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In
Ernest Hemmingway's A Farewell to Arms, the protagonist, Frederic Henry is
both
dysfunctional and tragic. Throughout the story Henry lives up to this
description of shear
tragedy and dysfunction. The main elements that aid in
making him both tragic and
dysfunctional are: the fact that the love he and
Catherine shared at the end of the book
was doomed, this love was only "role-playing"
to him at first, and he went AWOL on the
Italian army.
The first detail
that contributes to making Henry a dysfunctional character is that
he uses
role-playing as a way of escaping the realization of the human mortality which
is
unveiled by the war. This role-playing begins on Henry and Catherine's
third encounter.
After this meeting the two become increasingly comfortable
with their roles. It is as if
their whole relationship is a "game". Neither
one of them mistakes role-playing for a
truly intimate relationship, but both
recognize that it can be a useful device for satisfying
certain emotional
needs. This role-playing is a very dysfunctional characteristic of
Frederic
Henry.
The second point that makes Henry a dysfunctional character is that
he deserted
the Italian army. Not only was this illegal but it could have
cost him his life. Henry,
although an American, had made a commitment to the
Italian army, to protect and serve
Italy. This characteristic alone is enough
to make one dysfunctional, as it does to Henry.
In addition to being a dysfunctional
character, Henry is also a tragic character.
The love that Henry gains for
Catherine is pure tragedy. Although the relationship that
Frederic and Catherine
had started out to be only role-playing it turned into something
much more,
it became true love. This love was more than could be explained in words.
Their
love during an ugly war was not to be recreated or modeled even as much as
through
a baby conceived by their love. The baby could not be born alive because their
love
was beautiful yet doomed so that nothing could come out of it. "In a world
where the
abstracts of glory, honor, and sacrifice meant little to Frederic,
his physical association
with Catherine was the only thing he had and it was
taken away from him long before she
died."1
In conclusion, these three main
items aid in making Henry a dysfunctional and
tragic character. Henry had
fled his duty as a soldier, giving up on the country he had
confided in. Henry
was engaged in a relationship which started as a mere game, grew into
love
and ultimately ended in the tragic death of his precious wife and child. Frederic
Henry
is a tragic and dysfunctional character in a tragic and dysfunctional story.

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