What is the significance of the setting in Hemingway's short story "In Another Country"?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting in Ernest Hemingway’s short story “In Another Country” is significant because Nick Lyons is a soldier who is literally and figuratively a man without his country. Lyons, a soldier who is wounded in the war, ends up in Milan. Milan is near the front line fighting but he feels his is “in another country” knowing he will never return to action. Due to his injury, Lyons, is undergoing rehabilitation, on his wounded leg, along with Italian soldiers at a hospital in the city. He is far from his home in America, away from the fighting in Italy, and an outsider in the group of men, which makes him a man "in another country.”

The group of men walk through the streets of Milan each day until they arrive at the hospital. Hemingway reiterates that it is cold with snow, and "darkness comes early." This is not an uplifting setting but rather it points to the desolation that Nick Lyons is feeling.

During their time at the hospital, the Italian men find out that Lyons received his medal for his injury not for the valor associated with his fighting. Upon learning this, the men look at Lyons in a different way, and he is ostracized.

The men have to walk through the “Cova” on the way back to their sleeping quarters. The “Cova” is a raucous part of town in which the young men and women congregate, but once again, the soldiers are excluded and often find themselves walking in the streets to avoid the crowds. They do not belong.

As a setting, the hospital itself contributes to the feeling of hopelessness. The soldiers are subjected to experimental treatments while they are filled with false promises of a return to health. The walls are void of pictures until the Major’s wife dies. When he returns, there are pictures of people who have received successful treatments. This does not phase the Major as he stares blankly out the window knowing that his hand will never be functional again.

In each instance, Hemingway uses the setting to emphasize Nick’s situation of being alone and injured, with no true purpose in life now that his days as a soldier were cut short.  

edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The descriptions of setting that Hemingway employs from the beginning of the story hint of the story's dark themes. "It was a cold fall and the wind came down from the mountains" situates the opening scene, as do the animal carcasses hanging "stiff and heavy and empty" outside the shops in the streets the narrator walks. The narrator notes that the days are short and "the dark came very early." The setting of the fall, and the dark, with visual associations of death surrounding him (he also notes that funeral processions often began from the hospital's courtyard), creates a bleak environment in which to summon the will to heal and return to a life interrupted by war.

The story's title is symbolic; the narrator is an American marooned in a Milanese hospital and is not well enough to return home or to the front. Both places represent an uncertain future. He lives in a state of limbo, a symbolic "other" country as he waits to recover physically and emotionally from the war that has injured him and the other men.

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In Another Country

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