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For those who have done through the nightmare of the war, life can never be the same again. Sadly, it is one of the worst parts of coming back home. Soldiers’ perception of ordinary life and universal values is twisted. Sometimes, it becomes impossible for them to adjust to a peaceful life and switch their vision of the future.
It is the central theme of the short story Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway. A tragic hero, Harold Krebs, finds himself as opposed to the whole world, which consists of average citizens’ ordinary lives. As his story unfolds, readers can understand his character better and better. The following summary and analysis help with it.
Soldier’s Home Summary
In 1919, Harold Krebs came back home to Oklahoma. He appears as a former US Marine after World War I. All the other veterans have already come back, so there is no loud celebration. But nothing is the same for him there, in his hometown.
At first, Krebs doesn’t want to share his war stories. However, when he finally decides to open up, the citizens don’t appreciate it. They are tired of listening to the real and horrific tales of the bloody battle life.
People want to listen to the tales of heroes’ bravery and courage. Harold feels trapped because he doesn’t want to lie. Dishonesty and altering his memories just makes him nauseous. But it appears that it is the only way to survive here. So Krebs starts adapting and exaggerating his experience.
Now, the former Marine wastes his time sleeping, eating, playing pool, and practicing the clarinet. His mother seems to be trying to help, and his father openly doesn’t care. Krebs also wishes to start a relationship but realizes that he doesn’t want any complications. It would only lead to more lies.
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The conversation between Harold and his mother appears to be the climax of Soldier’s Home. She is worried about his future and asks him about his plans for a job. She pushes him to start working and talks about religion.
Then, she asks whether Krebs loves her. He honestly says that he doesn’t. It makes his mother burst into tears. To accommodate her somehow, he overcomes his nausea and lies.
Feeling that he simply can’t live like that anymore, Harold decides to move to Kansas City. There he hopes to begin a new calm and “smooth” life. Before leaving, he stops by the stadium to watch his younger sister play baseball. She made him promise to do it. Otherwise, she would know he doesn’t love her.
Soldier’s Home Analysis of Characters
In this character analysis of Ernest Hemingway’s Soldier’s Home, two main characters are discussed. The story is unfolding around Harold Krebs and his mother.
Hemingway did a thorough job describing thoughts, actions, and deep feelings of the main character, Harold Krebs. At first, all that is narrowed down to a simple description and reflection of the surroundings.
It points out the fact that as a soldier, it is what he is used to doing. The horrors of the war caused him to become emotionless and react to everything without any emotions. It may be a part of PTSD.
His community’s reaction to his return also pulls him back. People want him to lie, which is against his beliefs because they fear disillusionment. It causes conflict inside him. Harold rejects the real world and creates an environment that is different from everyday life plans.
Krebs is not hurrying to find a job and build relationships. Instead, he chooses to spend his days aimlessly. He plays, sleeps, and eats. It shows that the former Marine tries to oppose the world.
Harold’s dialogue with his mother becomes a critical point. She is the representation of all the typical values and common sense of society. From her point of view, he lacks specific life goals and determination. So she tries to talk some sense into her son.
Harold’s mother has all the values of the average Protestant: God’s laws, family life, regular job. She tries to squeeze Krebs into the frames of that world. It causes pain to him because he has never belonged there.
It seems like his mother is a total opposite of Harold. However, at the end of Hemingway’s Soldier’s Home, she looks satisfied. Krebs leaves for Kansas City to find a job. However, he does it not only to please his mother. It becomes the only way for him to survive in this world.
The symbolism of home is underlined in the name of the story. His home city can’t be his right home again. Krebs needs to look for a calm and cozy place by himself.
This essay on Soldier’s Home opens up an inner world of the former soldier. The traumatic stress he lived through at war changes everything. However, it doesn’t change the world around him. It alters the way he sees reality.
According to the character analysis of Soldier’s Home, Harold Krebs loses himself at war. Living in his home town is pointless now. Society following the usual traditions doesn’t attract him. Apart from ordinary things like working and having a family, people are used to lies.
Krebs rejects this way of life and tries to find peace in another city. But he can’t escape himself. He won’t fit anywhere until he deals with his issues.
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Soldier’s Home: FAQ
❓ What inspired Soldier's Home?
Hemingway’s own experience inspired the theme and key ideas of Soldier’s Home. In 1918, he went to volunteer in World War I. After he came back, his home town was still the same. However, just like Krebs, his perception of the world changed. Hemingway’s relationship inspired even the character of Harold’s mother with his mother.
❓ When was Soldier's Home written?
Soldier’s Home was written in 1924 and published the next year. At the time, Ernest Hemingway lived in Paris. His own war experience inspired it. It became a part of a published collection of Hemingway’s short stories, In Our Time. It appears that this collection is what made him famous as a writer in the US.
❓ What is the theme of Soldier's Home?
The theme in Soldier’s Home is the altered personalities of the veterans. The setting of this story suggests that after the main character, Harold Krebs, came back from war, everything was the same. However, the horrors of battle experience changed the way he sees society. It makes him reject the way of life as it is and become apathetic.
❓ What is the conflict in Soldier's Home?
The conflict in Soldier’s Home is purely the inner one that is happening with Harold Krebs. After coming back home from World War I, he struggles to go back to the healthy life. The experience of war changed his point of view. He can’t seem to accept the traditional norms of life, especially, the way lies and dishonesty are spread.
❓ What happens at the end of Soldier's Home?
At the end of Soldier’s Home, the main character Harold Krebs seeks a peaceful and “smooth” life for himself. He decided it would be better to move to Kansas City to find a job. Staying at home merely seems impossible for him. However, before he leaves, he goes to see his younger sister’s play instead of visiting his dad.
Umich.edu. n.d. Ernest Hemingway.
Americanliterature.com. n.d. Ernest Hemingway.
Gatzemeyer, J., 2016. Teaching Hemingway and War ed. by Alex Vernon. The Hemingway Review, 36(1).
Putnam, T., 2006. Hemingway On War And Its Aftermath. [online] National Archives.
Jfklibrary.org. n.d. Ernest Hemingway Collection | JFK Library. [online]