Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms 3

"We won't talk about losing. There is enough talk about losing. What has been done this summer cannot have been done in vain." I did not say anything. I was always embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain. We had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain almost out of earshot, so that only the shouted words came through, and had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by billposters over other proclamations, now for a long time, and I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity. Certain numbers were the same way and certain dates and these with the names of the places were all you could say and have them mean anything. Abstract words such as glory, honor, courage, or hallow were obscene beside the concrete names of villages, the numbers of roads, the names of rivers, the numbers of regiments and the dates.
Ernest Hemingway: “A Farewell to Arms” (1929; New York: Macmillan, 1986), 184-185.

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Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Hemingway (b. June 21, 1899 in Oak Parks, Illinois, d. July 2, 1961 in Ketchum, Idaho) volunteered as an ambulance driver with the American Red Cross during World War I. After serving a couple of months at the Italian front, he was seriously wounded and spent some time in a military hospital in Milan. His war-time experiences later inspired his 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms, promoted as “the best American novel to emerge out of World War I.”