Here are sample essential questions I wouldask with Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms.
The essential questions that I like to focus on for this novel have to do with love.
The students and I try to analyze the relationship between Frederick Henry and Catherine Barkely. Initially, students think Catherine is a dingbat and Henry is a player. The priest tells Henry that to love is to sacrifice. We all understand what it means to sacrifice for one’s religion, but when it comes to romantic relationships we are not so sure. Sacrificing for others seems so . . .well, masochistic?
But the priest is right: Love is sacrifice. We have to sacrifice our egos to have a meaningful relationship with God. And those sharp, abrasive, self-serving edges of our personality must be worn off through sacrifice for any long-term romantic relationship to succeed. So are Catherine and Henry willing to sacrifice for love? They do. Catherine understands that Frederick Henry is her “religion.” She risks her life to be in a relationship with Henry.
So what, if anything does Henry sacrifice? Freedom to roam–in every sense of the word (wink, wink, nod, nod, nudge, nudge).
What is required for love to truly develop, grow, and sustain itself? It’s rather ironic that Hemingway answers this question since he is really not a “romantic.” And having been a notorious womanizer, it’s unlikely he ever really experienced it himself. But the people within the relationship must become good people.
Henry turning into a good man occurs after his escape from the carabinieri–he undergoes a “baptism” in the river as he flees and he is absolved of the misdeeds of his past live and he is ready to commit to Catherine.
So, the question remains: What do the students really want to know? Do they want to know how Hemingway’s language contributes to his style or do they want to understand what it takes to make a romantic relationship work?
Watch the following video to find out what it takes to How to Be a Good Person