“In Another Country” takes place during World War I in Italy, where the narrator receives hospital treatment alongside other battle-scarred officers. The narrator describes how they are treated in machines “that were to make so much difference,” his ironic tone revealing the soldiers’ disbelief their injuries can ever be healed. Through their ineffective treatment, the machines represent early 20th-century society’s lack of appropriate methods to heal the officers’ war wounds, both physical and psychological. The machines fail to bend the narrator’s knee, for instance, and flap the major’s shrunken hand about almost comically. The wounded men’s lack of progress chips away at any latent faith in the machines to help them; the narrator notes, “There was a time when none of us believed in the machines, and one day the major said it was all nonsense.” Beyond being ineffective at treating physical injuries, the machines do nothing at all to address the officers’ emotional suffering. The doctor’s insistent faith in the power of the machines feels especially misguided given the soldiers’ clear psychological turmoil. They have become “detached” after experiencing the horrors of battle, and the narrator notes “there was nothing that held us together except that we met every afternoon at the hospital.” It is the communal activity and daily routine that keep the men going, rather than trust in the system, as embodied in the machines, to restore them.
Machines Quotes in In Another Country
Beyond the old hospital were the new brick pavilions, and there we met every afternoon and were all very polite and interested in what was the matter and sat in the machines that were to make so much difference.
The major came very regularly to the hospital. I do not think he ever missed a day, although I am sure he did not believe in the machines. There was a time when none of us believed in the machines, and one day the major said it was all nonsense.
He looked straight past me and out through the window. Then he began to cry. "I am utterly unable to resign myself,” he said and choked. And then crying, his head up looking at nothing, carrying himself straight and soldierly, with tears on both his cheeks and biting his lips, he walked past the machines and out the door.
When he came back, there were large framed photographs around the wall, of all sorts of wounds before and after they had been cured by the machines. In front of the machine the major used were three photographs of hands like his that were completely restored. I do not know where the doctor got them. I always understood we were the first to use the machines. The photographs did not make much difference to the major because he only looked out of the window.