At the story’ s beginning, Henry is portrayed as a young man who loves fun stuff and girls. For one thing, Henry’ s decision to join the war is mainly motivated by the sheer fun it will bring to him, at least in his mind. A sense of patriotism, or love of one’ s country, is never apparent in his character or virtue. What Henry constantly does in the field is drink alcohol and performs other activities (e. , seducing girls), which are not related to war. Barkley, however, is depicted in the novel as a young woman who is, in the genuine sense, passionate too and about love; this is quite prominent in her role as a nurse during the time of war.
Barkley nurses those who are wounded, strangers they may appear to her. The paradox here is the love that grows between two different, if not opposing, people. In addition, the priest’ s character appears to be paradoxical or contradictory to the character of Count Greffi. Evidently, both men are close to the heart of Henry. The priest and the Count are, in essence, advisers or mentors of Frederic Henry -- the former, of spiritual growth, and the latter, of worldly wisdom.
On the one hand, the priest seems to be courteous and well-mannered towards the soldiers in Henry’ s unit amidst their sarcastic joke on “ priest with girls. ” He seems not to mind at all, say, on the captain’ s lack of professionalism or respect towards him as a priest “ with a cross in dark red velvet. ” When confronted with the book entitled “ Black Pig, ” the priest merely describes it as “ filthy and vile” since it shakes men’ s faith (Hemingway 13).
On the other hand, Count Greffi reveals to Henry his disturbing faith by saying that once he wanted to be a “ devout [Christian] as I grow older. ” But as time passes-by, the spirituality of Count Greffi becomes weaker and weaker (Hemingway 236).
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