In Our Time | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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In Our Time | Chapter 2 | Summary



An unnamed narrator gives a brief account of a procession of refugees on the road in wartime near the city of Adrianople, now the city of Edirne in Bulgaria. It is raining, and "water buffalo and cattle [are] hauling carts through the mud." Old men and women, carts, cattle, camels, and other refugees get herded along by Greek cavalry. A woman gives birth on the road, under a blanket held up by a young girl. "It rained all through the evacuation," the narrator remarks.


The vignette begins and ends with rain, and in between are many sensory details about the rain. The minarets, or towers, stick up above the obscuring, foggy rain. The Maritza River runs yellow because the rain has washed so much soil into it. The camels in the procession "bob along" as if they are also floating in a flood although they are on land. All the refugees the narrator notices are not fit for military service: old men and old women, a woman giving birth, and a young girl. Only the Greek cavalry are military men, and they remain above the suffering throng, herding it along. The woman stopping in the road to give birth tie in with the women giving birth in "On the Quai at Smyrna" and "Indian Camp." The narrator's remark is ambiguous: "Scared sick looking at it." The sentence has no subject, so he could mean he is scared or the girl is scared. The "it" is also ambiguous. The "it" could be the laboring woman, her baby, her birth canal, or the whole throng of refugees. The ambiguity emphasizes the feeling of fear.

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