In "In Another Country," why is the narrator in Milan?

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In this famous short story by Ernest Hemingway, the unnamed narrator is a young American who has served in the Italian army during World War I. He has been wounded in action and is living in Milan where he receives physical therapy at a local hospital to rehabilitate his injured leg. The original hospital is "very old and very beautiful." The narrator, along with other injured soldiers, receives treatment not in the old hospital but in the "new brick pavilions" that had been constructed nearby.

The narrator's injury is serious:

My knee did not bend and the leg dropped straight from the knee to the ankle without a calf.

Although the narrator goes each afternoon to receive his treatments, he has little faith in the physical therapy "machine" that he has been assured will make his knee functional once again.

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mercut1469 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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Ernest Hemingway's short story "In Another Country" was first published in his second collection of short stories, Men Without Women, in 1927. It is the story of a wounded American soldier who is rehabilitating in a Milan hospital during World War I after receiving serious injuries to his leg. This part of the story is obviously autobiographical as Hemingway served as a Red Cross ambulance driver (the same role that his fictional character Fredric Henry takes in the novel A Farewell to Arms), and was wounded in the leg at the Italian front. He convalesced at a Milan hospital for six months in 1918. Hemingway had volunteered to serve and was in Italy during severe fighting in the Italian Piave between the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies.

The narrator, who goes unnamed, is most likely Nick Adams, the protagonist of many Hemingway short stories of the period, including the famous story "Big Two-Hearted River," which is about Nick's attempt at healing after the horrors he witnessed during World War I. The narrator is at this hospital presumably because the doctors are experimenting with new machines which, according to the doctors, are guaranteed to rehabilitate wounded limbs. While in Milan, the narrator meets other wounded men, including a major who has a badly injured hand. The Italian major is helping the narrator with his Italian. Toward the end of the story the narrator learns that the major has just lost his young wife to pneumonia. Not only is the episode ironic in that the major had survived the war while his wife could not survive a common sickness, but it is also symbolic of the title of this collection of short stories, Men Without Women.

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