"Under the Ridge" is one of Ernest Hemingway's four short stories about the Spanish Civil War which were posthumously published in book form in 1969 with the release of The Fifth Column and Four Stories of the Spanish Civil War. The story had originally been published by Cosmopolitan magazine in 1939. The story is one of Hemingway's most blatantly anti-war pieces. It focuses on the confusion and absurdity of war. The main character is the first person narrator whose name is never mentioned but is most certainly Edwin, the same narrator as the other three stories. He is with a film crew producing a documentary about the war. The story is somewhat autobiographical as Hemingway served as a correspondent during the war and helped work on the film, "The Spanish Earth."
Hemingway uses the ridge as a symbol. The war goes on in the insane world under the ridge. Under the ridge, guns fire in the same direction as their own armies, there is confusion over men's identities, commanders are too drunk to function, men argue over thirst and fear, and dust pervades everything, increasing the confusion of the situation:
We had been there in the dust, the smoke, the noise, the receiving of wounds, the death, the fear of death, the bravery, the cowardice, the insanity and failure of an unsuccessful attack.
Over the ridge is sanity, as evidenced by the French soldier wearing the blanket over his shoulder who silently walks up alone away from the battle with his head held high. He is obviously a deserter who is leaving his position in the battle. For the narrator, however, the man is not a coward. Instead, he feels that the man sees things clearly and is doing the right thing:
I understood how a man might suddenly, seeing clearly the stupidity of dying in an unsuccessful attack; or suddenly seeing it clearly, as you can see clearly and justly before you die; seeing its hopelessness, seeing its idiocy, seeing how it really was, simply get back and walk away from it as the Frenchman had done. He could walk out of it not from cowardice, but simply from seeing it too clearly; knowing suddenly that he had to leave it; knowing there was no other thing to do.
The Frenchman, however, is pursued by other soldiers who wind up shooting him, presumably for desertion. Adding to this is the story told by the Extremaduran about Paco, the boy who had wounded himself in the heat of battle in order to be removed from the fighting. Later, Paco, who lost his hand because of the wound, apologizes to the men and pledges to do anything he can for the "cause." Paco ends up suffering the same fate as the Frenchman as he is shot in the head, "punished as an example, in order that there would be no more self-inflicted wounds." These episodes support the idea that war is confused and absurd, especially when men are killed by their own sides just as a message to other soldiers that they should dutifully go along with the "idiocy" and "hopelessness" of war.