In Ernest Hemingway’s “Soldier’s Home” Harold Krebs, a U.S Marine returns home from fighting in World War I to his small town in Oklahoma. The reader experiences the hardships and struggles Harold faces while adjusting to his new reality back home. The short story reflects Harold’s attempt at reintegration while struggling to reconcile his experience at war, with the society he returns to. He has clearly been affected emotionally and mentally by the atrocities of war, so very foreign to his family and community.
When Harold returns home from war, everything feels like a struggle for him. The simplest of tasks become exhausting as he struggles to cope. Even his routine of waking up, washing, shaving, dressing and eating was complicated by his mother’s desire for interaction. Harold noticed that the girls left behind when he went to war were much older now, and while he found them more attractive than European girls, he didn’t find“the courage or the energy to break into it” with the local girls due to the complication of having to interact with them (167).
The lack of structure and employment resulted in Harold creating his own routine to reduce stress, “sleeping late in bed, getting up to walk downtown to the library to get a book, eating lunch at home, reading on the front porch until he became board and then walking down through the town to spend the hottest hours of the day in the cool dark of the pool room…in the evening he practiced on his clarinet, strolled downtown, read, and went to bed” (168) all without meaningful connection with other people in his life.
Prior to his return, post World War I, civilians idolized soldiers and wanted to only recount the heroic and uplifting stories. Harold returned home with the second division, leaving towns folk already having heard stories of the war’s atrocities, requiring Harold to lie to get a response. Harold “..felt the need to talk [about the war] b…