In Our Time

In Our Time Summary and Analysis of Chapter II


A narrator describes the evacuation at Adrianople. Minarets now stick up out of the mud. On the Karagatch Road, carts are jammed for thirty miles; there seems to be neither end nor beginning. There are old men and women soaking wet in the rain, and they keep the cattle moving. The river Maritza is almost at the flooding point. Greek cavalry are also at the scene trying to maintain order. The carts hold women and children along with all types of belongings. A woman gives birth while a young girl holds a blanket over her and cries. The narrator gets scared just looking at it.

"The Doctor and the Doctor's Wife"

Dick Boulton arrives from the Indian camp to cut logs for Nick's father. He brings his son Eddy and an Indian named Billy Tabeshaw. The narrator explains the history of the logs, and they are often lost in the lake as they are towed to the mill by the steamer Magic. These logs are often never recovered, and Nick's father takes advantage of the situation by hiring Indians to cut them up for fire wood. Dick is a half-breed, and many believe he is really a white man. He is a good worker once he begins. Dick and the other Indians begin work on the logs, but trouble starts when Dick casually accuses Nick's father of stealing these logs.

Nick's father claims that it is just driftwood, but Dick points out a marking on the log. The doctor tells Dick to leave if he thinks they are stolen, and he becomes red in the face from his anger. Dick continues to call the logs stolen, and soon the doctor threatens to knock his teeth in. But Dick, being a big man, does not back down. The confrontation ends with the doctor leaving the scene for the cottage. Soon the Indians leave.

Inside the cottage the doctor and his wife converse, and he tells her briefly about the fight. His wife is a Christian Scientist, and she recites a religious saying to him. She keeps insisting on knowing what happened between the doctor and Dick, her concern lying with whether her husband got angry or angered the Indian man. The doctor cleans his gun and then goes for a walk. On his way he tells Nick that his mother wants to see him, but Nick wants to go with him, and his father relents. They go off to find black squirrels.


The scene in the Vignette is drenched with rain, which is a frequent theme for Hemingway. The rain causes the ground to turn to mud, which gives the evacuation of Adrianople a proper mood. As women and children leave with their belongings the rain falls on them, as if the world were crying for them. Note the parallel with the crying of the little girl.

In Chapter II, Dick Boulton, his son Eddy, and Billy Tabeshaw arrive on Nick's father's property to cut up logs for him. The chapter's primary focus is on the parallels between the whites and the Indians. The narrator notes that Dick is often confused for a white man. These logs were lost on the way to the mill years ago, and they thus represent the end of an era. The doctor assumes they are no longer needed for the mill, so he seems innocent in hiring Indians to make them into firewood. Dick makes a point about ownership's duration, showing that the wood still has an owner, but the doctor insists that he is not stealing. The sign of ownership persists: the Indian shows the doctor a White and McNally brand on the logs. Still, Dick's accusation that he is stealingm makes the doctor angry, because to him the logs should count as abandoned.

Although Dick tries to soften the situation by calling him "Doc," the doctor threatens to knock in the Indian's teeth. Dick shows calmness here, telling him that such a thing would never happen. Still, he is a big man who enjoys fights. The situation highlights Dick's and the doctor's differing reactions to the possibility of violence. Dick welcomes it, and even while the doctor initiates the threat, he is the one who backs off from it. Despite his intense anger, he is not willing to engage in violence. In contrast, Dick and his son Eddy laugh off the situation, not being troubled in the least by the tense moment or by the conflict with the doctor.

It is clear, however, that the doctor remains angry. The simple sight of medical journals irritates him. This feeling also suggests a frustration with his place in life. While Dick is confident in his physical ability to defend himself and stick up for himself against another man, the doctor does not have the same physical ability or confidence. Also, the Indians' work represents their physical superiority over Nick's father; they earn money by using their sweat and muscles, while Nick's father is a doctor and relies more on his mind and on knowledge.

The scene with the doctor's wife in the cottage draws a further parallel between these white people and the Indians. His wife is a Christian Scientist who has concerns about the way her husband treats Dick. She recites the line, "Remember, that he who ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city." This quote represents the difference between Dick and the doctor in the doctor's favor, for the doctor controls his anger, while Dick is ready to fight in order to win the argument. The doctor is more submissive than Dick, and even when he leaves the house he apologizes for slamming the door after him. He leaves behind the shotgun, even though the ritual way he cleans the gun suggests that it has a soothing effect on him, almost as if it grants him a power that he did not have when confronting Dick. He chooses to leave it behind, however.

In this cottage scene and then in the final scene with his son Nick, we see the importance he places on family. He makes a genuine effort to be a good husband and father. These efforts define him better than his ability to fight can do.