Literature Annotations


Hemingway, Ernest
In Another Country


Genre Short Story (5 pp.)
KeywordsDepression, Disability, Doctor-Patient Relationship, Empathy, Grief, Pain, Survival, Trauma, War and Medicine
Summary

The narrator of this story, a wounded American soldier, is recuperating from his injury in Milan, Italy. He receives treatments delivered by machines each afternoon at the hospital. His doctor seems overly optimistic. "You are a fortunate young man," he tells the narrator, promising the soldier that his injured knee and leg will recover well enough for him to play football again.

The physician's prognosis for another patient, an Italian major receiving treatment for a shriveled hand, is also dubious. The officer was once a renowned fencer and is now angry and bitter. His invalid condition and the recent death of his young wife from pneumonia have sapped his will. He professes no faith in the machines treating his hand injury and does not believe in bravery.

Injury fosters camaraderie and the narrator socializes with four other young men undergoing treatment at the hospital. The narrator admits his injury was not the result of heroic action but merely an accident. The medals he received were undeserved. Life may be a series of random events but some people have it worse than others. The only certainty in the lives of these characters is the fact that "the war was always there."

Commentary

Loss, failure, and ruin permeate this brief story. Many of the characters grapple with a loss of function, a loss of purpose, and a loss of faith. It appears contagious. Two characters lose the normal use of a limb--the narrator (leg) and the major (hand). Almost all the characters in the story are portrayed as casualties of some sort. Detachment, disability, and fear of death are pervasive. For the soldiers, courage is not just facing enemy fire on the front line but also picking up the pieces of their damaged lives and facing the prospect of tomorrow. War, it seems, is forever.

The title of the story is interesting. At first glance, "In Another Country," refers to the fact that the American narrator is indeed in a foreign land--Italy. Yet he is also a visitor to another realm--the "country" of the sick and injured. And maybe World War I is the ultimate other country--a setting that defines nations or destroys them and has the potential to erase people, ideology, and the future. Does the doctor featured in the story truly believe that his patients will recover from their injuries or is he merely accustomed to dispensing hope in much the same way he might dole out aspirin? The likelihood that the machines will heal the soldiers is debatable. Do these gadgets prefigure modern technology or are they another reminder of how dependent upon machines both war and medicine really are?

SourceThe Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway
PublisherScribner
Edition2003 (paperback, The Finca Vigia Edition)
Place PublishedNew York
MiscellaneousThe story was first published in 1927. Ernest Hemingway participated in World War I. He was injured in Italy and received medals for courage.
Annotated by Miksanek, Tony
Date of Entry 05/12/04