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Ernest Hemingway's short story Soldier's Home is a fictional portrayal of a war-torn soldier, Harold Krebs, who served in Germany during World War I. He is no longer the same guy he was before going to fight. He emerged with a new attitude and stoic demeanor. Krebs, as presented by the poet, has many human nuances. He wishes to represent a soldier in his daily life, which is not as ordinary as that of others. Indeed, he had some experiences in his personal life as he fought in World War I. (Meyers 65). This character has certain parallels with Ernest Hemingway in that he too entered a newspaper after returning from the war. In this essay, Hemingway attempts to illustrate the repercussions of war directly on Krebs’s physical and mental state, which influenced his relationships with other people including his mother.
There are characters weaved in a mosaic of life of a soldier like his mother, who seems keen to see her son become like other easy going boys in the community, who have a secure job with a settled life. Father is not shown in direct confrontation with the main character, but is shown with patriarchal tendencies, because mother takes permission for even small things. Then there is another character Helen, who is the younger sister of the main protagonist. They share a cordial bond with each other.
This story revolves around the family life of a soldier who stays on Warfield for so long that he forgets his normal routine life and finds it difficult to return on track with the flow of life. Hemingway is great with the portrayal of the characters along with their passionate emotions for each other. For instance, the character of the mother is depicted through a sense of universal motherhood that every mother possesses – seeing her son living a happy and stable life (Hemingway 367). The main character, Krebs’, is represented as a complex being, who has witnessed a drastic change in himself because of the consequences of participating in the war.
Krebs’ characterization also depicts the impact of conflict on most minds of the people during the World War that shattered their lives to a greater extent. It is quite interesting to note the convolutions of the main character that seems unable to be as he once was (Hischak 222). He is struggling at his mental as well as the physical level to return to his family life, but the impression of horrific images of the war has pushed him into hopelessness and despair. The author is very successful to portray the impact of terror on the minds of the people that in turn devastated families including Krebs’.
Hemingway’s illustrates the life of a bachelor young man, Krebs, who is struggling to live a normal life as he once used to live before going to fight a war in Germany (Oliver 23). The thematic elements of the story reveal the consequences of the World War I on the people who either directly participate in the war or were indirectly influenced by it. The author accounts a detailed story of a young man, who was passionate about his life once. His participation in the war changes his persona that annoyed his mother.
Strictly speaking, the whole theme of this short story is based on the person who is trapped in past and present, who finds it difficult to overcome his strict militarily trained behaviour in a homely atmosphere. He does not express his love for his mother. He finds it difficult to behave like other boys in the town who like to go on rides with girls. Although he does like to stare at girls from a distance, he has certain inhibitions to break this distance to mingle with them (Hemingway 368).
Writer depicts this character as very calm, but very complicated when it comes to normal life. Krebs has also temptations to brag about war and his bravery, like any other soldier, but it was too late for him to tell the tales, because he had arrived home (France) years after the conflict had ended in Germany. It is interesting to note how the author has fashioned the ultimate influence of the war. The setting and the aura he created in the story conveys a lot more than just mere information. Everything back at his home seems the way it was, but it is only he who has changed. In the story, he mentions the old car still lying at its place and other things, but what has changed is Krebs himself due to his participation in the war (Hemingway 369). The author has effectively portrayed the setting and characterization to present the whole gamut commendably.
The writer bestowed a linear structure to the story. The main aspects are designed according to the demand created for the theme and portrayal. The arrangement of the story represents dialogues between Krebs and his mother. Even the whole narration is done in the second person and evokes imagery while reading. One can imagine Krebs sitting on the porch, reading warfare associated books, and stealing glances over girls walking down the street.
The writer has included an element of symbolism of how a soldier finds it too tough to behave, talk, and adapt with others. Krebs is not shy in person, but he seems struggling with his inner self. He is more or less alone and less talkative. It makes one wonder why he does not speak up about his emotions, ambitions, and motivations in life. Was it really difficult for a tough soldier to be emotional? Hemingway’s art of accounting narratives facilitated the portrayal of the main character along with his engagement with other elements of the story. Such synchronization offered a better depiction of the thematic essence of the story that created a sense of war-torn personalities and their struggle coping up with their lives.
Ernest Hemingway’s way of writing in the short story Soldier’s Home gives the insights into the life of a man who is stuck in past, but is inevitably landed into the present. His fillip in life from Warfield to home seems strange altogether. He does not look like moving ahead in his life. Rather, he is being pushed by his mother to look for a job and settle down like any other man.
Although he does not show up his affection towards his loved ones, he still cares about their needs. The author represents Krebs as a son, a warrior, and a passionate young man, around whom the whole story revolves. War is always injurious to physical as well as mental health of the people who are caught in its grip. The author illustrates the changing life of Krebs, who has lots his passion. He struggles to find his past normal life but could not. His mother is very much annoyed by his changed behaviour, and she wants him to revert back to his normal life – finding a job and start living a normal life. The whole gamut is well portrayed by the author to make a rich representation of the consequences of war on the lives of the people.
Hemingway, Ernest. “Soldier’s Home.” In John Schlib and John Clifford, Arguing about Literature: A Guide and Reader for Broward College (pp.364-370), 2nd ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017.
Hischak, Thomas S. American Literature on Stage and Screen: 525 Works and Their Adaptations. McFarland, 2012.
Meyers, Jeffrey. Hemingway: A Biography. New York: Macmillan, 1985.
Oliver, Charles. Ernest Hemingway A to Z: The Essential Reference to the Life and Work. New York: Checkmark Publishing, 1999.
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