"What will you do when the war is over if it is over?" Why did the major insist on the narrator speaking grammatically to answer his question.
As a professional soldier, the major values dignity and control. He “did not believe in bravery,” says the narrator, and disdains the bravado of the other men. The narrator's statement that “Italian seemed such as easy language to” him annoys the major. He might think it is easy, but when he attempts to learn Italian grammar he loses his bravado and becomes “afraid to talk to” the major. Similarly, the major is annoyed by the machines which were to help heal their wounds from the way. The major links his annoyance with the machines to his annoyance with the narrator's difficulty of learning Italian grammar: just as the machines are an “idiotic idea,” the narrator is “a stupid impossible disgrace” and the Major was “a fool to have bothered” with him. The narrator, then, cannot learn the rules of grammar anymore than he can learn the rules of real courage and manhood, which involves a strength of character the narrator lacks (and knows he lacks it). After his wife dies, however, the major gains faith in the machines helping him too, and by this we infer that his rigid stoicism has been affected by death and that he feels as other men do.