In Another Country

by Ernest Hemingway

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Critical Overview

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Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 669

Hemingway’s spare, objective style has been widely imitated and adapted by many other writers. His choice of material, and his stoic, masculine way of dealing with issues of life, death, and love in a troubled, often violent world has made him a controversial figure. Though many admire his sparse prose, suggesting it reveals the inner workings of his macho male heroes, a share of scholars, feminists in particular, have criticized his work, arguing that rather than illuminating and critiquing the he-men behavior of his characters, he is, instead, embracing, even sentimentalizing it. They also complain that his female characters have less dimension than his male characters, and that they generally fall into two stereotypical categories, the saintly and the whorish, showing an underlying dislike of women in general. Hemingway supporters counter that he adores the women he writes about, almost to the point of idealization.

His short story, ‘‘In Another Country’’ is one of his most popular; it is also one of his most anthologized. Like much of Hemingway’s work, it has been written about at great length. Forrest Robinson in his article ‘‘Hemingway’s Invisible Hero,’’ published on Essays in Literature argues against the notion that the story’s narrator is not ‘‘merely passive in his painful acceptance of his lack of bravery, and is respectful in his observance of the [Italian] major’s resignation to despair.’’ He goes on to say that the narrator is not really the story’s protagonist, which many assume, but that the Italian major is.

‘‘In Another Country’’ is widely considered to be one of Hemingway’s serial, semi-autobiographical Nick Adams stories. In fact, when all the stories featuring Nick were published together as The Nick Adams Stories in 1972, ‘‘In Another Country’’ was included in the book. However, James Steinke, in his article ‘‘Hemingway’s ‘In Another Country’ and ‘Now I Lay Me,’’’ published in The Hemingway Review in 1985, argues that the story has been ‘‘mistakenly seen as one more contribution to composite of ‘Nick Adams.’’’ He also writes that the Nick Adams stories are not ‘‘fictionalized personal history,’’ as others claim. He uses a quote by the author himself to support his point: ‘‘When you first start writing stories in the first person, if the stories are made so real that people believe them, the people reading them nearly always think the stories really happened to you.’’

In addition to having his work labeled fictionalized autobiography, Hemingway’s work has also led to the author being called such ‘‘critical classifying terms as Disillusioned Idealist, Realist, Naturalist, Existentialist and even—after Old Man and the Sea—Christian,’’ according to Richard Irwin in his essay, ‘‘Of War, Wounds, and Silly Machines: An Examination of Hemingway’s ‘In Another Country.’’’ Irwin goes on to say that the author may be a Naturalist, but that he is not a true Naturalist. He feels Hemingway is a Naturalist ‘‘in the sense that for him human destiny is largely controlled by factors which lie beyond the individual will and choice, and those factors do not operate at the behest of an ultimately beneficent divine being.’’ However, he feels that Hemingway can not be called solely a Naturalist because his work does not ‘‘reveal . . . sentimentality toward the hard aspects of the human condition . . . a belief in a benign, responsible creator [or] a keen awareness of the ‘forces’ which operate independently of man’s conscious will.’’ He also comments that Hemingway’s writing does not ‘‘assume a universe indifferent to the suffering of human beings,’’ and so does not fulfill the definition required to be considered a Naturalist.

Despite the vast array of opinions surrounding the work of Ernest Hemingway his popularity and influence are still felt 35 years after his death. His position as one of the most distinctive and lauded writers of this century is assured, a title supported by a long list of devoted readers, the inclusion of his work in dozens of anthologies, and several of the most prestigious honors a writer can receive.

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Essays and Criticism