Reading 'A Farewell To Arms,' Cont.

I thought I owed the Horde a follow-up note on my reading of Farewell To Arms. With much anguish, I put the book down. I thought the book started out with a sense of humor. It also contains one of the best depictions of battle I've ever read. There's also a lot of really great sentence-craft in there. But then the novel just became a "this happened" and "this happened" and "this happened."


More problematic, I simply didn't believe Hemingway's characters. I thought the protagonist fell in love because the book required it, and I never got any firm picture of who Catherine Barkley actually was. The obvious contrast for me is Wharton's Madame Olenska and Newland Archer, where you see two people falling in love out of a kind of need. I don't really believe in literary romance for romance's sake. I think love comes from actual places.

I've had this problem with other "great books." I recently re-read Invisible Man and found myself not caring much about the characters. But I still enjoyed the form of the book. I was reading something more like an allegory, than a deep character study.

Anyway, I think as writers we find a few people we love and we devour them. Hemingway is off my menu.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In