Soldier's Home

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"Soldier's Home" is a short story by Ernest Hemingway, first collected in In Our Time (1925).

Plot[edit]

Krebs went to the war in 1917 from a Methodist college in Kansas. There is a picture of him with his fraternity brothers all in the same collar. He came back from the war in 1919, after he had been in the Rhine. There, a picture was taken of him, a fellow corporal, and two German ladies. When Krebs returns, no one celebrates. He comes back after most everyone else, so he misses the hysteria. He also cannot get anyone to listen to his stories. Everyone has heard too many gruesome stories to care. To get people to listen, he has lied twice. But he is disgusted by that so he has stopped talking about the war. Even his lies bore people, anyway.

During this time, Krebs is sleeping late and hanging around all day. He is a hero to his younger sisters and to his mother. She sometimes asks about the war, but she gets bored. The town has not changed in his absence except that some of the girls have become women. Krebs likes to watch them, but he does not want to be a part of their lives. He does not want to get involved in the politics or the lying involved in a courtship. Krebs does not want any consequences. The army had taught him that he did not need a girl, even though many men claimed that they could not live without one. Krebs likes the looks of the girls, but does not want to have to talk. That was one nice thing about the French and German girls: not so much talking. Krebs had not wanted to come home, but he had. Now, he watches girls walk by and thinks that they are made out of a nice pattern. He starts reading a book about the war, about all of the battles he was in. He is finally learning about the war.

Krebs' mother tells him that he can take the car out at night. Krebs goes downstairs for breakfast and starts to read the paper. His mother tells him not to muss it. His sister, Helen Krebs, tells him that she will be pitching in an indoor baseball game that day. She asks if he'll come. Their mother shoos her away and tells Krebs that he should think about finding a job. She tells him that she prays for him and the temptations that he must have faced. But, she says, he must find a job. After all, she says, the other boys his age are getting jobs and wives. She asks if he loves her. He says no, meaning that he cannot love anyone. She is only hurt, so Krebs tells her that he did not mean it. Krebs tells her that he will try to be good. She asks him to kneel with her and pray. She prays, but he cannot. He leaves, thinking that he will get a job in Kansas City and get out of the house without too many more confrontations. He only wants to have his life go smoothly, which it is not. He goes to watch Helen play baseball.

Characters[edit]

  • Harold Krebs: a young man who is tormented from his experiences in the war. He comes to the realization that he doesn't belong in his childhood home anymore.
  • Harold's mother: a religious woman. She tries to get her son out of his post-war trauma by focusing on getting a job and finding a 'girl'.
  • Helen Krebs: Harold's younger sister. She plays indoor baseball and looks up to her brother.
  • Harold's father: who is absent most of the time. He never makes a direct appearance in the story.