The Origin of Mercy in A Farwell to Arms: A Speculation
A Farwell to Arms begins in dust and ends in rain. In between, Hemingway always places his characters against the backdrop of weather and often deeply within it. Notably, signal moments occur frequently in the rain. One possible source for Hemingway’s emphasis on the power and meaning of rain comes from Shakespeare. It is Portia’s “quality of mercy” speech in “The Merchant of Venice”: it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven.” This paper locates that source in a physical place: a hospital in Kansas City, where Hemingway, the young newspaper reporter, encountered the key quotation every time he entered.