Catherine symbolizes Hemingway’s marginalization of women. in this article, we are going to investigate gender in A Farewell To Arms.
Generally speaking, Ernest Hemingway provides a masculine world view in his literary works. in this view, man partakes in the struggle for surviving; whereas woman tends to be presented as prostitutes or nurses. This charge given to woman makes her as a mere object seeking the pleasure of her male needfulness.
Misogyny in A Farewell To Arms
In A Farewell To Arms, Hemingway has been charged with misogyny as he stipulates the death of Catherine as necessary for retrieving Frederic’s maleness. Catherine, in the war, displays her strength and endurance; however, Catherine is seen only through Frederic, but Frederic is unrealized.
This female character becomes the symbol of goodness as long as she meets the needs of her love; she runs away with her love helping him domesticating the world of his own. Nevertheless, Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises is a bad woman because she cannot meets the needs of her man. Therefore, the author describes women as sexual partners occupying traditional roles in society.
Gender is a social construction
As a matter of fact, gender is a social construction; what is at issue is that the society to which the writer, Hemingway for instance, belongs is reproducing forms of discourse urging the writer to write in a male voice. In “Postmodernism and Gender Relations in Feminist Theory”, Jane Flax opines that Western culture has been bogged down in the mud of tradition torn between enlightenment ideas and those of history; feminist theory thus should locate itself within a postmodern sphere, whereby the enlightenment notions of self, power, and truth vanish through deconstruction (623).
Frederick vs Catherine
To heel from this castrated maleness, Catherine becomes a symbol of sacrifice. Similarly, in traditional Arab societies, when a girl fornicates or loses her virginity, the father condemns her to death by drinking poison; therefore, the woman represents a symbol of sacrifice for the recovery of manhood. For this reason, Jane Flax asserts that the absence of feminist activism helps to promote a naturalized view of gender (628); this naturalized articulation of gender renders Hemingway positing a dualistic structure man/woman: man is normal; a woman is an exception (629).
We only see Frederic through Catherine, who is necessary to hold her male character until the end; he escapes from the war just to live with Catherine whom he dreamed of as a housewife. Catherine is in a hurry to fulfill Frederic’s dreams as to the domestication of his own life; she is an innocent, docile prey falling down his trap. The author exempted the protagonist from death; whereas Catherine, who is always valor, dies. This contradiction seems more patent in the novel as if the woman that summoned up the courage is prone to death.
nursery represents the history of women
At the outset of the novel, Catherine works at British hospital as a nurse; Hemingway usually gives woman such a traditional role; critics have charged Hemingway with gendering places by distributing roles between woman and men; this distribution is usually unfair since women appear to be dominated by men; for instance, a hospital is a place where men are always doctors, whereas women are always nurses. Historically speaking, we usually ascribe nursery to women; this is because they are depicted by society as servants who are supposed to take care of men.
the masculine world in the novel has no place for a female character to survive despite courage and strength that she reveals in the war. Hemingway has emancipated Catherine by driving her to death; nevertheless, for Simon de Beauvoir,
Catherine vs Hemingway’s masculine view
The author views Catherine as passive and docile, yet she displays strength and bravery in the war to constitute a lack against which Frederic establishes his identity. Hemingway does not emancipate women, but he rather portraits the world as masculine; a woman is a mere object belonging to man; this kind of narratives would never allow women to construct their own self. Therefore, men should give women a margin of liberty; they can do this by granting them political freedom, equal opportunities, and so on and forth.
De Beauvoir coins the term ‘brotherhood’ to describe the only remedy for this fraught relationship between man and woman. According to her, it is up to men to enable women of public life by integrating women in politics. This is because history is man-made, not allowing women to choose what they long for. In A Farewell to Arms, it is patent that gender is performative; Frederic partakes in the war, which conforms to his strength and power, whereas Catherine puts makeup and dresses up in the way Frederic fancies.