Themes and Stylistic Elements in Soldier's Home
Hemingway's short story Soldier's Home incorporates many themes and stylistic elements that we associate with Hemingway's writings. The story of the soldier returning from a traumatic war experience and trying to find a way to come to terms with the small-town life he used to live, after being initiated into the adult world of the war including life and death, is an essential theme in Hemingway's writings.
Part of the disillusionment that the character, Krebs, is met with has to do with his trouble in constructing or finding meaning in the concepts that he went to war for, which have now become empty to him:
All of the times that had been able to make him feel cool and clear inside himself when he thought of them; the times so long back when he had done the one thing, the only thing for a man to do, easily and naturally, when he might have done something else, now lost their cool, valuable quality and then were lost themselves. (p. 111)
Even the Americans who did not participate physically in the war and who were supposed to glorify his efforts and perhaps constitute him as a hero and reaffirm the values for which he went to war are no longer concerned with the concepts of glory and honor, and thus fail to provide him with a fulfilling or "right" feeling of coming back. The disillusionment is furthermore reinforced by the fact that he has arrived too late and as the "hysteria" has passed "Now the reaction had set in." (p. 111). The world that he has returned to is itself struggling with the aftermath of the war and is even trying to forget it. "She often came in while he was in bed and asked him to tell her about the war, but her attention always wandered. His father was non-committal." (p.112)
Generally, Hemingway's writings seem to revolve around this struggle to make meaning in this feeling of disillusionment. But apart from this, the story also incorporates a certain sense of betrayal. Lying seems to be a recurring thing to Krebs. Besides from being part of the failure to construct some sort of sense to the war, the lies also seem to be what prevents Krebs from constructing his life after the war. His sense of alienation from both the war and the small-town life is evident, in that he does not seem to regard the present in relation to his past. He does not remember himself as being in the war, but instead his past is constructed to us, the readers, and to him through pictures on the wall in the first two paragraphs. The first picture being that of his college experience, his past before the fall so to speak, and the second that of his time in the war. However, they are mere photographs and in their own sad construction they are useless to Krebs’ present life. Furthermore the experiences that Krebs has had in the war have matured him in such a way that he is unable to return to the simple lifestyle that he used to lead. Again, typical of Hemingway’s...