A Farewell to Arms is a bleak novel that delves into the harshness of war and the impact it has on those who experience it. An American, Lieutenant Frederic Henry, drives an ambulance for the Italian army during WWI. He meets a nurse, Catherine Barkley and tries to woo her. When he's injured later, Catherine tends to him as he recovers. The pair fall in love and end up fleeing together, only to meet a tragic end.
The novel is divided into five books. In the first book, Frederic Henry, an American paramedic serving in the Italian Army is introduced to Catherine Barkley, an English nurse, by his good friend and fellow paramedic Rinaldi. Frederic attempts to seduce her, and their relationship begins. Frederic didn't want a serious relationship, but his feelings for Catherine slowly start to grow. On the Italian front, Frederic is wounded in the knee by a mortar and sent to a hospital in Milan, where Catherine is also sent. The second book shows the growth of Frederic and Catherine's relationship as they spend time together in Milan over the summer. Frederic and Catherine fall in love as Frederic slowly heals. After his knee heals, he is diagnosed with jaundice but is soon kicked out of the hospital and sent back to the front after being discovered with alcohol. By the time he is sent back, Catherine is three months pregnant. In the third book, Frederic returns to his unit, and soon discovers morale has severely dropped. Not long afterwards the Austrians break through the Italian lines in the Battle of Caporetto, and the Italians retreat. Due to a slow and hectic retreat, Frederic and his men go off trail and quickly get lost, and a frustrated Frederic kills a sergeant for insubordination. After catching up to the main retreat, Frederic is taken to a place by the "battle police," where officers are being interrogated and executed for the "treachery" that supposedly led to the Italian defeat. However, after seeing and hearing that everyone interrogated has been killed, Frederic escapes by jumping into a river. He heads to Milan to find Catherine only to discover that she has been sent to Stresa. In the fourth book, Catherine and Frederic reunite and spend some time in Stresa before Frederic learns he will soon be arrested. He and Catherine then flee to Switzerland in a rowboat. After interrogation by Swiss authorities, they are allowed to stay in Switzerland. In the final book, Frederic and Catherine live a quiet life in the mountains until she goes into labor. After a long and painful birth, their son is stillborn. Catherine begins to hemorrhage and soon dies, leaving Frederic to return to their hotel in the rain.