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Sexism in "A Farewell to Arms"

A Farewell to Arms one of Ernest Hemingway’s most revered novels. It’s received millions of accolades and is highly valued as an American literary classic. The story is told from the perspective of an American ambulance driver in the Italian army during WWI. He falls in love with an English nurse, Catherine Barkeley, and experiences the pain and loss in war and in life.

Although it is one of the most revered books in American literature, there has been an abundance of criticism about Hemingway’s portrayal of gender roles in his novels, such as in A Farewell to Arms. In my opinion, he is a sexist. He portrays all women as weak, needy, and submissive, like Catherine and Miss Gage, or controlling, like Miss Van Campen. For men, he builds on the depth of his characters, especially the mysterious protagonist Frederic Henry. Mostly, he portrays the male characters as dominating and womanizing. And no, I do not like his sexism. No, I did not enjoy reading about his female characters.


Yes, Hemingway is a sexist. But so was everyone in that time period. Women were still considered inferior to men. In fact, at that time (1917ish), women were not even allowed to vote in America. It wasn’t until the 1950s and 60s that women started to have some of the jobs as men. Even though society has improved since then, there are still gaps in gender equality. In 2014, women earned an average of 83% of what men earned at the same levels of the same jobs. So in terms of the time period, Hemingway’s gender portrayals are justified.

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