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What is the theme of "In Another Country"?

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stephaniealegria | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 23, 2012 at 3:12 AM via web

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What is the theme of "In Another Country"?

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 23, 2012 at 1:50 PM (Answer #1)

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"In Another Country" is a story about coming to terms with loss. Though there are other themes that can be identified in this short story, the idea of coming to terms with loss is the most compelling. 

Each character in the hospital has lost something, physical ability or body parts. Each has lost something more, however. The sacrifice these men have made for the war is difficult to define and difficult for the men to compensate for in their lives, but it is related to a camaraderie with people at large.

"We were all a little detached, and there was nothing that held us together except that we met every afternoon at the hospital."

In being injured, these men are no longer part of the larger world, it seems, but are now part of a small world of their own. 

Additionally, the major has lost his wife. This loss compounds his physical loss and is, arguably, the greater loss for the major. He despairs of recovering on the hospital's machines. 

However, the major ignores them; instead, he just stares out the window, knowing the machines cannot cure him of this different kind of injury.

In rehabilitating their physical bodies, these men are also attempting to rehabilitate a more sensitive and fragile element of themselves. They are attempting to cope with the tragic side of what has happened to them, which is not physical, but emotional and spiritual. 

The losses suffered by these men lead the major to tell the narrator that he should find things he cannot lose, implying that there are certain things that, once lost, can never be fully regained. Living a diminished life after a loss like this is difficult and even impossible for some, like the major. Yet, each man has to find a way to live, despite the impossibility. 

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