In Another Country

by Ernest Hemingway
Start Free Trial

What is the significance of setting in "In Another Country"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The setting of Hemingway's story "In Another Country" is Italy, a country that suffered thousands of deaths and injuries in battles on several fronts. This proud country acts as the Objective Correlative for the figurative "another country" in which the injured soldiers find themselves.

Now, there are soldiers who are being treated in an Italian hospital whose structure is beautiful and charming; however, for all its Old World beauty and charm, it is yet a melancholy place since it houses the wounded and defeated.

The narrator, an American fighting with the Italians (like Hemingway himself, who was an ambulance driver in WWI in Italy), describes his and the others' situation: "...the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more." Figuratively, then, they are "in another country" from others. In this location, they must strive to retain their manhood and exact honor from their new, vulnerable positions.

It is this lesson of honor and dignity in the face of adversity that the major attempts to teach the narrator. Once a great fencer, the major endures the machine therapy although he does not believe it will benefit him. Still, he reports each day for his time on the machine in order to set an example for the others. Further, he has the narrator take grammar lessons in Italian so that he will speak more correctly and adhere to form, just as their behavior should adhere to "form."

In one of these Italian grammar lessons, the narrator is asked by the major if he is married, and the American replies that he is not, but he hopes to marry. This remark infuriates the major:

"The more of a fool you are," he said...."A man must not marry."...."Why must not a man 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 that he cannot lose."

Not long after this conversation, the major leaves to use the phone. When he returns, he has his cape and cap on. Patting the American's shoulder, he tells him that his wife has just died. "I am utterly unable to resign myself," he adds. Then, after three days, the major returns and continues his therapy in "another country" that has no relationship to his real existence, but in it he attempts to adhere to form and display some dignity.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team