Why was Hamingway rewriting the finale of “Goodbye, Guns!” 47 times

In the final scene, the novel’s protagonist, Frederick Henry, emerges from the hospital and goes in the rain to a hotel. He lost everything — only a few days ago he had a pregnant wife, hope for happiness, plans for real life. Now he had a dead son, and Catherine died of bleeding, life lost its meaning.

This finale Hamingway rewrote 47 times (although himself admitted to the press that there were 39 variant endings). Finishing the novel on the right note was very important, the impression of the work as a whole depended on it. It was the conciseness and accuracy of the last phrases that brought the author the fame of the greatest American writer and placed this work on the highest stage of literature of modern times.

Finding the right words was important as Catherine’s death meant not only the hero’s loneliness, but the complete wreck of his life ideals, which he aspired to by saying goodbye to weapons . He tried to run away from society into a world of personal happiness — and this attempt failed. Henry found himself at a crossroads again, and even the author himself does not know where his hero will go.

Looking for the right option, Hamingway compiled about 47 variant endings, some of which were just a sentence, others a few paragraphs long. In one option, Henry’s son remains alive, in another, everyone is alive, including the protagonist’s wife. However, these options are full of Hamingway’s non-characteristic sweetness, so they could not satisfy it. One of the endings is full of appeals to God and executed in a religious way.

Hamingway devoted the most options to a sad and tragic ending. The question was just how to report it to the reader. The author chose a cold and impartial style, with which he perfectly managed to show — nothing will protect a person from the cruel and full surprises of the outside world. Behind the simplicity of style lurks complex content and secret meaning, this could only be achieved with careful selection and precise use of words — the finale of the novel “Goodbye, Weapon” succeeded Hamingway in full measure.

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