This is a glimpse of an evacuation. It is raining. The town of Adrianople, in the midst of mud flats, boasts religious towers--minarets. Carts are lined up and jam-packed. Water buffalo and cattle are towing the carts, led by old men and women. The river is running yellow. The Greek cavalry kept the people and animals in line. There is one woman having a child as a young girl holds a blanket over her and cries. This scene is a frightening one.
Another glimpse into the life of a soldier in World War I. Probably this story follows "Indian Camp" because the women giving birth ties the two scenes together. There is a great deal of repetition in this passage. The narrator is attempting to emphasize his overwhelmed feeling by overwhelming the reader with the same description repeated many times. In addition, because the line "Scared sick looking at it" has no subject, this passage also lets the reader join in the feeling and experience the sickness rather than just to be told about it.
Sparknotes' commentary for On the Quai at Smyrna seems to have quite a few historical errors. The commentary states that the narrator is likely talking about the Greek evacuation of Thrace, but the title is On the Quai at Smyrna. Smyrna is a city in modern-day Turkey (now called Izmir). The Christian (mainly Greek and Armenian) part of Smyrna was burned in 1922 after the Turks recaptured the city from the Greeks. Hemingway was actually in Turkey just after the Great Fire to cover the Greco-Turkish War as a correspondent for the Toronto Star.... Read more→
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I think it is difficult to talk about this short story without acknowledging the use of literary minimalism. Several pieces of information are left out of the text but most readers come to the conclusion that Mrs. Elliot is a lesbian. Her marriage to Hubert is one of convenience, and her desire to have a baby is, arguably, to prove that she is not Lesbian (or just so that she can live in the current society without being judged).