What is the conflict of the story "In Another Country" by Ernest Hemingway?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Loss and ruin pervade the narrative of Ernest Hemingway's story "In Another Country." Clearly, the conflicts in which the injured soldiers find themselves are identity conflicts.

These men are soldiers. Although "the war was always there, ... we did not go to it any more," the narrator observes. Now they are "in another country" of the sick and injured as well as the alienated. The narrator observes, 

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

He adds that when he and the other injured soldiers went to town past the "wine-shops," they often had to jostle a crowd that "disliked" them and "did not understand." The narrator is further alienated because he is an American and the Italian soldiers feel that he has been awarded his medal solely because he is from the US. Whereas his medal was given because of his accident, theirs were awarded for valiant acts in the face of imminent danger. 

One of the Italian soldiers, a major who was a fencing champion, has suffered even more than the others because his hand has been injured so severely that he will be unable to fence ever again. Even more devastating to him emotionally is the unexpected death of his young wife, whom he did not marry until he was "invalided out of the war." One day he abruptly tells the narrator that the therapy machines are "all nonsense." Also, he tells the American that a man must not marry:

"He cannot marry. He cannot marry," he said angrily. If he is to lose everything, he should 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.”

This declaration is considered to be "the philosophical center of the story and also one of the clearest expositions of Hemingway's code." (eNotes)

Further, it is the major's dignity that makes him demand that the American speak grammatically when he converses in Italian with him. We also see the major's dignity in the way he carries himself straight and soldierly and comes regularly to the hospital even though he does not believe in the machines. And it is the major's dignity that makes him sit "straight up in his chair" with his withered hand thrust into the machine as he stares at the wall. Faced with irreconcilable losses and physical and spiritual ruin, the major as the code hero endures with his dignity and his adherence to form that he places above all else. In this manner, he resolves his conflicts as he continues to live with courage.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The conflict of the story, "In Another Country", is a subtle emotional conflict regarding the possibility of emotional rehabilitation.

The narrator has been injured and is undergoing a rehabilitation program on machines. However, his injury is not entirely physical. The mechanized rehabilitation program is therefore somewhat ironic. 

The isolation the narrator feels cannot be overcome by machines and cannot be overcome by a recovery from his injury. Something critical that once connected the narrator to the world has been severed. 

We see a powerful example of this kind of severance in the major. The major suffers the loss of his young wife unexpectedly when she dies. This loss leads to bitterness and a further loss of dignity. The major becomes isolated from the narrator and cannot believe in the potential for recovery. He "cannot resign" himself to his loss and so is bound to continue to suffer from it, an emotional injury that cannot be overcome.

The narrator's conflict is, essentially, the same as he struggles to see a path to emotional and psychological recovery after the loss of his confidence, his idealism, and his health.


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In Another Country

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