The themes of alienation and isolation frequently occur in the short stories by Hemingway. The writer focuses on the separation of the protagonists from the outer world by creating circumstances and situations that prevent him/her from establishing relations with other people. Soldier’s Home and Out of Season are among the brightest examples of stories revealing the themes of loneliness and separation. In particular, Soldier’s Home depicts the story about a former soldier Harold Krebs who went through war and returned home, but feels that other people do not want to listen to his gruesome stories. The second story called Out of Season also sheds light on the idea of misunderstanding and collapse in relationships of the married couple. Both stories reproduce autobiographical themes of isolation and solitary existence because of failure understand writer’s personal experiences.
To emphasize the confrontation between the protagonists’ experience and the accepted visions in society, the writer exemplifies the failed relationship between a man and woman. In Soldier’s Home, the author introduces complex relations between Krebs and his mother who is concerned with her son’s inability to adjust to the normal world. Once again, Mrs. Krebs is characterized as a tyrannical mother who constitutes the protagonists’ counterpart. The antagonism is revealed through constant control on the part of Krebs’s mother who asks his son to find a job: “‘I hadn’t thought about it’, Krebs, said. ‘God has some work for every one to do’ his mother said. ‘There can be non idle hands in his Kingdom.’ ‘I’m not in His Kingdom’ Krebs said. ‘We are all of us in His Kingdom’” (Soldier’s Home 138-139). The emotional feeling of the dialogue proves Krebs’s strong disagreement with his involvement in the life that all people normally lead. Gaps in understanding do not allow the hero to become more sensible to the world that no longer seems adequate to him. All he feels is pity, regret, and hopelessness about her mother.
Similar distant relations between a man and a woman are also discussed in the second story Out of Season. The author portrays the difficulties with which the story characters get along, particular how men express their attitudes to women. The wife here is depicted as sullen and silent whereas the husband is apologetic for being rude and harsh with his wife. In particular, the marriage between two young people can be compared with the fishing depicted in the novel, which is out of season. In metaphorical terms, wife is introduced here as a burden that husband has to bear on his shoulders: “The wife stayed behind, following rather sullenly…lagging behind and walked up” (Out of Season 135). The young women herself looked so amused and alienated as if she was involved in the activity she had never done before and, therefore, she did not make any difference to what her husbands told her.
In both stories, it is possible to understand that heroes are isolated from the society because of their reluctance to become a part of it. However, the actual reasons for alienation are much more complex. Thus, Hemingway’s Soldier’s Home highlights alienation theme through the changes to social and psychological perceptions. Krebs’s attempt to find spiritual salvation fails and, as a result, the hero gives up expressing his emotional concerns. Krebs’ ceases to feel anything to the surrounding people, including his mother and sister. Krebs is not capable of loving, enjoying, and feeling because his emotional life differs significantly from the established norms. Similar concerns are represented in Out of Season as the young couple stands apart from the stereotypic relations between the two bellowed. Their world is also beyond the accepted standards. The young man no longer wants his wife to deliver a child whereas his wife does not make any difference to her husband’s requests. Indifference, frustration, and despair fill in the entire picture, along with their young couple’s drunken guide.
Profound disappointment with Krebs’ separation from the military experience, loss of connection to the military life, as well as reluctance of surrounding people to listen to the Krebs’ military stories, makes the hero feel frustrated and misunderstood. He is lonely in his world. As a result, Harold loses faith in God and people. Loss of faith and hope are also represented in Out of Season. The young man expresses his regret being cruel by saying, “We were both getting at the same thing from different angles” (Out of Season 137). In such a way, the author conveys the main thesis about the impossibility and invalidity of such concepts as family, religion, and society.
In conclusion, both stories highlight alienation and isolation theme through distant relations between a man and woman, isolation from stereotypic norms, and reluctance to accept the current world. Disappointment and despair are major pillars of both stories because the heroes fail to accept normal reality and return to normal life. Instead, they are frustrated with their inability to understand other people because their previous experiences are neglected in this world.
Hemingway, Ernest. “Out of Season”. The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition. Ed. Ernest Hemingway. US: Simon and Schuster, 1998, Print. pp. 135-139.
Hemingway, Ernest. “Soldier’s Home”. Brief Encounters Modern Short Stories. Ed. A. de Vries. US: Taylor & Francis, 1968. Print. pp. 134-140.