What does the major mean in Hemingway's "In Another Country" when he says that a man must not marry?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the narrator shares that he hopes to be married one day, the major responds in a very angry way:

The more of a fool you are . . . . A man must not marry . . . . He cannot marry. He cannot marry. If he is to lose everything, he should not place himself in a position to lose that.

The narrator is confused by the major's reaction. He understands it, however, a little while later when he learns that the major's young wife has just died very unexpectedly. The major has experienced many losses because of the war, and he has managed to endure them all, but this loss--so completely senseless and for which he has been totally unprepared--has challenged his spirit in a way with which he is unfamiliar. He feels hopeless, telling the narrator, "I cannot resign myself." He cries, and repeats himself: "I am utterly unable to resign myself.

Hemingway's next descriptive passage portrays the major's strength and character:

And then crying, his head up looking at nothing, carrying himself straight and soldierly, with tears on both his cheeks and biting his lips, he walked past the machines and out the door.

After an absence of several days, the major returns to the hospital to continue his therapy, even though he places no faith in it. In making this choice, the major has chosen to endure even his most devastating loss and go on in life. He is a man of much courage, dignity, and moral strength.

 

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In Another Country

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