In Our Time is a collection of short stories and vignettes about the years before, during, and after World War I. The stories, which are titled, are separated by vignettes, each of which is a chapter. The first story, "On the Quai at Smyrna," introduces the war through a description of an evacuation. Then, "Indian Camp," "The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife," "The End of Something," "The Three-Day Blow," "The Battler" and perhaps "A Very Short Story" all describe an encounter in the life of Nick Adams. Through these stories, Nick seems to be growing up. The vignettes are scenes from war, in which few characters are named. Chapter VI, after "The Battler," is about Nick in the war. After that, the vignettes turn away from stories of the war and the short stories take up a different subject.
"A Soldier's Home" is about a soldier named Krebs returning to his hometown. "Mr. And Mrs. Elliot," "Cat in the Rain," and "Out of Season" are all about American couples living or vacationing in Europe. "Cross-Country Snow" is about two men (one of whom is named Nick) skiing together. "My Old Man" is about a jockey and his son. Then, "Big Two-Hearted River," parts I and II, are about the return of Nick Adams to his fishing ground, the forest around which and town of which have been burnt down. The vignettes that separate these stories vary in content but mostly deal with bullfighting. The final vignette, "L'Envoi," is a surreal story about a visit to a Greek king.
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).
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