In Our Time | Study Guide

Ernest Hemingway

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In Our Time | Chapter 7 | Summary



A soldier in a trench prays to Jesus, begging Jesus to let him survive. He promises, "I'll tell every one in the world that you are the only one that matters." Then the shelling moves on to another part of the trenches, and the next day is quiet. The soldier goes to town on leave but he does not tell the woman he's with about Jesus. "And he never told anybody," the narrator concludes.


The vignette does not use quotation marks. The prose switches between the third-person narrator and the soldier thinking or saying prayers in first person. For example: "he ... prayed oh jesus christ get me out of here." However, it is easy to tell the vignette's different voices apart. The narrator correctly capitalizes Jesus: "he did not tell the girl ... about Jesus." The soldier's prayer seems more hurried and frantic because he cannot be bothered to use capital letters or commas: "Dear jesus get me out. Christ please please please christ." This speech, is, of course, an illusion. The soldier is fictional, and even if he were real, he would be praying internally or speaking out loud, not writing these words. Hemingway uses the lack of capitalization and lack of commas to suggest the soldier's fearful state of mind.

The vignette also uses the first-person plural: "We went to work on the trench." This sentence comes right after the praying soldier's first-person prayer. This "we" includes the narrator, who is referring to himself and to all the other troops. Thus the narrator is a soldier alongside the praying man. Even though the man who prayed told no one, the narrator knows.

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