In Our Time

In Our Time Summary and Analysis of Chapter XII


The vignette describes the bullfighting style of Villalta. The narrator curses the bull, and when it charges he stands firm and swings his sword at it. Then he kills the bull, first taunting him with "Toro! Toro!" Then he sticks the sword between its shoulders, and the bull collapses, staring at Villalta.

"Cross-Country Snow"

Nick jumps off a moving train. He has his skis on and moves rapidly down a slope. His friend George is ahead of him on the slope. Nick flies down the slope enjoying the exhilaration, but he spills when he hits a soft patch of snow. Nick and George ski all the way to a fence, with Nick reaching it first. When George arrives he compliments Nick on a move called a Christy. They move past the fence into a pine forest. Ahead on a hill stands an inn. They take their skis off and move toward it.

They enter the inn and hear singing in another room. It stops, and a girl comes into the room to take their order. They decide on wine and begin to talk about skiing. The girl returns with the wine and returns to her singing. In a little while they order cake, and Nick notices that the girl is pregnant. When he asks her what she sings, she is not very friendly. Nick guesses she is not married since she is not wearing a ring. Some woodcutters arrive.

Nick wishes that George did not have to return to school. In return George tells Nick his desire to travel through Europe on their skis without the worry of school. They talk briefly about wine, before the topic of conversation moves to Nick's wife Helen and how he feels about her having a baby. He says he is glad now that she is having one. They are moving back to the United States, even though neither of them wants to go back. They discuss how much better skiing is in Europe than in America. The Swiss customers next to them leave, and George wishes they were Swiss. George then says that they may never go skiing again, and Nick replies that that they must. George agrees but wishes they could make it a promise. Nick says there is no good in promising. They leave the inn and begin the trek home.


The vignette tells a story about Villalta. He kills the bull as though it were a ceremony. The killing has no real regard for the life of bull. At the end the crowd cheers him, and Villalta accepts the praise as the bull dies slowly before him. This is another kind of human response to violence.

"Cross-Country Snow" tells about a skiing trip. The trip allows Nick and George to escape the reality of their lives. They take immense pleasure in it, and their friendship in the story represents one of the few times in the book that a relationship works so well. Their friendship approximates an ideal relationship. The narration begins just as they begin the trek home, and the two friends sadly wish they could just drop everything in their lives and continue skiing across Europe. The narrator says that they are happy together on this trip. George must go back to school, however, and Nick has a baby on the way. When they talk about his return to the United States, he says that although neither he nor Helen desires such a move, they will go back anyway. Thus, the end of the trip signals a move back into reality and toward the more unpleasant parts of their lives. Nick discusses his impending fatherhood with some reluctance, and despite conveying some happiness about it, he feels a lingering hesitation, an unwillingness to undergo this change in his life.

When they discuss the future before they leave the inn, both men grapple with the issue of fate. George wonders if they will ever ski again, and Nick says that they must, but neither sees the point in promising. They both acknowledge their inability to fully control the future, so instead they take what comfort they can in the present trip home.