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A burning world of war

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Abstract

How do literary works access the iconic potential inherent in language to construct their fictional world view? A case study of Hemingway&#8217;s A <i>Farewell to Arms</i> is presented to show that instead of its commonly accepted dual themes of love and war, the novel&#8217;s overriding theme is war &#8211; the universal and pervasive condition of human existence, itself cast as a war against the forces that conspire to make life shorter. The burning world of war is produced by the iconic force of literary language, from lexical choice to syntactic structure, from internal paragraph patterning to the patterning of paragraph sequences, from chapter level to the overarching narrative structure itself. Through quantitative and sequential iconic means, the abstract theme is made accessible, and the formless fictional world is given shape.

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