Krebs in Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home


Ernest Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home” is a narrative of a soldier who comes home from World War I as a changed personality. The narrative depicts his incapability to get assimilated into the social order. Although Krebs is back at home, he does not feel comfortable. He is with his kin but fails to experience a sense of belonging. The phrase “home”, has the implication of a warm place of shelter. However, in this narrative “Soldier’s Home,” is not essentially the assurance of reassure that the label implies. As specified in the narrative, “home” for Krebs is not different from the waterfront. Home is confusing and complicated. The theme of this narrative is that life is filled with complications, but the appropriate way to approach life’s complications is not by worrying and being stressed, but by handling life’s issues as they come.

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Like many other authors, Ernest Hemingway tries to depict his personal life after he returned from the war, all through the character of Krebs. As much as Krebs believes in the truth, citizens around him compelled him to lie. The narrative manifests the inconsistency between Krebs’ morals, which have radically changed following his experiences in the war, and society’s expectation of him to conform to its customary values. Ultimately to sustain his existence, Krebs has to prefer solitude by detaching himself from societal relations, religion, ambition, and love. Initially, the conflict in the story may appear hardly perceptible. Krebs comes home to a peaceful life;

Sleeping late in bed, getting up to walk down town to the library to get a book, eating lunch at home, reading on the front porch until he became bored and then walking down through town to spend the hottest hours of the day in the cool dark of the pool room. (112).

To several people, Krebs’s life may seem to be desirable in its departure away from the characteristic routines of the life of a young man. However, the serpents of disgruntlement are lurking under his seemingly tranquil facade.  Early in the story, the author presents a clear premonition of imminent conflicts. Although the reading, he does concerning the war “the most interesting reading he has ever done” (113), the existence of tranquillity bores Krebs. In order to view the actions of Krebs from an artisan perspective, there is a need to realize that reading is not in itself the action, but it is a description of the action. In his current state of affairs, Krebs must be contented with reading concerning the war instead of partaking in one.

Language is a construct and therefore, talk can in no way substitute for the actual event. Aptly, when Krebs comes back to the Midwest, it occurs to him that he requires to falsify the truth concerning war in order to be able to narrate his experiences in the war. In order to acquire the attention that Krebs craves for, he categorically exaggerates his narratives. Regrettably, the residents of Midwest are already sated with fanciful and imaginary stories of war that they no longer respond reasonably to Krebs’ true stories. This occurs even when exaggerates his narratives through attributing them to authentic occurrences that took place to other soldiers. He consequently finds out that, he is inclined to lie by pretending to have been frightened by the war, although as an artisan he was excited.

In regard to Krebs, talk is synonymous with falsification. Indeed, one of the most noteworthy falsifications of the narrative is found when Krebs endeavours to soften his mother’s feelings following his declaration to her that he does not love her. His mother weeps. Krebs tells her “I didn’t mean I didn’t love you” (116). This falsehood causes Krebs to feel “sick and vaguely nauseated” (116), since it means that Krebs has betrayed his fundamental principles. In Krebs’ opinion, his mother makes him contradict his genuine feelings and, thus, he acts in a cowardly manner.

It is essential to note that, an artisan would act in this manner only when he is seriously stressed, and only for temporary, tactical success: “I’ll try and be a good boy for you (116), Krebs asserts. This reply is unquestionably exasperating for Krebs who, as all artisans would feel, despises dependency of any kind, to utter nothing in relation to the artisan’s contempt for being good.  Krebs is compelled to comply with his mother’s emotional treachery and assume the role of a boy in respect to his mother’s role as a parent. This is a difficult task for an artisan, particularly one who has been a warrior and a man. Love to Krebs is thus a subject that compels a man to falsify issues. In Krebs’ opinion, love ensnares him as well as restricts him. Consequently, that focuses on theoretical virtues that bear little interest to the sensualist artisan that he is. Through his adulteration of his war accounts with verbal delusions, Krebs “lost everything” (112).

The life of Krebs contains supplementary, delicate sources of conflict as well as tension. On the exterior, Krebs’ rapport with his parents may seem ideal. His father is “noncommittal” in relation to Krebs’ experiences in the war. As is the case with any guardian, Krebs’ father is a dependable bread-winner who has high regard towards work. In this occasion, he goes devotedly to his workplace at the First National Bank quarters, and always strives to be ready in serving his clients in real estate. Consequently, before Krebs’ goes to the war, he was not permitted to make use of the family automobile. This depicts a clear limitation of his freedom. Now, on the other, Krebs’ parents have resolved to permit him to “take the car out in the evenings” (113). The change of heart may appear to solve a significant encumbrance to Krebs’ individual freedom. Nonetheless, Krebs can now make use of the car only on condition that he takes out “nice girls and acquires a job. However, Krebs is not interested in either. In his mind, his parents have only amplified the tension that he experiences by highlighting the ridiculousness of his finding an exhilarating, and ordinary life even as they live in their world. In the narrative, the automobile is a symbol of mobility and freedom around which the quiet struggle for power is waged.

Krebs is trapped on the horns of a predicament; he is obliged to reflect on the role his parents’ are trying to designate him. But, to admit that responsibility would be commensurate to destroying his fundamental principles. Krebs tries to circumvent the conflict initially through retreating from Midwest life, and the fundamental principles of his parents. In due course, his mother presses on the matter and Krebs’ avoidance fails to work. Not that he would have been pleased evading the truth of the limitations he currently endures, particularly in comparison with the liberty he once got pleasure from in Europe. This concealed dissatisfaction with his forestalling is the genesis of a large amount of the subtle, the fundamental conflict in the narrative.

The amount of stress Krebs parents experience as a result of his refusal settle himself once again into the traditional and uniform customs of the middle-class, leads to Krebs’ mother fateful discussion with Krebs. Krebs parents are determined that their son will acknowledge their fundamental values, for his own sake. They are not coercive and autocratic as a result of malice but rather as a result of the strain they undergo as a result of the core needs of a guardian. Unfortunately, in insisting on their fundamental principles, the parents trample on their son’s fundamental principles.


It is essential to note that the conflict portrayed by Hemingway is not resolved. Krebs does not utilize any strength yet to be conventional. The narrative is ironic and does not provide any indication with reference to Krebs life in the future. Krebs makes up his mind to move to Kansas City. He is sure that nobody in Kansas City will compel him to conformity. The actuality that, Krebs prefers to move away to search for a job, is a sign of his desire to break out from a system, that is no longer valuable to him. Krebs plans to live in Kansas City without emotional snags in order to be assimilated into the new social order.

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