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Crucial Themes in War Medals for Sale

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What ideas and themes in this story can you find in the article “War Medals for Sale” that Hemingway wrote for the Toronto Star? How do both pieces express Hemingway’s attitudes towards bravery and valor in war and life?

In Hemingway’s “War Medals for Sale” as well as “In Another Country”, both pieces expresses Hemingway’s attitudes towards bravery and valor in war and life as something only valued on the war front, and cast off in society. In both works, Hemingway discusses the idea of isolation, where all soldiers are essentially isolated from their surroundings, and the people they know. For example, in “War Medals for Sale”, every storeowner rejected the idea of buying a war medal, simply because they have no monetary value to them. Veterans are essentially isolated because their awards of valor are essentially thrown to their faces and told that they have no worth.

In Hemingway’s short story, “In Another Country”, the injured soldiers were separated from societies, having been placed in rehabilitation centers that accentuate their wounds. The soldiers are wished death upon, and are in complete desolation. Another theme discussed, is a loss of identity. In “War Medals for Sale”, the reporter allegedly wanted to buy medals, and a store clerk suggested that he remove the original name, “’Don’t worry about those names, Mister,’ the woman urged.” She had implying that the reporter can take off the original names and put his own on them. This represents a loss of identity because the original soldiers who fought and won those medals are being stripped of their valorous deeds. In addition, “In Another Country” some of the soldiers had experienced a previous loss of identity because they had lost the features that had mattered to them most, for example, the soldier who had lost his nose, lost access to his birthright, since he could never repair his kingly feature. Hemingway ultimately describes the aftermath of war as something regularly cast off into the pits of society, as he discusses the themes of isolation and loss of identity. These two themes are essential in understanding the transition of war heroes into the cast offs of society.

Hemingway once said “I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it under water for every part that shows.” Choose a passage in this story and analyze its style taking into consideration the kinds of words used, structure and length of sentences and the extent to which Hemingway relies on dialogue and description rather than explicit interpretation and the techniques of journalism to express his themes. Tell what is accomplished by his spare and severe style.

Hemingway expresses the theme of irony in his work, “In Another Country” as he conveys the conversation between the doctor and the major, whose hand was withered from injury. In the scene, the doctor is telling two soldiers that their body parts will be healed in no time. But he is obviously telling them a lie, as he says one soldier would be “’able to play football again better than ever.’” The major then intercedes by saying “’And will I too, play football, captain-doctor?’” This is essentially ironic because the major, whose hand was injured, was Italy’s best fencer. By underlying this theme of irony, the situations for each of the soldiers are depicted as very desolate because they know that they will never be the same, even with the treatment. Through this ironic conversation between major and doctor, Hemingway clearly captures the hopelessness faced by soldiers after returning from war. They have nowhere to turn to, neither do they have any means of returning to the original life they had in the past. Through his spare and severe style, the readers learn to deeply analyze written works to truly discover what really lays hidden in between the words.

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Crucial Themes In War Medals for Sale. (2019, July 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from
“Crucial Themes In War Medals for Sale.” GradesFixer, 10 Jul. 2019,
Crucial Themes In War Medals for Sale. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
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