Summary: Chapter XXV
After returning to Gorizia, Henry has a talk with the town major about the war. It was a bad summer, the major says. The major is pleased to learn that Henry received his decorations and decides that Henry was lucky to get wounded when he did. The major admits that he is tired of the war and states that he doesn’t believe that he would come back if he were given leave from the front. Henry then goes to find Rinaldi, and while he waits for his friend, he thinks about Catherine. Rinaldi comes into the room and is glad to see Henry. He examines his friend’s wounded knee and exclaims that it is a crime that Henry was sent back into battle. Rinaldi asks if Henry has married and if he is in love. He asks if Catherine is good in bed, which offends Henry, who says that he holds certain subjects “sacred.” They drink a toast to Catherine and go down to dinner. Rinaldi halfheartedly picks on the priest, trying to animate the nearly deserted dining hall for Henry’s sake.
Summary: Chapter XXVI
After dinner, Henry talks with the priest. The priest thinks that the war will end soon, though he cannot say why he thinks so. Henry remains skeptical. The priest notices a change in the men, citing the major, whom he describes as “gentle,” as an example. Henry speculates that defeat has made the men gentler and points the priest to the story of Jesus Christ, who, Henry suggests, was mild because he had been beaten down. Henry claims that he no longer believes in victory. At the end of the evening, when the priest asks what Henry does believe in, he responds, “In sleep.”
Analysis: Chapters XXII–XXVI
If Catherine’s behavior in the last section casts a slight shadow over the romantic idealism surrounding her relationship with Henry, her farewell to him casts it into darkness. A sense of doom slowly closes in. Catherine’s observation, as she and Henry pass a young, amorous couple, that “nobody is like us” betrays the pathos at the heart of their relationship. By...