Analysis of Farewell to Arms with Freytag’s pyramid: The different elements included in the structure of a play have been a great curiosity both for the audience and critics ever since the introduction of the form in the literary field. It was the German critic, Gustav Freytag in his noted book, Techniques of Drama (1863) introduced five elements to analyse the structure of plays…
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In a work, “Freytag’s pyramid demonstrates how rising action, conflict, and resolution follow one another to create a narrative or drama” (Thursby 24). The novel, Farewell to Arms (1929) by the famous American writer, Earnest Hemingway takes the themes; war and love. The book has been noted for its resemblance with the life of the author himself. The novel is set on the Italian battlefield in Gorizia, Italy. It portrays a deep passion of love between Frederick Henry and Catherine Barkley. It is praised for its resemblance with many of the Shakespearean Plays. The author Earnest Hemingway had compared the novel with Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare. Just like a renaissance play it has five books in it and each book stands for each element of the Freytag’s pyramid. To begin with, the first aspect of Freytag’s pyramid is exposition. According to it a play must introduce the characters, settings and should constitute a moving incident. The novel, if analysed in this background, gives the setting as the warfare of Italian army during the First World War, and introduces Frederick Henry, the hero of the novel, as the ambulance driver in the Italian front. Even from the very beginning some speciality in Henry is noted as he was the only soldier who has not ridiculed the priest. The relationship with Rinaldi makes Henry introduced to the heroine of the novel, Catherine Barkley, the English nurse at the military hospital in Milan. The shell attack and Henry’s knee wounds happen to be the move of the exposition in the novel. This makes the heroine attached towards Henry. Both the warfront setting and the introduction of the theme love affirm the accomplishment of the first element of the pyramid, exposition in the novel. The second book of the novel shows the development of love between Henry and Catherine. Even though there are conflicts in their characters, the aspect of love takes root in their hearts deep. The thoughts of Henry as a lover and as a soldier show the conflict in the character and so Catherine too develop such a conflict in her mind. The pregnancy of Catherine shows the ‘rising action’ of the book second. Here the readers can find out overwhelming conflicts in his minds regarding his duty as a soldier in the Italian front. Climax of Freytag’s pyramid has been defined as, “the turning point in the action, the crisis at which the rising action turns and becomes the falling action. In a five act tragedy, this usually occurs at the end of the third act” (Lenhart, & Edgar 211). The novel witnesses the going back of Henry to service, still bewildered, whether to adopt love or war. The retreat of the Italian army at Caporetto shows Henry’s hatred towards war and its destructions. The killing of sergeant by Henry and battle police’s arrest and the final jumping into the flooded river constitute the climax of the novel. The falling action of the novel starts with the incidents that happened after the climax. Henry’s search for Catherine first at Milan then at Stressa shows his desire to denounce war completely from their life. The life at Stressa with Catherine was peaceful in the beginning but the probability of arrest by the Italian army compelled Henry move to Switzerland. The sudden escape of Henry and Catherine in a row boat and the struggle of rowing to Switzerland in a very opposing climate
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The conclusion from this study states that the tragic plot-structure of A Farewell to Arms is made all more effective through a continuous, dramatic juxtaposition of the opposing characters and incidents, themes and motives, which reveals through irony the dynamic tension the writer builds in the novel.
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