Have you ever considered how war impacts soldiers once they return home? This is the underlying question that Ernest Hemingway tries to unravel in his moving short narrative, Soldiers Home. The narrative examines the experiences of Harold Krebs, a young soldier who returns to his hometown after serving in the First World War. Soldiers Home is one of the most powerful works written by Hemingway and has received enormous praise for depicting the challenges veterans encounter while trying to reunite with their civilian life. This haunting narrative has made its way into the classic of American literature and is a solid demonstration of Hemingway’s writing expertise.
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Soldiers Home looks into the life of Harold Krebs, mainly after he returns to Oklahoma after serving in the First World War. It shows his struggles while returning to civilian life and finding meaning in his experiences. To his dismay, his family and community don’t understand him and are even unconcerned about him. Hemingway deeply touches on the emotional state of Krebs, such as his emotional detachment from everyone else, his grabble with the psychological trauma of the war and his problems of acclimatizing to a community that does not fully understand his experiences.
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So, who are the key Soldiers Home characters, what roles do they play in developing the plot, and what are their outstanding actions and features? Without a moment to waste, let’s dive into this. The key characters are:
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Harold Krebs is the central character in Soldiers Home. He is a young soldier who struggles to reintegrate into civilian life after he returns home after serving in a war. Some distinguishing features Hemingway describes Krebs are that he has blue eyes and brown hair and is “clean-limbed.” The trauma of the war makes him emotionally detached from society. For instance, he cannot interact with his family and community well. His reluctance to share his war experiences further worsens his isolation. Krebs’ main goal is to find meaning and purpose in his life.
One of the minor characters in Soldiers Home is Helen. She is Kreb’s sister and is described as being “pretty” and having an “attractive figure.” Helen has an unusual connection with Kreb; some community members view it as more romantic than sister-brother love. This relationship is one of the few instances that Kreb connects well with someone in his community and family. Nonetheless, despite Helen’s interest in Kreb, Kreb breaks their tight bond due to his emotionally detached nature and inability to form meaningful relationships with anyone after the war.
Kreb’s father is another minor character in Soldiers Home. He is a hard-working man and proud of his son’s service in the military. Nonetheless, it is challenging for him to understand Kreb’s experiences, and thus unable to connect with his son. Ultimately, this results in tension in their relationship. Kreb’s father plays a significant role in the plot as he serves as a symbol of the generational gap that exists between veterans and their families.
Kreb’s mother also depicts the disconnect between veterans and their families. It is mostly because she fails to understand the war's impact on her son, specifically his trauma. However, she is a loving and caring mother who is fully concerned with Kreb’s well-being. She even encourages Krebs to form a relationship with the community and find a job.
The Soldiers Home setting is a small town in Oklahoma, Texas. It is based on the aftermath of the First World War. The general features of the town are:
In addition, there is a lack of excitement, which aligns with the boredom and isolation felt by Krebs upon his return. Krebs generally has an ambivalent feeling toward his surroundings. It is problematic for him to find meaning and purpose after witnessing much horror in the war. The town’s lack of stimulation and isolation only serves to worsen his feelings of emotional detachment and boredom.
The setting changes minimally as the plot develops. Krebs remains in this town throughout the story and cannot escape his emotional trauma and stagnation. The setting reflects Kreb’s life, as it, too, does not change.
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The narrative initiates with Krebs returning home from the war. What he thought would be an amazing reuniting with his family and community, becomes a huge shock to him. All the people in his town, including his family, cannot understand the toll the war had on him. It thus alienates Krebs and he struggles to adjust to the mundane aspects of his small town. A compounding impact of all these aspects results in a feeling of emotional detachment on the part of Krebs.
As the plot continues, Krebs tries many strategies to readjust to his civilian life. Some approaches he turns to are searching for employment and engaging with his community. He eventually realizes the war left him with a deep trauma that hinders him from forming meaningful connections with anyone, even getting attracted to a woman is challenging. Krebs decides to leave the town in search of a new life.
The major plot twist happens when Krebs is unable to find a sense of belonging or purpose in his life after considerable effort. This further worsens his state of isolation and emotional fatigue. Krebs concludes that he cannot get rid of the emotional trauma brought by the war and that he will never be able to reconnect with his civilian life. The story wraps up with Krebs in his hometown and his belief that he will never be able to connect with anyone meaningfully and fully share his experiences.
In a broader picture, the plot stresses the challenges a good number of veterans face when readjusting to civilian life and the difficulty of bridging the gap between them and the expectations of their families and community.
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The major Soldiers Home theme is conflict, both internal and external conflict.
External conflict is seen in many forms in this story. For starters, Krebs went to war for two years, which is a type of conflict. Another form of this conflict type is evident when Kred returns to his hometown. A societal conflict erupts between him and his family and community. The war experiences make Kred disillusioned with his community's expectations and values. This blocks him from becoming a normal citizen; hence, tension develops between him and the other people, including his family.
Internal conflict is also prevalent in the story of Krebs. Some key elements of internal conflict are emotional and psychological aspects, fear, and self-doubt. Kred practically has all these elements. He is emotionally detached from everyone and traumatized by the war. Also, he is doubting his ability to overcome emotional issues and trauma. At the end of the story, he declares that he cannot solve his issues, and he accepts he will be that way for the rest of his life.
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Several items are used to represent Soldiers Home symbols. They include the following:
Hemingway explains multiple pictures of Krebs and his fellow soldiers throughout the story. These pictures are used as symbols to portray the idealized state of the wartime experience. They try to show that there is a major difference between the actual experiences in the war and society’s glorified version of the war.
The pictures also symbolize the illusions and myths that Krebs greatly holds on to as he tries to reconnect with his community. In short, they remind us of the war's profound impact on individuals.
Another item that has a symbolic meaning is the porch, where Krebs goes to chill. When Krebs isolates himself from the others, he sits on the porch for awfully long periods. Due to this, the porch represents the divide that exists between Krebs and his family and society at large.
The porch also symbolizes a lack of progress or stagnation in Krebs' life. It is because he cannot move forward and find a sense of meaning and purpose after his service.
Hemingway talks about the girls in the town in multiple instances. He vividly explains how Krebs is initially interested in the girls and their flirtatious behavior but is unable to commit to any girl. This descriptive discussion of the girls from the perspective of Krebs symbolizes that Krebs desires intimacy and connection. However, due to the emotional detachment and lack of understanding he gets from other people, he cannot form a deeper connection with them.
Soldiers Home belongs to the literary fiction genre and focuses on a modernist approach. The story is centered on the impacts of war on soldiers and the difficulty soldiers experience connecting with their civilian life. It is a modernist piece as it examines the uncertainty and destruction of modern life, mainly the alienation, and disillusionment many soldiers face during the aftermath of a war.
Another vital element of this story is a minimalist narrative style. The author focuses on specific details about Krebs, particularly those involving his emotional detachment and isolation, and stays away from excessive backstory.
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Some of the items you can discuss in a Soldiers home summary are:
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Soldiers Home is a story that follows the traumatic and heart-breaking life of a young soldier who returns to his Oklahoma hometown. The soldier cannot go back to his civilian life or even find another purpose for his life. This article has neatly summarized the book by focusing on the important details. Go through it to quickly comprehend what the book is about. If you need help writing the soldiers home short story summary, then place an order with us. We have tens of literature experts available to lend you a hand at your convenience.
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