A Soldier’s Struggle Have you ever felt like you did not belong? In Earnest Hemmingway’s “Soldier’s Home”, Krebs, a young soldier returning from the horrific battle field in World War One, comes home and feels completely out of place. He is unable to feel any emotion towards family and friends, causing him to detach from society. The town is unchanged by the war, where Krebs has lost so much. He completely isolates himself, hiding the tragedy he faces daily. Although Krebs struggles to change his behaviors and personality in order to continue to be accepted in the town, he is hesitant to conform to the post-war society.
As soon as Krebs arrives home from war, he can see how difficult it is to conform to a society where he knows he does not belong. Krebs comes home years after the war is over, missing the elaborate welcoming of his fellow soldiers. “People seem to think it was rather ridiculous for Krebs to be getting back so late, years after the war was over” (Hemingway 187). “Krebs made an effort to stay away, as shown by his delayed return years after the war was finished. This time away from home, was his way of not dealing with the building conflict within him” (Comtois).
As Krebs tries to talk to people in the town about his experiences at war, no one wants to listen; they have heard numerous stories of the soldiers who have been home longer than he. Krebs then realizes he has to lie to keep anyone’s attention; other soldiers have been doing the same. He cannot keep up with the gruesome details the other soldiers have told, leaving his less gory stories meaningless to the people in the town. Krebs begins to feel nauseas as he continuously lies and exaggerates about his experiences at war. Struggling to make his personality appear ‘normal’, Krebs keeps to himself.
In this time period, men are expected to find a suitable job, meet a woman, and settle down; Krebs is doing the complete opposite. He is uncomfortable with the process of courting; he does not think women are worth the time and effort. Also, Krebs thinks while he is getting to know women the war will be brought up, causing him to lie more and more. ”He did not want any consequences. He did not want any consequences ever again.
He wanted to live alone without consequences. Besides he did not really need a girl” (Hemingway 188). Krebs’s experiences at war have shifted the way he feels about women and life. Krebs wants everything to be simple. The world seems so complex. Young women look modern and everyone is involved in political relationships with everyone else” (SparkNotes). He also seems truly incapable of complexity; Krebs has to try harder than most to fit in the town; consequently, he realizes it is not worth staying. Fairly early in the story, Krebs’s mother tries to convince him to fall into the normal path of a man at his age. She believes he has been home long enough doing ‘nothing’, that it is time for him to grow up.
His mother begins to bring up other men in town who have made the accomplishments that she wishes him to pursue: “Charley Simmons, who is just your age, has a good job and is going to be married. The boys are all settling down; they’re all determined to get somewhere; you can see that boys like Charley Simmons are on their way to being really a credit to the community” (Hemingway 191). Krebs’s mother and father continue to compare him to other people in town; these boys have not experienced what he has. They are going to behave differently than men who have seen death, tragedy, and despair.
While trying to convince him to get a job, she tells him,” There can be no idle hands in [God’s] Kingdom. ” He replies, “I’m not in His Kingdom” (Hemingway 190). “His mother, in despair, asks whether he loves her, and Harold responds quite truthfully that he does not. His entire worldview has been skewed by his traumatic experiences in the war, and the ability to genuinely love requires and emotional balance he lost during the war” (WriteWork). Krebs loses his romanticism during the war; he is incapable of feeling any kind of emotion due to his traumatic encounters in Europe. While Krebs is away at war, the town has gone through very little. Nothing was changed in town except that the young girls had grown up” (Hemingway 188). “World War One (WWI) was arguably the most costly conflict in human history” (WriteWorks).
Krebs witnesses horrific battles and deaths while everyone in town is exactly the same. No one, other than the other soldiers, has any idea what he goes through, making him feel as if he is even more alone than before. “[Krebs’s] experiences in Europe changed him irrevocably, and this change is dramatically played out against the backdrop of a town where nothing has changed for years, his father parks his same car in the ame place he did before the war, and the girls walking down the street look like the same girls with whom Harold went to school” (WriteWork).
Krebs is completely alienated from others, including his family. In order for Krebs to maintain his existence, he is forced to choose isolation. While being completely alone, Krebs realizes he is finally starting to feel happy again. “…things were getting good again” (Hemingway 189). Throughout Earnest Hemmingway’s “Soldier’s Home”, Krebs is in conflict with himself and society.
As he sees the horrible scenes at war, he is a different man; no one understands him anymore. Krebs has lost his ability to love and communicate, causing him to be alone in life. The town represents how society is continuously setting the bar on how people should act, regardless of the circumstances. Feeling misunderstood as soon as he returns, Krebs decides to keep to himself for the remainder of the story; moreover, feeling like an outcast in the town. Even though he never conforms to the new environment, Krebs has a hard time dealing with affection and being social.