Readings of Catherine Barkley, the female protagonist of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, have focused on her gender without fully considering her medical vocation. In contrast, this article foregrounds Catherine’s work as a Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nurse through a sociohistorical lens drawn from World War I nursing memoirs and medical history. Situating her behavioral antinomies within the discipline of wartime nursing demonstrates Catherine’s capability to repurpose her role as an instrument of war: through her affective labor, Catherine establishes human connections unsanctioned by military authority. This reframing of A Farewell to Arms as Catherine’s war story rather than as her love story also reveals a Hemingway sensitive to how the trauma of World War I rewrote identity for women as well as men.
In Uniform Code: Catherine Barkley’s Wartime Nursing Service in A Farewell to Arms
Michelle Huang is a dual-degree doctoral student in the departments of English and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her articles and reviews on medicine, disability, and gender in twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature have appeared in the Journal of Medical Humanities, Configurations, and Hypatia. From 2013 to 2015, her research at the Hemingway Letters Project contributed to the publication of volumes 3 and 4 of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway (Cambridge University Press).
Michelle N. Huang; In Uniform Code: Catherine Barkley’s Wartime Nursing Service in A Farewell to Arms. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 June 2016; 62 (2): 197–222. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10.1215/0041462X-3616588
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