The narrator and three Italian officers his age have all received medals for their exploits during World War I, but the inflexible and misguided concept of bravery that the awards symbolize drives them apart. Although proud of his medal, the narrator says the related papers “really said, with the adjectives removed, that I had been given the medals because I was an American.” This drives a wedge between him and the Italian officers, who “had done very different things to get their medals.” The other officers feel superior to the narrator because their medals commemorate daring feats, while the narrator feels insecure for his lack of proven bravery; as such, they drift apart. The medals, then, represent a rigid notion of courage that separates the “hunting-hawks” from purportedly timid men who are fearful of death. What the medals don’t reflect, Hemingway shows, is that their wartime experiences of death plague all the young men; nor do the medals commemorate the soldiers’ valiant efforts to overcome those fears and heal their scars, both physical and psychological.
Medals Quotes in In Another Country
He had lived a very long time with death and was a little detached. We were all a little detached, and there was nothing that held us together except that we met every afternoon at the hospital.
I was a friend, but I was never really one of them after they had read the citations, because it had been different with them and they had done very different things to get their medals.
The three with the medals were like hunting-hawks; and I was not a hawk, although I might seem a hawk to those who had never hunted; they, the three, knew better and so we drifted apart.