Critical Analysis of Soldier's Home: B Essay

This essay has a total of 1541 words and 7 pages.

Critical Analysis of "Soldier's Home": Before, During, and After the
War (with bibliography)

Many of the titles of Ernest Hemingway's stories are ironic, and can be
read on a number of levels; Soldier's Home is no exception. Our first
impression, having read the title only, is that this story will be
about a old soldier living out the remainder of his life in an
institution where veterans go to die. We soon find out that the story
has nothing to do with the elderly, or institutions; rather, it tells
the story of a young man, Harold Krebs, only recently returned from
World War I, who has moved back into his parents' house while he
figures out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. And yet our
first impression lingers, and with good reason; despite the fact that
his parents' comfortable, middle-class lifestyle used to feel like home
to Harold Krebs, it no longer does. Harold is not home; he has no home
at all. This is actually not an uncommon scenario among young people
(such as college students) returning into the womb of their childhood
again. But with Harold, the situation is more dramatic because he has
not only lived on his own, but has dealt with -- and been traumatized
by -- life-and-death situations his parents could not possibly
understand. Hemingway does not divulge why Krebs was the last person
in his home town to return home from the war; according to the Kansas
City Star, Hemingway himself "left Kansas City in the spring of 1918
and did not return for 10 years, [becoming] 'the first of 132 former
Star employees to be wounded in World War I,' according to a Star
article at the time of his death" (Kansas City Star, hem6.htm).
Wherever he was in the intervening time, by the time Harold gets home,
the novelty of the returning soldier has long since worn off. All the
other former soldiers have found a niche for themselves in the
community, but Harold needs a while longer to get his bearings; he
plays pool, "practiced on his clarinet, strolled down town, read, and
went to bed" (Hemingway, 146). What he is doing, of course, is killing
time. The problem, of course, has to do with Harold's definition of
who he has become. He recognizes he has changed, and this change is
played out dramatically against the backdrop of a town where nothing
else has changed since he was in high school. His father parks his car
in the same place; it's still the same car; the girls walking down the
street look like the same girls, except more of them have short hair
now. Imamura comments, "Krebs admires them, yet he protects himself
from the danger of sexual involvement as if he were still suffering
from a previous affair" (Imamura, 102). And Daniel Slaughter observes
that "One gets the sense while reading 'A Soldier's Home' that watching
the girls was a healing process" (Slaughter, hemingway_1.html). What
has happened here, really? Why is Krebs unable to adjust to life back
in Oklahoma? Why can't he talk to girls, or manage to do anything
productive with his time? These answers can be found in a careful
examination of what Krebs was doing before the war and what happened
while he was in Europe. Prior to the war, Hemingway tells us in the
very first paragraph, Krebs attended a Methodist school in Kansas. He
was not out of place then; Hemingway says "There is a picture which
shows him among his fraternity brothers, all of them wearing exactly
the same height and style collar" (Hemingway, 145). There is a
tremendous poignancy in this detail; at least one of these young men,
so concerned about his appearance, would soon be shipped overseas to
the most horrific war the world had ever known. The fact that his
college was a religious institution is also significant, for it shows
that he was, at that time, in synch with his mother's religious values.
At least, he did not have any reason to doubt them, or not enough
strength to resist them (or her). Hemingway tells us before the first
paragraph is over that Krebs "enlisted in the Marines in 1917"
(Hemingway, 145). The Marines are an elite fighting force who today
advertise they are looking for "a few good men" -- indicating that if
the prospective soldier is not out of the ordinary, he need not apply.
However, was Krebs a good Marine? J.F. Kobler observes that there is at
least some indication in "Soldier's Home" "that Krebs did not fight
bravely in the war. . . . Krebs admits to himself that he has lied in
public about his military experiences, but he cannot stop lying to
Continues for 4 more pages >>




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