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Ernest Hemingways A Farewell To Arms English Literature Essay

The chosen text for discourse analysis has been taken from chapter 10 of “A Farewell to Arms” (pg 60-62). Having been selected from a novel, the text type turns out to be ‘a literary extract’.

Social Agents (Setting, Characters and Audience): -

The story has been set against the backdrop of World War I, particularly, at the Italian-Austrian front. Moreover, Hemingway’s characters are the people involved in the war scenario and his audience is the post-war society of 1920s America, whom Gertrude Stein called “The Lost Generation”.

Situation and Purpose: -

The protagonist of the novel, Fredrick Henry, stands for the experience of his country and personifies the atmosphere of a war-torn society. He is also the narrator of the story. This particular extract begins with a descriptive paragraph that follows a long conversation between Henry and his friend, Rinaldi. The situation presented in the first paragraph is of Henry’s miserable life in a filthy hospital room. The purpose of this situation is, firstly, to reveal the dark reality of medical institutions during war-times, and secondly to set the tone for the following conversation.

The dialogue between Henry and Rinaldi is structured around the idea of medals of appreciation. Rinaldi is emphasizing on the point that Henry must be awarded a silver medal for his heroic deeds at the battle field. However, Henry doesn’t sound interested and negates the fact that he’s shown any extraordinary bravery and heroism. The purpose of this conversation is interpersonal because Rinaldi’s detailed explanation of things personalizes the talk and also the focus remains on socializing rather than any transaction/ the exchange of goods and services.

Lexis/Vocabulary: -

The use of concrete words and images is the most prominent characteristic of Hemingway’s writing style. The disillusionment as an after-effect of his war-experience made him distrust the abstractness and adopt a concrete approach towards life. This personal attitude of the writer is reflected in his language. That’s why; the lexical choice in this particular text is also very simple and concrete. For instance, very ordinary daily life words such as flies, beds, chairs, bottles and socialized vocabulary like medals, prisoners and nurses etc, are used.

Spoken/Written Language: -

The chosen text consists of both written and spoken language. The initiating paragraph of the extract retains the characteristics of written language that is in contrast to the spoken language of the following conversation. First of all, the expression of the descriptive paragraph is formal unlike the informal expression of the dialogue. Secondly, there are no

conversational features, body language or movements used in the written version to facilitate the reader’s understanding. Everything is explained through words. However, in the spoken part of the text Henry is constantly back-channeling Rinaldi and the body movements are utilized in explaining the tone/mood of the characters. For instance the gesture, “He slapped his gloves on the edge of the bed”, shows Rinaldi’s anger and frustration.

Moreover, the spoken and written expressions differ in terms of grammar and lexical density:

The conversation in the text has involved fragmented and disjointed sentences; however, the descriptive paragraph retains grammatical complexity. Broken phrases and incomplete sentences are found in the dialogue, for instance, “What for?” and “Not very firmly”. Whereas, in the description every sentence is structurally and grammatically correct and complete with an appropriate use of punctuations.

Similarly, lexical density, the ratio of content words per clause, is higher in the written passage than the spoken one. For example, there are 8 content words in the first sentence of the paragraph: “In the ward at the field hospital they told me a visitor was coming to see me in the afternoon”. Whereas, in Rinaldi’s following sentence the number of content words is 5: “There was an English there. I’ll go and see him and ask if he will recommend you”.

Pattern: -

The chosen text fulfills the requirements of two types of patterns:

The first pattern that applies on this is the cause-consequence pattern. The text can be divided into two parts: first parts informs about Henry’s accident in the battle that brought him to the hospital and second part talks about Rinaldi who comes to see Henry and involves in a conversation with him. This shows that Henry’s injury and admission in a hospital has caused Rinaldi’s visit to him, making it a text based on cause-consequence pattern.

Secondly, the instrument-purpose pattern also applies on this text. The instrument is the situation that is Henry’s getting injured as a result of his brave acts at the battle field. This situation develops a purpose that is the acknowledgement of Henry’s heroism at the government level. This is the purpose Rinaldi is emphasizing on. He wants Henry to be awarded at least a silver medal. Although, the achievement of these medals is not mentioned in the text, yet Rinaldi’s assurance shows that Henry would be achieving this purpose at some point in the chapters that are going to follow.

More Powerful Character?

There are two characters in the text, Henry and Rinaldi, out of whom Rinaldi holds higher degree of power in speech because he’s the one who’s speaking his mind out while Henry is merely back-channeling and answering his questions in short phrases like “I did not” or “I couldn’t move” etc.

Theme and Rheme: -

Theme is the initial element that organizes the sentence. Analyzing the whole text in terms of theme and rheme, theme is Henry’s wounded condition that is the initial situation around which the following conversation is organized. Thus, the conversational part is the rheme.

Nature of the Text (Debatable / Expository): -

The nature of this extract is expository because Hemingway here aims to expose the lack of emotionality of the contemporary society. For example, Rinaldi sounds to be more concerned with Henry’s achievement of medals than his injury. This also shows the writer’s critical and sarcastic attitude towards the materialistic approach of these war people.

Figures of Speech: -

In the conversation, there are no notable figures of speech used because of the spoken form of language. However in the first paragraph, written expression contains certain symbolic images and metaphors. For instance, “hot day” symbolizes the harsh reality of war. Secondly, the image of “flies” is meant to represent the filth of medical institutions during war-times. Then, the water images are symbolic of a cleansing effect that helps washing the past painful experiences from one’s memory and leaves him feel “cool and lovely”. Moreover, the image of “I…covered my face with my hands and slept…” metaphorically highlights Henry’s escapist attitude.

Cohesive Devices: -

The cohesion of thought and sequence of utterances in achieved through various cohesive devices in the text that are as following:

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