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.

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