The story begins in Goriza, Italy, the headquarters of Frederic Henry's troop, during World War I. Frederic is an American volunteer in the in the Ambulance Corps, and a second lieutenant in the Italian army. Henry has just returned from a leave and had traveled throughout Europe. Lieutenant Rinaldi, one of the secondary characters in the novel, shares a room with Frederic Henry. Rinaldi, is an emotional Italian, and is always in love with someone. When Rinaldi, is first introduced he is infatuated with Catherine Barkley, a nurse at the local hospital. Frederic goes one night with Rinaldi to meet her. When Frederic meets Catherine he finds her to be very beautiful and at first the relationship between them consists of a game based on his attempts to seduce her. He does try to make one attempt to try to kiss her, but Catherine becomes very offended and quickly slaps him on the face. Frederic learns from very early on that Catherine had lost her fiancé, who was killed during the war. Catherine is still rather shaken up from the experience and is not ready to really get into another relationship. Frederic has no intention of ever falling in love with her. .
" I did not care what I was getting into. This was better than going every evening to the house for officers with the girls climbed all over you and put your cap on backwards as a sign of affection between their trips upstairs with the brother officers. I knew that I did not love Catherine Barkley nor did I have any idea of loving her. This was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards. Like bridge you had to pretend you were playing for money or for playing for some stakes nobody had mentioned what the stakes were. It was all right for me."" (pg. 30-31).
This quote best describes how Frederic felt toward Catherine at first. He did not truly love her in the beginning of the novel; it was just a game where all he wanted was to have an affair with her.