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In Our Time | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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In Our Time | Chapter 3 | Summary



The narrator, a soldier or officer, describes a battle with the Germans at Mons, presumably in Belgium. The man describes shooting German soldiers as they climb over a garden wall. One gets partway over and is shot, then three more. There may have been more, since the man says, "We shot them. They all came over like that."


The Battle of Mons in 1914 was the first battle the British army fought in World War I. The British inflicted heavy casualties on the German side. However, the British eventually realized the German forces outnumbered them and had to retreat.

Hemingway's vignette retells the story of Mons in miniature. It is not an overview of the whole battle; the narrator offers a limited perspective, watching one garden wall. He is probably British since he says "garden" for "yard" and "potted" for "shot": "We waited until he got one leg over and then we potted him." As in the actual Battle of Mons, the British side in Hemingway's vignette inflicts heavy casualties on the Germans. The garden wall in the story is like the line on a battle map, the line the German side attempts to cross. As in the actual Battle of Mons, the British succeed in delaying the German advance temporarily, but then they receive word they must retreat.

The sight of the German soldiers repeatedly climbing the garden wall and being shot down shows another aspect of death in war. Every German dies as he tries to go over the wall, but each individual German soldier must act as though he will not die. Therefore, the soldiers are repeatedly surprised when death catches up with them.

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