In Our Time

In Our Time Summary and Analysis of Chapter IX


This is the first of several bullfighting vignettes. The first matador got a sword through his hand, and the second got the horns right through his belly. The bull rammed him against the wall until the horn came out. The last matador had to kill five bulls, and he barely succeeded with the last one because he was so tired. When it was over he threw up while the crowed cheered him on.

"Mr. and Mrs Elliot."

The story follows a couple who try to have a baby. Mrs Elliot clearly does not enjoy sex. The narrator claims that like all southern women, Mrs. Elliot collapses rapidly from seasickness. Most people thought they would have a baby, but now she is forty years old.

At the time of their marriage she seemed very young. They had been intimate for several weeks before marriage, and before that Mr. Elliot knew her for a long time from her tea shop.

Huber Elliot was attending Harvard Law School at the time of his marriage. He was a very productive poet and was a virgin when he met Cornelia. He believed in keeping himself pure for the right women. Many girls had lost interest in him when they discovered his moral standards. Although Mrs. Elliot's first name is Cornelia, she taught Hubert to call her Calutina, which was her nickname in the South. Hubert's mother is very distraught at his marriage. Cornelia also has kept herself pure. She loved hearing that he had kept himself pure for her.

The night of their marriage, spent in a Boston hotel, was disappointing for both, and Hubert had trouble sleeping.

They soon set sail for Europe. Although they wanted a baby very much, Cornelia was not able to try very often. They went to Paris and then to Dijon, and while Hubert wrote his poems Cornelia typed them for him. She cried a lot during this time.

They returned to Paris and sat around for a few days at the Café du Dome. They then rent a chateau in Torraine. They are surrounded by friends, many of whom admire Hubert's poetry. Cornelia's girlfriend from the Boston tea shop arrives, and they cry together often. Cornelia calls her Honey, and like Cornelia she comes from a very old Southern family. These three and a few of Hubert's friends go to the chateau. By this time Hubert wants to publish his poems in a book.

Soon all the friends return to Paris, where they attach themselves to a rich, young, unmarried poet. They follow him to a resort near Touville. The narrator claims that they are all very happy with this arrangement.

The Elliots are forced to stay at the chateau in Torraine because he rented it for the entire summer. They still unsuccessfuly try to have a baby, and by this point the girlfriend is typing up most of the manuscripts. Hubert starts to drink white wine and to live separately in his own room. The two women sleep together in the bedroom and continue to enjoy their cries together. The narrator claims that these characters were also happy at that time.


The vignette is the first in a series of bullfighting sketches. It portrays the crude violence of the bull ring. Both the matador and the bull are trying to survive. This sketch has a more explicit description of violence, but it still focuses primarily on the manner in which the second matador reacts to getting stabbed in the belly by the bull's horn, and the way the third matador responds to killing all five bulls. At the end he throws up from exhaustion as the crowd cheers him. The crowd clearly has no idea of the pain he has just endured to survive.

"Mr. And Mrs. Elliot" considers the problems of marriage. The story starts by discussing the couple's desire for a baby, but they have trouble doing so. The reason is never mentioned, although the narrator does hint that Mrs. Elliot often has trouble making the effort. These details suggest subtle problems between the couple, but Hemingway leaves them understated until later. Mrs. Elliot has trouble facing any real adversity; even sea travel makes her very ill. The marriage itself makes her age very suddenly, suggesting an added stress in her life. On the way to Europe they cannot sleep together because Mrs. Elliot is seasick. When they arrive at Dijon they are unhappy there as well. Mrs. Elliot cries a lot again, indicting her unhappiness with the marriage. Mr. Elliot has her copy his poems, and he is very severe about any mistakes. Soon one of her friends arrives from Boston, and they cry together often as a way for Mrs. Elliot to feel consoled.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Elliot remain virgins until their marriage. They believe in staying pure for whomever they marry, but this idea does not seem to work out so well, because on their wedding night they end up disappointed. Mr. Elliot's mother does not approve of the marriage, though she is happy when they go to live in Europe. This is another strained relationship in the story.

Most of the other relationships do not seem healthy either. The friends who follow the couple to Europe stay with them for a short while, but they eventually leave and attach themselves to a young, rich poet who lives in a seaside resort. The narrator says that they are happy there with the younger poet. Mr. and Mrs. Elliot and the friend from Boston remain at the chateau after their friends leave, and although the narrator claims they are happy, the claim seems false. The husband and wife no longer sleep in the same bed, and the marriage clearly has not worked.

These failed relationships are at the center of the story, and the idea of happiness comes up at the end of the chapter. The marriage does not make either party happy. Thus they search for happiness from some other source.