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Existentialist Tendency in a Farewell to Arms

Author ZhongYongDan
Tutor ZhangShunFu
School Sichuan Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords existentialism absurdity nihility freedom of choice
CLC
Type Master's thesis
Year 2008
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Hemingway is one of the greatest American writers in the twentieth century. A Farewell to Arms, his most famous anti-war novel, relates a moving story happening in the First World War. An American volunteer joining Italian army falls in love with a British nurse but their love is destroyed mercilessly by the war.Hemingway expresses his outlooks on the world, on life and on individual in this novel. The world under Hemingway’s pen is a chaotic and irrational world. People living in this world discard traditional values and faith, living a nihilistic and miserable life. Although the world is absurd and life is nihilistic, the protagonist has fighting spirit. He actively participates in life and pursues the meaning of life. He fights courageously against the danger and death in adversity to realize his existential values. These views are in accordance with existentialist philosophy rising in the twentieth century. Existentialism mainly explores human existence, the absurdity of the world and the meaninglessness and purposelessness of life. Meanwhile it greatly emphasizes man’s freedom of choice and action.This thesis intends to explore the existentialist tendency in A Farewell to Arms according to the existentialist theories.This thesis consists of five parts. Introduction gives a brief introduction of the purpose and significance of the research and the main thought of existentialism. It mentions that the following three chapters will explore the existentialist tendency in A Farewell to Arms from three main aspects of existentialist thought, namely, absurdity, nihility and freedom of choice.Chapter one deals with the first existentialist thought showed in A Farewell to Arms, the absurdity of the world. And the thesis interprets it from two aspects, the chaos of the world and the irrationality of the world.Chapter two deals with the second existentialist thought showed in A Farewell to Arms, the nihility of life. Living in a chaotic and absurd world, man can never get rid of the sense of nihility. Man has to face it bravely. Here also two sections are involved, the collapse of faith and ideal and the consciousness of misery.Chapter three focuses on the most important thought of existentialism, freedom of choice and action. Section one deals with the protagonist’s choices and actions in pursuing personal value. Section two deals with the protagonist’s choices and actions in pursuing personal dignity.Based on the above four parts, the conclusion of this thesis is arrived at, that is, there is existentialist tendency in A Farewell to Arms, and Hemingway is indeed a writer with existentialist thought.In a word, there is profound existentialist thought in Hemingway’s works. He is not only the spokesman of the lost generation but also a writer with philosophical thinking.

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