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Ernest Hemingway - an Analysis and Interpretation of "a Soldier's Home"

"Soldiers Home" by Ernest Hemingway

"Soldiers Home" by Ernest Hemingway


Harold Krebs enlisted in the Marines in 1917 and supported the war effort by going to war in Germany and France. Krebs returned to the U.S in the summer of 1919. When he returned to his hometown in Oklahoma, people thought that it was ridiculous for Harold Krebs to return years after the war had ended. After Harold Krebs had been in his hometown for a while, he felt the need to talk about the war with someone, but no one wanted to hear about it because they had heard too many horror stories about the war to be thrilled about the reality of war. Therefore Harold Krebs began to lie about what he had seen while participating in the war, which led to him having a distaste for everything that had happened to him. Because of the lies and exaggerations he had told, he acquired nausea. During this time it was late summer, where Harold Krebs did various activities such as reading on the front porch, playing pool and reading. Harold Krebs liked to look at the grown-up girls in town, but he would never approach them because of their complicated world of alliances and shifting feuds. After returning to Oklahoma Harold Krebs had a difficult time settling down to work, and his mother and father tried to convince him to find a girlfriend and settling down to work. Harold Krebs went to Kansas City to get a job and his mother was very pleased.

Hemmingway’s title was intended to be understood as Krebs returning to his hometown. The second meaning of the title is quite literally a “home for a soldier” because many soldiers didn’t have a home or family after WW1 and WW2.

There is only one primary physical setting in the story, which is Krebs’s hometown in Oklahoma. It’s only mentioned shortly at the beginning of the novel, that Krebs in the year of 1917 had been enlisted in the marines and went to war in the Rhine area.

When Krebs returns to his hometown the greetings of heroes is over, and people think it’s silly for Krebs to be getting back years after the war had ended. Therefore, when Krebs returned home, people had already welcomed the veterans back home.

“the men from the town who had been drafted had all been welcomed elaborately on their return”

Because of Krebs’s late return to his hometown, he doesn’t have anyone who has had the same experiences in the war to talk to, because most of them who returned from the war years ago have returned to their civilian lives. This very unwelcoming environment/atmosphere makes Krebs feel isolated, and he generally has a very hard time returning to a productive civilian life in this very “complicated” world.

The main character of the story is Harold Krebs. Krebs went to a Methodist college in Kansas, which means that he is an educated man. He enlisted in the Marines in 1917 and returned to the U.S in the summer of 1919 after serving in WW1. His hometown is in Oklahoma, where he has a mother, a father, and two younger sisters. When Krebs returns to Oklahoma he has difficulties finding a job and returning to civilian life, and he mostly spends time isolated in his house where he is away from the complicated outside world.

Krebs has two younger sisters. His favorite sister is Helen, which is the only character in the story whom Krebs responds to with positivity.

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“will you love me always? Sure”

There’s not a lot of details about Krebs’s mother and father, but they are still important to the story. Krebs’s mother and father cares and worries for Krebs, and often tries to get Krebs to return to civilian life.

“We want you to enjoy yourself. But you are going to have to settle down to work, Harold”

The novel is told from a third-person narrator's point of view, and the novel is generally written from an objective point of view.

“Krebs went to the war from a Methodist college in Kansas”

The main theme of the novel is PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). When Krebs returns home he is very anti-social and disconnected from the outside world, which are common traits of PTSD. Krebs also says that he doesn’t love his mother anymore, which is an example of his loss of emotional connection. This is a common trait of someone with PTSD.

You can put Ernest Hemmingway’s novel “a soldiers home” into perspective with the poem “Anthem for doomed youth” by Wilfred Owen, 1917. The poem speaks about the meaningless death of the soldiers of WW1, and the consequences of war that can affect the young soldiers returning home.

The similarities between the two lyrics are the impact that warfare can have on soldiers returning home, and the difficult recovery process that comes with it.

Ernest Hemmingway’s poem “a soldiers home” helped people understand the suffering of the returned war veterans. It also helped people understand what PTSD is, what causes it, and what the effects of PTSD are.

From an overall perspective, the novel “a soldiers home” helped raise awareness about PTSD and the suffering of the returned war veterans.

© 2019 Jakob Bach Jensen

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