The narrator recollects his romance with an Italian nurse while he was wounded and in the hospital. On a hot evening in Padua, Italy, some people carried him up to the roof to look at the town. The others went down again when it got dark and the searchlights came on. Luz and he went to bed together. She took night duty for three months so that she could be with him. She prepared the table for his operation. Then, when he was on crutches, he went around taking nighttime temperatures so that she did not have to get out of bed. Everyone knew about them. Before he went back to the war, they prayed. They wanted to get married, but they did not have the right paperwork or enough time. Luz wrote to him often, but they were delivered all together. They decided that after the war, he would go to New York to get a job, and she would come afterward. They left each other while still quarreling about her not coming with him. He left for America. She stayed behind to open a hospital. There, the major of an Italian battalion made love to her. She wrote to the American that their romance had only been boy-girl love. Now she had found adult love. This major did not marry her, though. Her American love never wrote back. Soon thereafter, he contracted gonorrhea from a department store employee while riding in a cab through a residential area of Chicago.
This story is probably about Nick because the main character is from Chicago. Regardless, the tale reveals how the war let young men change and develop sexually, emotionally, and intellectually. Of course, development might not be for the better. If this character is Nick, then he has had a love before, in Marjorie. Yet, Luz calls his love childish. Further, when he gets back home, he has even less intimate relationships with women.
This man's relationship with Luz also serves to reveal the youth of the American nation. America was just coming into power on a global scale. The first World War went a long way to proving its viability as a major player in world affairs. But, America remains much younger and more immature than the European nations. Therefore, when the Italian general proves to be more of a man than the American soldier, Hemingway is indicating that America remains a young and immature nation.
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