“Soldier’s Home” is an excellent story by renowned American author Earnest Hemingway. The story was written and published in the year 1925 as a part of Story collection, “In Our Time”. The story is a century old but is still read and liked by readers in same spirit. The author, Earnest Hemingway is one of the brightest stars of American literary world. He was born in the year 1899 in Oak Park community, Chicago. Hemingway was born in an educated, respectable and reputed family of Oak Park. Hemingway’s father was a physician and mother was a musician. Hemingway was very active in sports, studies, and extracurricular activities. He worked as a journalist before he started working as a novelist. Hemingway worked as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross during the World War I. Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for his contribution in the area of literature in the year 1954. He visited different parts of the world and lived his life to the maximum. Hemingway committed suicide in the year 1961.
Tone and Style
Hemingway adopted detached style that seems very suitable as per the story. The story of “Soldier’s Home” focuses on the detachment of the soldier from his environment. The narrative, sentence structure, and dialogue used by the author represent detachment of the soldier from emotional world. The story lacks in terms of imagination and symbols and these strategies are able to create good balance between content of the story, characters, and form. The story is narrated by third-person and uses journalistic style. “Soldier’s Home” is a simple story that informs about the return of Harold Krebs from the war.
At the beginning of the story the narrator clearly sets the objective of the story and informs readers about what could be expected from the story. The author in initial paragraph of the story describes the picture of Krebs and his college friends. Journalistic style reflects in the way author or narrator describes the picture and Kreb’s friends. For example, the author while describing picture says that all friends in the picture are “wearing exactly the same height and style collar”, the author here tries to specify the conformist mentality of people living in mid-western America during pre-war time (Hemingway 187-88).
The sentence structure used by the author is also suitable for the message that author is trying to convey. Clipped sentences used by the author in dialogues as well as in explanations imply a sense of holding on & in, and control. In the story the author uses sentences that have similar syntactical structure such as “He did not want to get into the intrigue and the politics. He did not want . He did not want to tell any more lies”. The sentences are very brief, repetitive and show that how Krebs wants to stay detached, restrained and uninvolved (Hemingway 189-92).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the major theme reflects through the story. Effects of PTSD on soldiers returned after the war have studied by various researchers and same is described by the author in “Soldier’s Home”. Hemingway shows how war negatively impacts the psychology of a soldier and detached him from normal life and emotions. PTSD impacted the psychology of Krebs which is visible in the way he abnormally acted in public. Before the war Krebs was like other boys who like to stay with friends and wear trendy cloths as shown in the picture. However, after the war Krebs became isolated (Vernon).
After returning from the war, Krebs used to get up late, go to the library for books, and spends his time in reading books or walking down town. The author effectively shows the impacts of PTSD on Krebs, as he uses to spend his day thinking about his friends who died in the war. Krebs thinks about shell shock, gas attacks and how fellow soldiers are dying due to gas attacks. Krebs avoids meeting new people and making friends because he is scared of losing them. Krebs like watching girls and other people but do not want to associate with them because of the additional stress (Hemingway).
Another central theme of the story is “the generation gap”. The story shows a gap between life of soldier and life of normal town people. Krebs changed after returning from the war, but other people in the town are same. The story shows that Krebs needs to lie and become like other person in order to survive in the town as other people of the town do not want to hear the truth and unable to understand it. The author shows how even Krebs’ mother was unable to understand his feeling when Krebs responding to his mother’s question says that “"No," Krebs said. His mother looked at him across the table. Her eyes were shiny. She started crying. "I don't love anybody," Krebs said” (Hemingway 188-92). Krebs shows the transformation occurred due the World War I not only in himself but all soldiers returned from war. The story shows conflict existed in the America after World War I when American values were like value of the people in Krebs hometown and value of veterans were different like Krebs.
Hemingway brilliantly portrays characters in his stories. Harold Krebs is the main character of Hemingway’s story, “Soldier’s Home”. The author has successfully tried to portray the life of a soldier who has returned after fighting in a ghastly war. The author portrays different aspects of a soldier’s life in the story and describes the emptiness that he realizes in his life. Hemingway is said portraying emptiness of his own life through the portrayal of his character Krebs. Apart from Harold Krebs, his sister Helen Krebs, his mother and his father are portrayed by the author, but Harold Krebs remains in the focus throughout the story.
Critics on Earnest Hemingway and Soldier’s Home
Earnest Hemingway is criticised for his writing style by different scholars. It is alleged that Hemingway was a writer because of his fate only and he did not deserve qualities of being an author. Actually Hemingway was a simple person and did not have the capacity to hide truth. He used to believe and say “The writer’s job is to tell the truth, all you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know” (Schuster and Van Pelt 446). Hemingway also portrayed problems of his own life in an explicit manner. People say that he was very depressed and remained in depression for whole of his life. Hemingway’s father left the family and his mother was very dominating which affected Hemingway’s personality in adverse manner (Kobler).
Hemingway’s writing was influenced substantially by contemporary world wars. Critics say that his writing lacked emotions. Examining different works of Hemingway proves them right through the portrayal of his characters in various stories. It was probably because of bitter experiences of his life. Main character of Hemingway’s story “Soldier’s Home”, Kreb does not like girls much. “He liked the girls that were walking along the other side of the street”. The story is influenced by the war and depicts how a soldier establishes balance in his personal and professional life. JA Pidgeon sarcastically comments on Hemingway’s writing. He writes “In Hemingway’s code, love is dangerous and therefore inadmissible since to love is to render oneself vulnerable to fate. When you love you lose, and the law lies beyond the will of man” (Pidgeon 91).
After going through the story, author’s life and opinion of his critics, it can be concluded that “Soldier’s Home” is a very good story by acclaimed author Earnest Hemingway. His writing is certainly influenced by his personal life. Hemingway believed in portraying the truth. His critics often accuse him of being emotionless which is not right. He also portrayed emotions but he was not very good in making up. Hemingway’s writing was influenced by contemporary wars because he himself had participated and witnessed the distress of these wars. Hemingway’s language and selection of words was just amazing and he is one of most talented authors of American history.
Hemingway, Ernest. "Soldier's Homes." Meyer, Michael. The Bedford Introduction to Literature Reading, Thinking, and Writing. Boston: Bedford/Saint Martin's, 2010. 187-92. Print.
Kobler, J. F. "Soldier's Home" Revisited: A Hemingway Mea Culpa." Studies in short fiction 30.3 (1993): 377. Print.
Levin, Harry. "Observations on the style of Ernest Hemingway." Kenyon Review (1951): 581-609. Print.
Pidgeon, John A. "Ernest Hemingway." Modern Age (2006): 90-92. Print.
Schuster, Charles I., and Van Pelt, William V. Speculations: readings in culture, identity, and values. USA: Prentice Hall, 1993. Print.
Vernon, Alex. "War, Gender, and Ernest Hemingway." The Hemingway Review 22.1 (2002): 34-55. Print.