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Ernest Hemingway uses his life as a setting in his short story,” Soldier’s Home”. Although this is not considered an autobiography, it certainly contains some relevance to Hemingway’s life and can be interpreted many ways. “Soldier’s Home” is a story about a young man, Harold Krebs, who returns home from World War 1 in a time in which the country was to return to “normalcy”. His relationship with his family increasingly deteriorates, he cannot adapt to the changes that have taken place in his community, and he cannot leave the tragic events of the war behind him. Hemingway grew up in very much the same way. When a writer can write about his/her personal experiences, the emotions and creativity are expressed vividly. In “Soldier’s Home”, Hemingway creates an emotional, somewhat autobiographical look at a young soldier returning to society from war.
Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois in 1899 into an upper- middle class family. His childhood was not traumatic, but as he grew older, his hostility toward his father and mother increased. He saw his father as a weak and “ineffectual” man, and his mother as strict and domineering. He entered World War 1 as an ambulance driver for the Red Cross in Italy at the beginning of the United States involvement. He was wounded by shrapnel in both legs and confined to a hospital bed in Italy, where he fell in love with a
nurse who treated him. This woman left Hemingway heartbroken. All of these experiences made the nineteen-year-old Hemingway turn into a man far beyond his years.
Hemingway does not divulge why Krebs was the last person in his hometown to return home from the war. According to an article, 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 1”. (Kansas City Star, hem6.htm). Wherever he was in the intervening time, by the time Krebs gets home, the novelty of the returning soldiers have found a niche for themselves in the community. Krebs, however, needs a while longer to get his bearings. Krebs plays pool, “practiced on his clarinet, strolled downtown, read, and went to bed”. (Hemingway 349).
The main character, Harold Krebs, is very much the same as Hemingway. Krebs is raised in a strict religious family in an upper-middle class town. As Hemingway did, he increasingly becomes bitter towards his parents. Krebs’ experience in World War 1 changes his outlook on his family, social life, and future. He was the last to return home from the war in his small Kansas town. Celebrations and congratulations had already been overplayed. Nobody was there for him to release all the horrific details of his encounters with life and death. Krebs feels as if he is not important to anyone.
The major symbols in “Soldier’s Home” are Krebs parents. Krebs relationship with his parents becomes more hostile, and this represents part of the country of veteran’s view of postwar America. Krebs had the most difficulties with his mother. She does not understand the traumatic events that her son went through. His dad represents the part of
the country that wants to forget about the past and look toward the future. This is shown by his laid back attitude towards his son, and Krebs mother does all the talking for him. His sister represents the part of the country that does not acknowledge that the war even occurred. Krebs was, basically, expected to deny that his war experience has affected him in anyway. To Krebs, this non-support is more terrifying than the war itself.
“”Krebs admits to himself that he has lied in public about his military experiences, but he cannot stop lying to himself about the real extent and the psychological effect of his lying” (Kobler377). It is certain that he was “badly, sickeningly frightened all the time” (Hemingway349). Most definitely, his war experiences were not glamorous, and he brings home quite a collection of battle-scarred baggage. He shows no guilt over the lying. Krebs even acknowledges that his lying makes him feel “nauseated”. Krebs hides behind his fears of
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Ernest Hemingway, Krebs, Soldiers Home, The Sun Also Rises
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