In Our Time

In Our Time Summary and Analysis of Chapter V


A third-person narrator describes how the cabinet ministers were shot early one morning near a hospital. It rained hard, but it is not clear whether it rained during the execution. One of the ministers was so sick with typhoid that he could not stand up for the execution. When they tried to make him stand, he just sat down in a puddle.

The other five ministers are standing. The sick minister has his head on his knees when the first volley is fired.

"The Battler"

This story begins with the narrator telling us that Nick stands up and that he is all right afer being thrown from a moving train. Nick feels his knee and notices that his pants are torn and his skin scraped. He has dirt all over him. He curses the brakemen and they way they ill-treated him. He rues having been tricked in such a juvenile manner. He rubs his eye, where a lump starts to appear. He walks along the rail tracks.

The narrator next tells us that Nick jumped onto the train when it slowed outside of Walton Junction. Now he must be near Mancelona. It is nearly dark. Ahead he sees a bridge, and as he crosses it he sees a fire up the track. As he approaches he notices the fire is off to one side of the track and below the embankment. A man sits near it with his head in his hands. Nick walks into the firelight and greets the man. The man asks where Nick got the bruised eye, and Nick tells him that the brakeman threw him off the train. The man said he saw him earlier when the train passed, and Nick says he will get his revenge.

The man has a misshapen face and only one ear. He offers Nick food and introduces himself as Ad. He claims to be crazy, and then when he tells Nick that he is Ad Francis, Nick does not believe him at first. Nick knows the famous boxer. Finally he believes the man is Ad. The man reveals to Nick the secret of his success: he has a heart that beats slow.

Soon a negro man named Bugs arrives. Bugs has brought food and starts to cook it. He asks Nick if he is hungry and has him cut the bread. While Nick cuts the loaf, Ad asks to borrow Nick's knife, and Bugs immediately advises Nick to hold onto it. Ad remains silent as they eat. He soon begins asking angry questions of Nick and tells him he is not welcome. He threatens Nick and tells Nick to hit him. When Nick refuses, he tells him that he is going to give him a beating. The entire time the negro has circled around behind Ad, and at this moment he knocks him out with a blackjack. He then apologizes to Nick for Ad's behavior and explains that Ad will not remember anything when he wakes up--knocking him out is the only way to stop him when he gets crazy. Too many boxing matches damaged his brain, and his marriage to his manager caused a public scandal that contributed to his mental instability. The negro met Ad in jail, and now they just move around from place to place. Nick soon departs so that Bugs can wake Ad, and as he leaves he can hear them talking.


The vignette describes a dreary execution scene and focuses on the way the victims meet their death. One of the ministers is sick with typhoid, and he represents a picture of complete despair in the face of death. The poignancy of this image accentuates the chilling and heartless nature of the killing.

The "Battler" continues with more attention to youth, following Nick as he meets two wanderers along a railroad track. This chapter also engages the ways people deal with loss, in this case loss of pride, mental capacity, and love.

The chapter opens with Nick's anger at being tossed from the train. It shows his frustration with his own childlike naivete after the conductor tricked him and then threw him off the train. His loss of pride at being thrown off the train also reveals a certain loss of his youth and innocence, now that he vows never to be tricked again like that. This vow introduces his cynicism towards people, his lack of trust in others. This distrust often characterizes the young and innocent.

When he meets Ad Francis and Bugs, however, he trusts them and enjoys their company. Yet, Ad Francis ruins their dinner when he goes crazy and tries to beat Nick up. As Bugs explains to Nick, the former prizefighter had lost much of his mental capacity with all the blows to his head, so there are many moments where there is no reasoning with him. The loss of his wife also leads to his craziness. This loss is a preoccupation of the chapter, and it forces Nick to continue his journey.

Another preoccupation of the chapter is Nick's reaction to violence. He gets very angry at being thrown from the train, and this helps him get along with Ad Francis initially. Ad thinks he is a tough kid. But when Ad tries to fight him, Nick shrinks from the challenge. He does not want to hit Ad and is confused by the threat. Finally, an act of violence ends this danger and restores order to the scene, leaving it to the other man to explain to Nick why it was necessary to knock out the former boxer.