In the story In Another Country, one of Hemingway’s greatest themes is the implausibility of war, focusing on the fate of the soldiers in the aftermath of war, when they experience the tragedies and futility of their lives. In fact, the story offers a rethinking of war-related concepts and values such as bravery, heroism, patriotism, camaraderie, etc. and a tool used to convey contrasting or unconventional views is irony. For example, irony lies in the fact that the soldiers have wounds in the very parts of the body that make what they are, the medals may be meaningless and do not have true value, and the Cova girls are considered the most patriotic people of all. Those ironies seem to reveal the author’s anti-war attitude.
First, the characters ironically receive wounds in the parts of the body that make them what they are. A noble man now becomes a noseless figure, a footballer has a damaged knee, and a fencer a shriveled hand. It seems as if the war has deliberately chosen to rob them of the things that give their lives meanings and essence. In short, they are not their selves any more. To make the ironies more tragic, the boy who lost his nose had his face rebuilt, but ‘they could never get the nose exactly right,’ and the major – the fencing champion – has no confidence in the treatment. Although ‘to lose is human’, a soldier cannot avoid having to ‘place himself in a position to lose’. The soldiers’ losses cannot be recovered and are a painful blow to their bravery.
The medals are also images of irony. Though supposed to be awards for deeds of bravery and thus something that hold the soldiers together, that make them ‘friends against outsiders’, the medals have become causes for injustice and discrimination. In fact, the American soldier received his medals just because he is American, without doing anything to get them. Knowing this, the others’ soldiers changed their attitude towards him. The American is well aware that he is never really one of them, would never have done brave things like the other three, and is never a hunting hawk like them. This realization causes the American to drift apart from the other soldiers and their camaraderie suffers from this discrimination and despise.
Another bitter irony comes from the fact that the people who appreciate the soldiers most are not the respectable citizens of Milan but the café girls at the Cova. Needless to say, going to war and sacrificing his youth, future, career, and even his life, a soldier expects to be recognized and loved by non-soldier people. However, the people in Milan hate them and yell at them when they pass by. On the contrary, the lowly girls at the Cova like and welcome them, to the point that the I-narrator ‘found that the most patriotic people in Italy were the café girls’ and he believes ‘they are still patriotic.’ It is not clear whether the café girls showing interest in the soldiers comes from real respect or just a means to show their hospitality but the girls’ behavior may question what makes patriotism and highlight the sense of isolation experienced by the soldiers.
The three images of irony discussed above, though not exhaustive, evidence the implausibility of war and the cruel fate of the soldiers after war. We have the impression that the soldiers are betrayed by the war, which inflicts the kinds of wounds that are intended to destroy them, to rob them of the very meaning of their existence, by the medals, which widen the gap between fellow soldiers rather than unite them, and by the people, who, in return for the soldiers’ sacrifice, pay them with ingratitude and hate. Hemingway’s anti-war attitude seems to emphasize the fact that war is inglorious and life is unfair.