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.

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

Confessions of Moms Around the World

A global look at the hardest and best job ever

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

More in Entertainment

From This Author

Just In