In Another Country | Summary
The story In Another Country by Ernest Hemmingway is set in the country of Italy in a town called Milan in the season of fall. The scenery outside is described as cold and gloomy with the hunted carcasses of various animals hanging from the shops in the street. The wind outside was so strong that t was even turning the wings of the small birds. The narrator was at the hospital every afternoon. There were different ways of walking across the town to the hospital. Two were canals and there was a choice of three bridges.
The doctor approaches the narrator and asks him about what he did before he got injured in war and tells him that he’ll be able to play football even better than before. The narrator was not able to bend his knee and his leg dropped straight from the knee to the ankle without a calf. The machine, which was supposed to bend his knee, lurched and the doctor reassured him. In the machine next to him, there was a major who had hands like a baby he jokingly asked the doctor that if, he too, would be able to play football. His hands were bound in two leather straps. The doctor showed them a photograph of a hand almost in the same condition as him and informed them that it was due to an industrial accident.
There were three other boys, the same age as the narrator, who came daily to the hospital, they intended to be a painter, a lawyer and a soldier. The four of them walked back to a cafe nearby. They were hated on by people just because they were officers. Afterwards, he worked in a bank in South America a long time ago. This time, they didn’t know anything except that a war was going on but they were not going to fight in it. All four of them had the same medals, except the boy who wore a silk bandage across his face, he hadn’t been on the front lines long enough to get one. The tall boy who was to be a lawyer was a lieutenant and had three medals to their one. All of them were a little detached from death, having spent a long time with it. They had nothing to hold them all together except this and that they met at the hospital every day. Despite of this, they felt connected through a bond that others could not understand. But they could understand the people of the Cova, as most of them were patriotic girls.
In the beginning, the boys were very polite towards the narrator and asked him about the reason he had received his medal which the papers sad were because he was an American. Thereafter, they started treating him as an outsider, despite being friendly towards him as they had done very different things for their medals. Though the narrator was not ashamed of his medals, he sometimes imagined what t would have been if he had to do the same things as his friends to get those medals. But the narrator knew that he would have never done those things because he was afraid to die. He often thought how he could be back fighting on the front again. Hs three friends knew that and so, they drifted apart. But since the boy who spent very little time on the front line had no idea how he would have turned out, so they stayed good friends.
The major, who was on the machine next to the narrator, didn’t believe in bravery and spent the majority of time correcting the narrator’s grammar. Once, he had complimented the narrator that his Italian was good and suggested that he starts thinking up the use of grammar. The narrator, who before thought of Italian as easy, but suddenly, decided that it was a difficult language. He was afraid to talk to the major until he was sure that he was using correct grammar. The major visited the hospital every day; the narrator was suspicious that he did not believe in machines, as the use of them was a “theory like another”. The narrator was called “a stupid, impossible disgrace” because he had not yet learned his grammar. The major asks the narrator about what he hopes to do when the war gets over and upon learning that he hopes to marry, he calls the narrator a fool again.
The major believes that a man must not get married in his lifetime; he should not put himself in a position to lose everything. Instead, he should be more focused in finding things that he is unable to lose. After being asked that why should he necessarily lose it, he is very sure that it will be ultimately lost and shouted at an attendant to turn his machine off. Then, the major left the room and when he returned, the narrator was on another machine. The major had his cape and cap on and at once approached the narrator and apologized profusely to him. He tells the narrator that his wife died, he further admits that it is very difficult for him. Repeating the words that he is not able to resign himself, he starts crying and exits the room altogether.
Later, the narrator is informed that the major’s wife had been sick for a few days and then died of pneumonia. When the major returned to the hospital after three days, there were pictures on the wall of the before and after wounds that were cured by the machine. The major paid no attention to the photographs and only stared out of the window.
In Another Country | Analysis
“In Another Country” by Ernest Hemmingway was first published in 1927 in his short story collection, “Men without Women”. This story mostly deals with the treatment of soldiers as well as the common people during World War I. Through the course of the story, we follow the journey of an unnamed narrator who is struggling to find his place in a completely different country than his own. The narrator, as a reader sees, from the beginning of the narrative is a very observant and sensitive person. The first half of the story shows us the setting and the environment of the story.
As one might expect of a story taking place around war, the narrative begins with death. Albeit not of human beings, as the reader is shown the carcasses of the animals that were hunted for food and various other purposes, the gruesome sight sets the mood of the upcoming events. The reader dives into the story knowing what to expect but the author still somehow manages to surprise the reader at the end of the tale. The town of Milan is not explored much, besides the Cova Cafe, the hospital and some bridges and canals.
The narrator, somehow, got injured during the ongoing war and his knee was unable to bend. Though it seems like a severe injury, as the narrator won’t be able to play his favourite sport football, the injury is not given much importance through the course of the story which makes a reader think that the narrator was not much bothered about his knee and the fact that he could not play his favourite sport again.
We are introduced to three more boys who were of the same age as the narrator and they all have been injured in the war in some way. Despite this, the reader gets the feeling that these three boys are somewhat proud of, if not the work they had done, then of the ribbons they received as a symbol of their valour. All three of them were from Milan and wanted to pursue different fields. One of them was to be a lawyer, and one was to be a painter and one had intended to be a soldier. There was one more boy who was different in the sense that despite having the most brutal injury and the scars to prove those, he had no ribbons because he was injured in first hour of joining the front lines. The narrator admits that they did not have much in common among themselves, other than the fact that all of them had seen too much of death and were detached from it. Later, it is revealed that the narrator was even more detached to them because he got his medals just because he was American; he was disregarded because he, along with the boy who wore a black silk ribbon over his face, was not a “hawk” and he had done and endured far less brutal things than the other three. It is rather understandable that a soldier who has seen so much of death and destruction would become indifferent to it as long as the death is not of their close ones.
The major is a character, who, at first glance appears to be rather insignificant but it is through him that Hemmingway, shows another story of loss in the tale. After losing his wife, he becomes cynical and rude, as is visible from his conversation with the narrator. He starts believing that no one should fall in love with someone and get married as ultimately, one is going to lose the other person. He admits that the loss changes him and the readers find themselves sympathetic to the man who has just lost someone who was obviously very dear to him. He regrets shouting at the narrator and apologizes several times. When he returns after three days, he is wearing a black band on his sleeve. Black bands usually signify rebellion against someone or some cause. Though, it is unclear about what exactly he is rebelling against, the general reader believes that it must be the war that is currently going on and making so many people like him lose their dear ones.
Thus, this story by Ernest Hemmingway shows various kinds of loss and takes the reader on a journey of the life of the narrator who shows us the brutality of war through his eyes. The reader also gets to know about the cruelty of the people of the world.