Robert, exhausted from his convoluted two-hundred-mile journey from Le Havre to Bailleul, falls into a deep sleep at the hotel and wakes up groggy and disoriented. He has not bathed, shaved, or changed his clothes in days. He undresses and looks at himself in the mirror, surprised at how disheveled and old his reflection appears. Still exhausted, Robert collapses back on the bed as he hears people dancing and laughing in the dining room downstairs amidst the distant sound of gunfire. Feeling “appallingly alone,” he masturbates before drifting back to sleep.
This passage demonstrates the toll that the war has taken on Robert. Although he has been given time to recover at St. Aubyn’s and transition to his next station in Belgium, he is unable to rest or feel at ease. The fact that Robert notices how old he looks (despite having only been at war for a few months) suggests that the stress of fighting and the atrocities he has witnessed have affected him both physically and mentally.