In the story "In Another Country," what does the machinery in the hospital represent to the army major?

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edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The fact that he has no faith in the physical therapy machines meant to restore his injured hand is emblematic of the major's loss of faith in moving forward in life to what we now recognize as "the new normal" after a traumatic physical and psychological injury. He has been forever altered by war. He is physically diminished by his injury, and he is unable to accept the likely reality that he will never be the athlete he once was as a champion fencer. He looks at the pictures of hands after they have undergone machine rehabilitation and sees only the loss, not the improvement. His pessimism is only deepened by the death of his wife; he is utterly disillusioned and too psychologically closed off to accept that he will find purpose in the coming days. Sadly, the fact that the doctor hangs new photographs that show completely restored hands comes too late for the major. By the story's end, he has convinced himself that his rehabilitation is impossible and that to put his faith in a machine would be fruitless. The machines could also represent a rejection of technology, since technology enabled massive slaughter of the soldiers on the fields of battle and in the trenches of WWI on a scale never before seen.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To the major, the machinery in "In Another Country" represents the war machine and man's dependency upon something mechanical that can fail him.

The Italian major, who was once a fencing champion, now has a withered hand that is useless to him. He comes to the hospital every day, but he does not believe in the power of the machines to rehabilitate his withered hand. One day he expresses his lack of faith in the machines as he "said it was all nonsense." These machines are a new concept for therapy, and the major declares that the use of them is "an idiotic idea,...a theory, like another." Nevertheless, the major comes every day to the hospital because he can no longer go to war and his routine of therapy on the machines at least establishes some order in his life. Also, he likes the American who, like him, is injured. To give himself some purpose, the major teaches the American, who can converse in Italian, correct grammar so that he will have better form.

After his young wife dies of pneumonia, the major is out for three days. When he returns he goes on the machine for his hand, but he ignores the photographs of restored hands and simply looks out the windows.

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Another Country

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