In Our Time | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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In Our Time | Chapter 1 | Summary



An unnamed narrator tells of a march toward the Champagne region of France during a war. The narrator, a kitchen corporal, recalls, "Everybody was drunk." The marching soldiers were near the front and an adjutant was worried about the light in the corporal's field kitchen. The adjutant tells the corporal to put the light out.


This short vignette keeps repeating the word "drunk," as though the style were fixated like a drunken person has fixations. The first two sentences repeat the word: "Everybody was drunk. The whole battery was drunk." Then the narrator remarks that the lieutenant also keeps repeating this word and this fact: "The lieutenant kept riding his horse out into the fields and saying to him, 'I'm drunk, I tell you, mon vieux. Oh, I am so soused.'" The soldiers seem carefree and careless of danger because they are drunk on duty.

The word "drunk" also echoes in the word "dark": "The whole battery was drunk going along the road in the dark." The darkness gives the first hint of danger, and so does the adjutant's worry about the kitchen corporal's light. (He refers to "my kitchen," which must be a field kitchen, somewhat like a camping stove.) The narrator thinks the adjutant's worry about the light is misplaced; they are 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) from the fighting.

The drunk soldiers head for a place called Champagne, also the name of a wine people drink to celebrate. In fact, Champagne was the site of brutal fighting in World War I, with heavy losses on both sides. Like the officer in "On the Quai at Smyrna," this narrator does not say much about his own feelings. "It was funny going along that road," he recalls. He does not seem to mean funny ha-ha so much as funny off-putting, as they may be about to enter the slaughter.

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