The Hemingway code hero, who faces the meaninglessness of life after the death of his wife, stares vacantly out the window as the machine works emptily upon his war-withered hand. Even before his wife's death, the major has had no confidence in the machines. Furthermore, it seems that he has no confidence in existence, no optimism.
Sitting straight in his chair as the straps "thumped up and down with his fingers in them," he asks the narrator what he will do when the war is over, and receives the reply that the narrator will return to the States, hoping to marry. To this, the major replies angrily,
"The more of a fool you are,....A man must not marry.....He cannot marry," he said angrily. "If he is to lose'everything, he sould not place himself in a position to lose that. He should not place himself in a position to lose. He should find things he cannot lose."
Then, he angrily pulls his hand from the machine as he retorts to the narrator's inquiry of "But why should he necessarily lose it?" by confirming, "He'll lose it!" Having lost the use of his treasured fencing hand, and now his lovely young wife, the major despairingly finds that life itself is a loss, an absurb existence, where nothing has meaning.