The Rejected Endings of “A Farewell To Arms”

July 29, 2013


According to lore, Ernest Hemingway re-wrote the final sentence of his classic novel A Farewell To Arms 25 times.  After Frederic’s struggles to survive the war, and to be with his beloved Catherine, she dies suddenly.  And in typical Hemingway terseness, Frederic finally leaves her body at the hospital and Hemingway concludes: “After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.”

Some of the rejected endings:

1. “After a while I left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain, and I didn’t have an umbrella, and I was like, ‘Could this day get any worse?’ and then a car went by and splattered me with mud, and I fell in a pile of garbage and that made me swallow my gum.”

Total yuckers.

2. “After a little while I left the hospital because those places totally give me the creeps.  It’s smell, I guess?  I don’t know.  Yuckers.”

3. “After a while I left the hospital and, needing an appropriately manly way to express my grief, killed a bull with a live swordfish. Then I saluted their pure, noble strength with a quart of bourbon.”

4. “After a while I went out and left the hospital, and found a telephone.  It rang.  ‘Hello, Veronica?  Guess who’s single?!’”

5. “After a while I left the hospital and was walking back to the hotel in the rain, when I heard Catherine quietly calling my name.  I suddenly roused, and realized I was in bed, with Catherine beside me.  It had all been a dream!”

6. “I looked at her body and noticed a tiny pin-prick behind Catherine’s ear.  This was murder.  She had known too much and someone had shut her down. And someone was going to pay.  FREDERIC HENRY WILL RETURN IN: THE SCORPIO CONFIGURATION.”

7. “…and on the way to the hotel I threw my gun in the trash, and said ‘goodbye’ to it…”

8. “After a while I went out and was walking back to the hotel, and I was all, ‘This is total bullshit.  Like, seriously.  This just fucking sucks.  It sucks big time.  This sucks donkey dong.’”

9. “After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.  Light rain, but still.  The next day I packed, which took longer than I expected, because my clothes wouldn’t fit in the suitcase, even though it was the same clothes that fit when I first packed – how does that always happen?  Ha ha! – and left and wound up moving to Chicago.  Chicago’s nice, but the winters are brutal.  Eventually found a job as an ambulance driver, which took a while; who knew there were so many qualified ambulance drivers? I faked one of my references, and when they called I had to disguise my voice.  Oh, I also got in to jigsaw puzzles, which is weird, because I always thought puzzles were dumb and for old people.  Anyway, I guess I’m rambling, so I’ll wrap this up.  Thanks for reading!  I hope you liked my book!”

10. “Catherine believed in that orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.  It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther, and one fine morning… and so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly in to the… ah, this ending would never work.  You like it F. Scott? It’s yours.  Take it.”


At the entrance of the cave you encounter a bear with a sword!  If you think Frederic should talk to the bear, turn to page...
At the entrance of the cave you encounter a bear with a sword! If you think Frederic should talk to the bear, turn to page…
, , , , ,

About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

View all posts by The Byronic Man


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

62 Comments on “The Rejected Endings of “A Farewell To Arms””

  1. Renee B-W Says:

    He really should have gone with that last one. Everything’s better with “pick-a-path”!


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      It is the trademark of great literature. Hamlet’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure, except if you ever choose to do anything, you turn to that page and Hamlet changes his mind and frets some more.


  2. BrainRants Says:

    I never would have guessed Hemingway tried all of these approaches.


  3. EmSpeaks Says:

    Reblogged this on Em Speaks and commented:
    These made me laugh. 9 and 10 are probably my favorites.


  4. She's a Maineiac Says:

    Thank you, Hemingway, for providing me with my morning guffaw. And goddammit, I just swallowed my gum. This is turning out to be a real donkey dong of a day.


  5. Hippie Cahier Says:

    Number 3 is probably as close to spot on as you can get!


  6. Go Jules Go Says:

    Oh man. I bet this post was really, really good. Very nice, even. It’s too bad I’m so caught up in this jigsaw puzzle. Holla back when you’ve got the sword-brandishing bear bit sorted. That’s the only part I caught, but it sounded promising.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      People would like the classics better if there were more sword-wiedling bears in them.


      • Michael Says:

        That is the truth. That’s exactly what Moby Dick needed. Beyond editing and a major redraft that would make it more than a whaling encyclopedia with a plot. A sword-wielding bear going after the whale, now, that would’ve been epic.


      • Tammy J Rizzo Says:

        You can never have too many sword-wielding bears, is how I figure it. They’re always good for a surprise plot twist. I mean, how many times does one expect to run into sword-wielding bears? It’s ALWAYS a surprise twist! Every! Single! Time!


  7. workingwithwords Says:

    Reblogged this on My Mind's Not Right! / Teetering on the Brink of an All-Out Breakthrough and commented:
    Abso-fucking-lutely HILARIOUS! Thanks for this!


  8. Snoring Dog Studio Says:

    #1 – definitely. It’s truly in his voice. That other voice of his – the one belonging to a guy who doesn’t endlessly obsess over a damn sentence.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Part of me wants to pshaw at that level of obsessive revision. Then the other part of me mocks “Are you a genius who changed modern literature? No? Are you sure?”


      • Snoring Dog Studio Says:

        Yeh. I question the classics all the time. I question the giants of literature all the time. I never get answers.


  9. grannyK Says:

    Hysterical! I like them all, but I really did giggle at #4


  10. angelajardine Says:

    Why on earth didn’t he choose #3 … it was just so … so … him. And so true to life …
    I just had to larf at these, BM … soooo funny.


