Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
War brought many victories the next year. The mountains, that were beyond the valley and the hillside where the chestnut forests grew, were captured. There were many victories beyond the plain on the plateau. The narrator and his companions moved to the town of Gorizia and lived in a house that had a fountain and many thick shady trees and a walled garden. Now, the fighting was only a mile away, beyond the next mountain.
The town of Gorizia was on the banks of a river and was very nice. The house in which the narrator lived was also fine. The Austrians seemed to like the town, for they did not destroy it. The town had two brothels, one for the officers and the other for the troops. Often, the king passed throughout the town in his car, long-necked and with a gray beard like a goat’s chin- tuft.
Then, winter came and entire oak forests were covered with snow. The ground became invisible, buried as it was, under the snow. The mountains up the river were not yet captured; all that was left for next year. The narrator and his friend watched the priest passing by in the street, as they were drinking wine in the officer’s mess. The narrator’s friend signaled him to come in but the priest refused.
Later on, during dinner, the captain began picking on the priest. The priest was young and blushed easily and wore a military uniform but with a cross in dark red velvet above the left pocket. His vulnerability made him an easy target of his colleagues’ ridicule. They teased him because he loved the company of girls and spent a lot of time with them. The priest refused to take offense at the joke and let it pass. Then, a lieutenant remarked that he was an atheist, to which, the major replied that all thinking men were atheists. The narrator was asked by the others to go on leave, which was due him. He could visit Rome, Naples, Sicily, Amalfi, Palermo or Capri. The priest offered the narrator a chance to go to Abruzzi and visit his family at Capracotta. Again, several officers cracked jokes at the priest’s expense, but he took them all in his stride.
Even in this chapter, no clues are given about the identity of the people involved in the war. It is hinted that one group is Austrian with Franz Joseph as its king and with the Italians as its enemies. Since he is given the liberty to visit Italian cities during his leave, we assume the narrator fights on the Italian side. In this chapter, Hemingway throws light on the routine life of the officers. They drink and eat well, visit brothels, and crack good-humored jokes at the priest. Their jokes are often bawdy and vulgar. The priest strikes us as a cheerful, friendly person, (he offers the narrator the chance to visit his family) god-fearing, and good-hearted. The narrator, we gather, is due for some leave and as fighting ceases due to snow, he intends to go on a vacation.