his desire to help brings him no reward for his efforts and even threatens his life. Consequently, he deserts to stay away from the war and the army that only offers suspicion and execution for his help.
I had a similar change of perspective in my life, although not as dramatic as Henry’s. I did not want to attend college or trade school after high school, but after starting my first afterschool job for a minimum wage, I understood it was hard and not rewarding at all. Just like Henry, I realized that eagerness alone does not mean much, and I reversed my attitude toward education like he reevaluated his perception of war. Fortunately, my experience did not involve a threat of death or feeling “like a criminal” (Hemingway 269). Still, it was essentially the same: I realized that my original course of action would not bring proper reward despite my efforts and goodwill, which was a signal to reevaluate my decisions.
A Farewell to Arms describes how Henry revises his attitude toward World War I. Originally, he perceives the war as something he should take part in, but then understands that his eagerness will never yield any reward. I had a similar change of perspective when I realized that my eagerness to work would not give the benefits I seek unless I combine it with some higher education.
Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1929.