Ernest Hemingway’s “In Another Country” is hard to summarize. An unnamed first-person character tells a few stories about his time in Milan, and the people he met who were all recovering from wounds they sustained in battle. First, he tells about the city, and the various ways to get to the hospital. The doctor tells him his treatment is working, and he’ll be able to play football again, thanks to “the machines.” He tells about the different people he meets, such as the Major whose hand is wounded. He befriends three other men, a lawyer, a painter, and a career soldier, as well as another who wore a scarf to cover his face because he lost it in the war. After talking about medals, however, he falls out of the group. After that, he befriends the Major who had already been introduced. The major teaches him proper Italian. During conversation the Major, whose name is Signor Maggiore, asks him if he was married. The narrator says he isn’t but wants to be, and Maggiore tells him not to marry, because a man should never put himself in a position to lose. Maggiore yells at the narrator, then apologizes and tells him he just lost his wife.
The chronic tension is the loss these men have experienced.
The acute tension is either the machines, and the medical treatment in general.
I thought what made the story interesting was the characterization and the use of symbolism. I think the only character that was named was Maggiore, and his name was only used a few times. I think it’s interesting how Hemmingway characterizes characters without ever giving them names. The names are unimportant to the story, so they’re left out. All you need to know is the character. That’s something I want to try in my own writing. The major, I think, is the most characterized character in the story. More so even than the narrator.
I would argue that Maggiore is the central character of the story. Even though the story is told by a first-person narrator, and much of the time in the story is spent away from Maggiore, the climactic moment incites a more noticeable change in him, and not the narrator. The character of the narrator is a tool that Hemmingway uses to tell the story of Maggiore. I want to try that in my writing and see how it works out.
The use of symbolism is also very important to the piece. The machines, especially, interest me. The machines are established as new ways of healing wounds, and the men are the guinea pigs in that. But the machines, I think, are symbols of the ways men handled the mental repercussions of the war. Take the man who lost his nose, for example. The doctors reconstruct a nose for him, but they can never get it right. I think this reflects how many men came home from war, and assimilated back into civilian life, but they were never quite able to rid themselves of what happened. With the concluding image of Maggiore sitting among the machines, not using any of them and staring at the wall, with the questionable promises of the doctors behind him, we see a character recede into himself. Maggiore rejects the change the doctors promise him, and that’s the change he undergoes in the story. At the beginning he’s skeptical, but goes anyway. At the end, he doesn’t even acknowledge the machines.
What did you make of the hawk metaphor?
What do you think of the decision leave the characters unnamed?
Why do you think the three/four others were included in the story? What’s their function?