In Another Country

by Ernest Hemingway

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How does the characterization contribute to the overall effect of "In Another Country"?

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The characterization of the major and his men contributes greatly to the effectiveness of Hemingway's story by providing a sense of meaninglessness and detachment.

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The opening line and its repetition in Hemingway's "In Another Country " are profoundly effective: "In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more." The men in the story are disillusioned by the war and are somewhat defeated by an existence...

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that lacks meaning. Therefore, they become detached and  somewhat dehumanized as they are placed on machines that reportedly will return to them the use of that which they have lost. But, the cure is artificial and, in effect, worthless.

In the midst of this meaninglessness, the major, once a great fencer who has now lost the use of his hand, simply adheres to form, as the code hero of Hemingway that he is. But, even his form does not support the major when his young wife dies and he is left completely bereft. He angrily tells the narrator, "A man must not marry." When asked why, he responds,

"He cannot marry. He cannot marry....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 he cannot lose.

"Utterly unable to resign himself" to the loss of his wife, the major is completely unable to deal with the emptiness of life and its false hopes and promises. Likewise, the other men represent the detachment of meaning and true feeling that comes from experiences as horrific as those of war. For them there is little but the detachment of their lives. Thus, the characterization of the major and the other soldiers depicts the uncertainly and often meaninglessness of life: "We only knew then that there was always the war, but that we were not going to it any more." The men no longer belong to anything or to any one. Life lies beyond their will and control.

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What does the plot contribute to the total effect of "In Another Country?" 

The plot involves five Italian soldiers and one American, the narrator, as they recover from wounds sustained in battle during war. Given this setting, the plot centers on the struggles of the soldiers as they cope with what they have been through. Being in the war, they have witnessed death. Following this experience, the narrator (American) considers the implications of their immediate situation in Milan visiting the hospital and how this experience in the war might affect the rest of their lives. 

At the beginning of the story, the narrator notes, "In the fall the war was always there, but we did not go to it anymore." A few pages in, he repeats, "We only knew then that there was always the war, but that we were not going to it any more." The narrator can not escape the war; even though he is away from the front in recovery, he can only think about how to avoid the war that is "always" there. The narrator, and presumably the other soldiers, are overcome by what they've experienced in the war. They feel "detached," from the life that they knew prior to the war, but they also feel a bond because of that experience: 

We were all a little detached, and there was nothing that held us together except that we met every afternoon at the hospital. 

. . . we felt held together by there being something that had happened that they, the people who disliked us, did not understand. 

The narrator feels a bit more alienated since he is in "another country," but the implication for all of the soldiers is that being in a war is like being in another country. Witnessing death and violence, these soldiers have seen a world/country that most have not. 

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