Course Hero. "In Our Time Study Guide." Course Hero. 5 Oct. 2017. Web. 3 June 2020. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Our-Time/>.
Course Hero. (2017, October 5). In Our Time Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 3, 2020, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Our-Time/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "In Our Time Study Guide." October 5, 2017. Accessed June 3, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Our-Time/.
Course Hero, "In Our Time Study Guide," October 5, 2017, accessed June 3, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/In-Our-Time/.
An officer or soldier describes "an absolutely perfect barricade" he and his fellow soldiers have placed on a bridge. They put "a wrought-iron grating" or fence across the bridge. As the Germans try to climb over it, the narrator and his fellow soldiers shoot them. The narrator remarks again, "It was an absolutely perfect obstacle." He is dismayed when they get news about their own forces retreating and have to leave the bridge.
The narrator's repeated use of "frightfully" identifies him as British. He is fixated on the perfection of the barricade. A concrete wall as barricade would have given the enemy cover, offering them a forward position. The narrator describes his iron grating as "too heavy to lift and you could shoot through it." His focus on the tactical perfection keeps him from saying anything about what it is like to kill people. Because Hemingway uses a narrator who says nothing about moral or psychological aspects of war's violence, the reader is called on to imagine those aspects.
The narrator sounds like he would have liked to stay at that bridge forever, or at least for the rest of the war, shooting conveniently slowed-down Germans. However, this "perfect" situation of having the upper hand does not last. The narrator says, "We heard the flank had gone, and we had to fall back." Presumably it is their own flank, their own troops, because they have to retreat ("fall back"). The narrator regrets this action: "We were all frightfully put out." His commentary shows how soldiers can turn off empathy and sympathy during wartime.