Literary Analysis of Conflicts within “Soldier’s Home” Ernest Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home” is a short story about one man’s struggle with returning home after war. Harold Krebs had just returned home, later than the majority of the soldiers, resulting in a dull welcoming from his town. In order to be heard, Krebs lies about his war experience through elaborated stories. Even though Krebs is home, he is lost- lost in society, lost with love, lost within himself.
Although Hemingway does not describe much about what Krebs experienced during the war, it is obvious that this man went through a transformation, and returned with what an outsider looking in would call extreme apathy. Harold Krebs, along with millions of other men and women, experienced war, an undertaking many can and will never know. Because of his service, he will never be able to truly return home, return to fulfilling society’s wants, return to the old Harold Krebs.
Those who have never experienced what Krebs has, such as his own mother, will never understand what it was like, and will continue to force him to satisfy their standards of what is normal. Krebs’ sense of compassion and emotion was scarred in the war. He did not however, completely lose a sense of love. He loves pool. His sister said that if he loved her, he would go watch her game. He went. Krebs will never go back to his old self, but he will do his best to follow the expected cycle of life for a Kansas boy, in order to satisfy his parents’ wants.
Krebs, unlike many soldiers, did not die in the war, but maybe that is the outcome for every soldier. For all soldiers alike, the war wins, not the people. Although some come home, their old selves die during the war. Krebs was a victim of the war. He died, and a soldier returned home. Hemingway speaks of this corporal as “Krebs” in the beginning of the story, just how he would have been addressed as a Marine. Later in the story we are introduced to a new character, Harold, Harold Krebs, Hare. Harold’s mother and sister, throughout their conversations with him, depict how this soldier was once a brother, a son, a friend.
Harold attended a private college before the war. He was involved in a fraternity. He met society’s needs. This man left his home a man, but returned a soldier, who was now faced to fight a war within himself. Krebs returned lost and confused in the society he grew up in. He tried his best to find patterns and relearn the ways of the people he had once left behind. Detaching himself from society eased his attempt at a transition. The story shares that he went through a dynamic change during the war, but his character remains static. The beginning of the story, Harold had already transformed into Krebs.
In the end, Hemingway leaves him still to be Krebs, lost in society, but trying his best to put on a show in order to fulfill the social constructions of a male his age. The experience of war transforms a person forever. So much that one is completely unable to fit back into the mold he or she once fit in. Hemingway depicts through this story how society demands that everyone live by and meet all of its social norms, and those who do not abide will be forced to fight their personal struggles alone and must keep them hidden from the rest of the world. Reintegration is impossible when you no longer fit the mold.
This town he returned to lives off of conformity. The people all dress the same. His father drives the same car. Nothing has changed except for Krebs, and it seems that society is not accepting of this change. Krebs is forced to decide whether he should give into what they want or fight it and attempt to find who he once was in the war. Conformity is no sin. Good people live in the whirl wind of conformity, just like Harold’s mother. She is a God-fearing woman, but she is unable to accept the lethargy of a man who used to be her son. Krebs dislikes problems, complexity, or the issues that come along with life.
He would rather observe the world, not participate it in, but the world will not let him sit out. He ties to feed into their wants by lying about the truth he once tried to share, but it was not good enough for them. His lies destroy him on the inside. Krebs opens up and attempts to let his mother know that he does not love anymore, but due to her innocent ignorance on his situation, she is unable to comprehend his state of being. Krebs seems to reach an end, but because of this incident, he is unable to. Krebs sense of being lost truly shows how society forced him to be a new kind of soldier, not for a country, but for his own individuality.