Robert and his men depart from a town called Bailleul, which they call “the last place in civilization.” Here, there is a hotel where the soldiers can sleep, and an insane asylum called Asile Desolé where the officers bathe. As they get closer to Ypres, the culture becomes increasingly less French and more Belgian. Robert cannot understand the locals, who mainly speak Flemish. When he requests that a peasant speak to him in the English, the man assumes that Robert is a British soldier and yells at him, exclaiming that the English are all murderers.
The Belgian peasant’s reaction to Robert indicates the cross-cultural effects of the war. Though the customs and traditions of many European countries have a great deal in common, the mass scale of World War I has completely fractured the continent, causing people to view outsiders as enemies by default and thus encouraging senseless animosity between strangers like Robert and the peasant.