In Our Time | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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In Our Time | Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

Nick has been wounded in battle, hit in the spine. He has been dragged out of the line of fire and propped up against a church wall. He sits there talking to another wounded man, named Rinaldi. Rinaldi lies face down, and his breathing is labored. Two "Austrian dead" lie nearby. The battle is going well, and "stretcher bearers would be along any time now."

Nick tells Rinaldi, "You and me we've made a separate peace." He means they have negotiated their own terms with the enemy by exiting the war as wounded soldiers. He says he and Rinaldi are therefore "not patriots." Rinaldi says nothing, and Nick finds him "a disappointing audience."

Analysis

Nick's seated posture recalls the sick cabinet minister in Chapter 5 who also sat against a wall. Since Nick resembles the executed man, it seems possible he won't survive. Perhaps his confidence in the stretcher bearers is misplaced. Maybe he will have to wait longer than he thinks. The shortness of the vignette leaves these mysteries unresolved.

Hemingway makes careful use of adverbs to suggest Nick's state of mind. "The sun shone on his face ... Nick looked straight ahead brilliantly." The word "brilliantly" suggests several meanings. Nick is paralyzed from a bullet or shrapnel hit to his spine. He cannot do much of anything except look straight ahead, so there is a dark humor in saying he does it "brilliantly" well. Nick may also feel elated. Wounded, he is overcome with a giddy happiness. Finally, perhaps Hemingway deliberately misplaced the word "brilliantly." It should be the sun that shines brilliantly, not Nick's manner of looking. The deliberate language suggests Nick's confused mental state. He moves his head "carefully" and smiles "sweatily." These adverbs show Nick's precarious physical state.

There is a verbal irony in Nick's thinking the battle is going well. As the battle progress and things continue "getting forward in the town" there will be more dead and wounded, like Nick and Rinaldi and the Austrians. The vignette says the battle is going well while showing the battle's horrible consequences. Hemingway also uses understatement to portray the loneliness of talking to a mute, possibly dying man. Nick finds Rinaldi "disappointing," but actually Rinaldi seems near death.

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