In Our Time

by: Ernest Hemingway

Mr. And Mrs. Elliot

Summary

This story concerns the attempts of the title couple to conceive a baby. They tried in Boston and on the boat over to Europe. On the boat, Cornelia Elliot was very sick. She was a Southern woman and became ill easily. When they married, she had seemed younger but now she looked her forty years. When they were married, Hubert Elliot was studying at Harvard in a postgraduate program. He was a poet. He had never slept with a woman before he married. Most women to whom he told that fact immediately left him. Cornelia thought his chastity was lovely. She also adored the way that he kissed her. He could not remember what made him kiss her the first time or why they married, but they did.

The first night of their marriage was in Boston. It was a disappointment. But, they still wanted a baby very badly, so they kept trying after they sailed for Europe the next day. First, they went to Paris. Then, they followed some friends to Dijon, but they found that boring. They went back to Paris. Then, they decided that Paris was too crowded and they rented a castle in Touraine for the summer. Cornelia's friend came over from America to stay with them. This made Cornelia much happier than she had been. Several of Hubert's friends also came down to Touraine. But, even though they admired Hubert's poems and he was about to send them out to be published, the friends left to accompany a new young poet to a seaside resort. Hubert drank much white wine at this time. He stopped sleeping with Cornelia. Instead, Cornelia's friend stayed with her. Hubert drank a lot of white wine and hardly spoke. Hemingway writes that they were all happy.

Commentary

Following the story about bullfighting, "Mr. And Mrs. Elliot" portrays a man with a lack of masculinity. The first line, "Mr. And Mrs. Elliot tried very hard to have a baby," indicates that they were having difficulty conceiving. This kind of problem is often used to point out a lack of male virility. Similarly, the women that ran away from Elliot when he told them he was a virgin also feared a certain lack of manliness. As strange as it seemed to Elliot himself, these girls were happy to have a man who had slept with many women. Despite the fact that Hubert did not have casual sex with a lot of women, he still could not develop a close relationship with Cornelia. He did not know why they married, and she spent much of her time crying. She was only relieved when her girlfriend came to visit. Those two could create a much tighter bond than she could with her husband.

Hubert derived his only friends from his celebrity. Americans living in France wanted to be near an up-and-coming poet. But such fame cannot last long, and these "friends" abandoned him. Left with no friends, no intimate relations, and no masculinity, Hubert began to drink.