  11. Anka Says:

    Number five because I’m a closet optimist. In true Catherine form, she could handle her illness with grace and quickly recover. Maybe she could even help Frederick with his detachment issues. He would wake up a new man.

    Or, you could combine endings one and five. THAT would really make Frederick lose his gum.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Apparently the two most common endings for sci-fi/fantasy manuscripts are “It was all a dream!” and having only two people left alive on a planet and (twist!) we find out their names are Adam and Eve.


  12. mistyslaws Says:

    Who wouldn’t want to talk to a bear with a sword?? Like that’s even an option!


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I bet if you got in a fight with a sword-wielding bear it’d be a really hollow victory if you knocked the sword out of his paws. “Ha HA! Now all you have to defend yourself with is your massive, spiked jaw, and razor-sharp, baseball-mitt sized claws at the end of your herculean arms! Ha HA. Ha. Heh.”


  13. Helena Hann-Basquiat Says:

    Yet another idea of yours I wish I’d had, darling. Could I request a small favour of you? Take a sec and check this out: I think that you and I share a similar sense of humour, and seeing as you’ve given me a chuckle today, I feel it only fair to return the favour.


  14. donofalltrades Says:

    I always enjoyed turning the pages in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. I also enjoyed turning pages in my public school text books until I’d finally reach something like a baboon’s ass which would be circled and and arrow would be pointing to it from the words “this is you” or something equally clever.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      What I hate is when you come across some piece of adolescent graffiti or defaced text and it makes you genuinely guffaw. A reminder that you’re not so sophisticated.


  15. Don't Quote Lily Says:

    Lol! Choose your own adventure would have been gold.


  16. speaker7 Says:

    I liked #8 the best. Will it be considered plagiarism if I end my book with the phrase “donkey dong?”


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      If it’s good enough for Cervantes, Dumas, and Dostoyesvsky, it should be good enough for any of us.

      I don’t know if Dmitri Karamozov or Edmond Dantes said, “This sucks donkey dong” at any point, but they certainly should have.


  17. Exile on Pain Street Says:

    Pretty good. Can you work-up a version with wizards, orcs and vampires in it? I’ll bet that’d really move some product. Also, a version with an appearance by Spider-Man.


  18. becomingcliche Says:

    #11 was just a little ahead of its time. It would have been a huge hit 30 years later.


  19. Blogdramedy Says:

    This is what happens when you use a ghost writer. You hire the wrong one and it’s eight years until your next blockbuster.


  20. Jackie Cangro Says:

    Love them all!
    But I think you forgot the one where Catherine uses a Delorean to travel back to the moment they met and warn him that she was going to die.
    (Of course then she can’t find enough plutonium to fill the flux capactor anyway)


  21. List of X Says:

    Hemingway probably considered finishing the book with “After a while I went out and left the hospital”, but then thought that the readers may notice the story is not complete.


  22. silkpurseproductions Says:

    So many choices. It must have been a really tough decision for him. Perhaps he drew straws?


  23. tomwisk Says:

    I like 3, 4, and 8.


  24. 1pointperspective Says:

    It’s worth noting that Ernie’s zombie ending didn’t even make the cut. You know, the one where the newly dead Catherine comes lurching down the street in her quest for the flesh of the living?


  25. Michael Says:

    I, personally, would love to read The Scorpio Configuration.


  26. Paul George Eberlein Says:

    Speaking of “choose your own adventures” is it time once more for another episode of Maxine Cho, her dog Bonkers the Beagle and Reginald the ghost? If so, please delight us with another great piece of storytelling…


  27. Laura Says:

    Can I stop at the bar on my way to the Cave of Spells?


  28. Teepee12 Says:

    Just walk away. In the rain. Alone.


  29. st sahm Says:

    Didn’t Hemingway have a hundred cats? I imagine him walking off to buy milk or whatever cats like and picking up another dozen strays after leaving the hospital and returning to the hotel. May I respectfully submit that as #12?


  30. Charlene Woodley Says:

    Number four was my favorite – clearly this is the best coping mechanism for a grief stricken BF. 🙂


  31. Elyse Says:

    You hit it with no. 4. — that’s the reason I loathe Hemingway, but the only part of a woman he could ummm “really understand” was between her legs. What an ass.

    But your take on him is brilliant.


  32. sporadicblogger Says:

    No. 3 is as Hemingway as it gets.


  33. tinkerbelle86 Says:

    25 times and thats the one he stuck with?!


  34. pegoleg Says:

    This is why I never thought Hemingway was all that and a bag of chips, no matter HOW much my high school English teacher nattered on and on about what he REALLY meant with his terse sentences. He could have nailed this story with any one of your fine alternatives.


    • Paul George Eberlein Says:

      On the plus side, terse sentences mean that when authors do a reading from one of their works, the audience won’t glaze over from the flowerly verbiage. Brevity kills.


  35. Tish Farrell Says:

    Yes, #3 is spot on. And it’s a sad fact to those of us re-write a million times, that sometimes deeply flawed individuals are great writers. Darn it. Where’s the leopard I need to shoot?


  36. reocochran Says:

    This took a lot of time and imagination. I think you are much better at the choices than Hemingway. He must have been distracted and you are so focused! Great post!



  1. The Rejected Endings of “A Farewell To Arms” | Steven's Just Ducky - August 24, 2013

    […] The Rejected Endings of “A Farewell To Arms”. […]

Every Time You Leave A Comment, An Angel Gets Its Wings.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: