.. it he stated: The 227 wounds I got from the trench mortar didn’t hurt a bit at the time, only my feet felt like I had rubber boots full of water on. Hot water. And my kneecap was acting queer. (Meyers 32) Hemingway survived a terrifying attack, which would serve as great material for A Farewell to Arms. In the novel, Henry suffers from an identical wound by a trench mortar.
Henry states that: My legs felt warm and wet and my shoes were wet and warm inside. I knew that I was hit and leaned over and put my hand on my knee. My knee wasn’t there. My hand went in and my kneed was down on my shin. (Hemingway 55) Hemingway recalled his war wound and wrote of the same experience in the novel.
In both the novel and real life, it is easy to visualize the same picture of the wound, so bloody that Hemingway’s own shoes filled up with warm blood. Hemingway does not stop there with his similarities though. He digs further into the past to create the love that exists between characters Frederick henry and Catherine Barkley. In the war, Hemingway was sent to Milan to recover from his injuries. During his stay at the hospital, he fell in love with an American nurse by the name of Agnes von Kurowsky. The two were very affectionate in their love and wrote letters to each other when separated. Kurowsky even signed up to work nights so that she could spend more time with Hemingway. There was even a possibility of marriage, which later fizzled out.
When Hemingway healed, he was sent home and Kurowsky fell in love with another, a devastating event that haunted Hemingway long after. (McDowell 20) Kurowsky did not come out ahead though; her newfound love dissolved only after a short while. In much the same way as Hemingway’s life, the character Henry falls in love with Catherine. After being wounded by a trench mortar, Henry is also sent to Milan to recover from his injuries. While at Milan, he becomes romantically involved with Catherine and the two marry.
Even though Hemingway and Kurowsky did not marry, the marriage of Henry and Catherine is a prelude to a more devastating event. The sexual activity of the couple leads to the pregnancy of Catherine, which convinces them to leave the war. During childbirth, Catherine dies, thus leaving Henry all alone in the world: “In the novel, though not in actual life, the submissive Catherine . . .
is ‘punished’ by death in childbirth” (Meyers 41). The reason for this variation between real life and the novel is based on how Hemingway felt at the time. Apparently to Hemingway, Kurowsky was not punished enough for her deceit toward him. With his feelings full-blown, Hemingway produced a character that suffered the way he felt she should suffer. From the wounds to the love affair, “it is fair to say that the book is the crystallization of the war experiences” (Shaw 54).
After the war, Hemingway returned to Oak Park for a brief stay at home. Mentally and physically hurt from his war wounds and failing romance with Kurowsky, Hemingway entered into an idle part of his life. All the returning soldiers had great war stories; most of them embellished beyond truth. Hemingway fell into this norm of lying about war experiences, which eventually made him sick of disgust: The deceptions he practices at home . . . uncomfortably remind him of the lies he and others have been forced to tell in order to sensationalize for home consumption the dull reality of war.
(Meyers 55) Hemingway was later able to reflect his disgust of home life when he purposely portrayed himself as the character Krebs in “Soldier’s Home”. Krebs, a World War I veteran, is forced to lie about his involvement in the war just to be heard: Krebs found that to be listened to at all he had to lie, and after he had done this twice he, too, had a reaction against the war and against talking about it. A distaste for everything that had happened to him in the war set in because of the lies he had told. (Hemingway 69) Krebs, along with Hemingway, fell into a slump after the war. While recalling his lost love of Agnes von Kurowsky, Hemingway produced a character troubled by female companionship.
Krebs wants a woman, no doubt, but he was not about to work for it. Krebs considers relationships too complicated and painful, something he has learned from a previous engagement. This previous engagement was the relationship of Hemingway and Kurowsky, a relationship that had badly hurt Hemingway. There is no way that Krebs, nor Hemingway, is about to go through that again. Krebs continues, without a woman, lying around at home doing little or nothing.
Tensions deepen between him and his parents and he is eventually driven out. This is approximately the same thing that happened to Hemingway. Hemingway’s sister, Marcelline, wrote, “shortly after his twenty-first birthday . . .
his mother issued an ultimatum that he find a regular job or move out” (Waldhorn 9). Both Hemingway and Krebs moved out and got jobs. Beyond a doubt, Hemingway wrote from his past experiences. In “Indian Camp,” Hemingway used his own relationship with his father to breathe life into the fictional characters of Nick and his father. By leaving his childhood and entering the war, Hemingway recalled his own accounts of injuries and love that made up the character Henry and Barkley in A Farewell to Arms.
And finally, with his return home after the war, Hemingway uses Krebs in “Soldier’s Home” to express his distaste for the home life. Bibliography Gajduske, E. Robert. Hemingway’s Paris. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1978. Mahoney, John. Ernest Hemingway.
New York: Barnes and Noble INC., 1967. McSowell, Nicholas. Life and Works of Hemingway. England: Wayland, 1988. Meyers, Jeffery. Hemingway: A Biography.
New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1985. Shaw, Samuel. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Fredrick Ungar Publishing Company, 1974. Tessitore, John. The Hunt and The Feast, A life of Ernest Hemingway. New York: Franklin Watts, 1996.
Waldhorn, Arthur. A Reader’s Guide to Ernest Hemingway. New York: Octagon Books, 1978. Hemingway, Ernest. “Indian Camp”. In Our Time.
New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1970. Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1995.