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A Study in Contrast The views

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A Study in Contrast The views

A Study in Contrast:

The views of Catherine Barkley and Brett Ashley in their perspective classes

During the early 1900's, after the death of Queen Victoria, the European world went through a great change under the influence of the Free Women's movement and WWI. It was a time of great confusion, women were faced with choices unheard of before, and having to fight against what they had been taught their entire lives. Characters like Brett Ashley from Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises 'presented the image of the short-skirted, shimmying, seductive, sleek femininity promising unprecedented freedom for the twentieth-century.' Others characters like Catherine Barkley, A Farewell to Arms, presented a more conservative Victorian way of life, akin to a male dominant world. These, Hemingway's most famous female characters, are reflective in their contrast to the decaying Victorian society of the 1800's and the feminist movement of the early 1900's.

Hemmingway's attempt to create the perfect wife through Catherine, may have in fact been too successful, as he leaves the reader questioning whether she 'is too idealistic, too selflessly loving and giving to be believed as a character.' This is no truer than at the hospital after Catherine informs Frederic (Tenente), that she is pregnant her only concern becomes his happiness despite his constant pleas that he is in fact happy about the pregnancy. This is only overshadowed by her constant reassurances that she will be a 'good girl', never failing to apologize hastily for any momentary lapse in judgement. In fact, Catherine never fails to support Frederic for any of the risks he takes with his health, through drinking or the operation. While this submissive support for Frederic may seem surreal, it actually reflects the women of the Victorian era. The concepts of Victorianism are in no way supportive of Catherine's realism; they only provide a potential reason for her surreal personality.

Brett, in contrast to Catherine is believable due to her faults. Brett is more human through her realization that she uses men like Count Mippipopulous and Pedro Romero, for wealth and lust. Brett's understanding of her own nature is therefore more easily sympathized with and is what makes her character interesting. Brett's morals are perhaps the most honest part of her character as they portray those ideals that directly conflict with the world around her. One example of this is her multiple relationships outside of her engagement to Mike, which would have been outrageous for the time. The Victorian family would look at her as nothing short of a prostitute and yet the male of a household would most honestly be attracted to her. The family belief that 'a modest woman seldom desires any sexual gratification for herself' was just the double standard that Brett rebelled against. This shows strength in character, found in few others during the period and is what gives the reader a better understanding of why Brett is the way she is.

Catherine's desire to feel protected is a foil to Brett's quest for freedom. Protected from the fear of abandonment and loneliness that come with failed attempts at love. Catherine's previous marriage, which ended in the death of her husband, has left many emotional scars, making it difficult to deal with the stages of recommitting herself to another person. She finds her new relationship with Frederic difficult at first because she questions whether she is discrediting her previous husbands memory. Catherine's desire for protection and companionship eventually overcomes her fear of commitment and she falls deeply in love. Frederic had to commit on a very strong level to Catherine, in order for her to get over her previous husband. This serious a relationship was not Frederic's desire at first however; he was quick to feel the love for her that she proclaimed to him. Catherine's desire for protection is reflective of Victorian society in which women would marry older men for the protection that their status would provide. Although Catherine desires protection, she is not typical to the Victorian lifestyle in that she has a career, even as a nurse this was not common for the time. The irony in this is that Catherine shows a sense of independence that Brett has yet to achieve.

Brett and Jake's relationship shows yet another side of Brett, one in which love is the very source of her pain. This contrasts sharply ...

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