The Italian major, a former fencing champion, is in the Milan hospital because his hand has been mangled in battle. A controlled military man, he is cynical about the machines that are used to rehabilitate his wounded extremity, and about the tales of bravery and heroism he hears from the young Italian officers. He befriends the narrator, who is also injured, and tutors him in Italian. The Italian major has recently married a young woman, something he would not do until he was injured—and therefore would not be sent into battle again. However, when his wife dies unexpectedly from pneumonia, the major loses his soldier-like composure, and weeps, not just for her death, but also, according to Earl Rovitt in his essay, ‘‘Of Human Dignity: ‘In Another Country,’’’ for his understanding that he must now confront the meaninglessness of life, one that has shown him that his strict military code could not protect him from life’s vulnerabilities.
See Italian Major
Though the major’s wife never appears in the story (she is mentioned only in the second-to-last paragraph of the story), she plays a major role. A young, healthy woman, her sudden death from pneumonia leads the Italian major, her husband, to learn he cannot control life, a lesson which is also observed by the...
(The entire section is 424 words.)