“Soldier’s Home” by Ernest Hemingwayepicts the homecoming of a soldier named Krebs from World War I. Although the fighting had ended, it took Krebs a whole year to return home, and in addition, this transition to a normal life was found to be difficult for him. Once home, he finds it hard to talk about his war experience and has little to no motivation to do much in his day to day life. His view of the world has completely changed, and he no longer feels love in his heart as it is depicted in the encounter with his mother when she asks if he loves her. Through Hemingway’s heavy use of imagery, he depicts the drastic effects of the World War on Krebs’s mental health through his loss of drive and motivation to do things in his normal life at home. Hemingway wants to show the readers the effects of war on Krebs’s mental health to give them example of the disastrous effects that war has on soldiers in general.
In the beginning of this story, Krebs had returned home only to receive little to no welcoming because the townspeople argued that he returned too late. He yearns to talk about his experience of the war, but nobody cares to listen, so he makes up lies to grasp their attention. As a reader, one might not notice that he is going through something in the beginning of this story as he depicts his day to day life as if it were just like any others. However, there is an abrupt change when he begins to describe his appeal towards the women in his town. Looking from afar, he is immediately attracted to most of them. He describes them as if he were truly interested in them and watches them closely. Although he speaks so highly of them, when it comes to actually seeing them in town, he loses all appeal whatsoever. He talks about how there is no point in going through all the complications to court a woman as he felt as though “He did not want to get into the intrigue and the politics” (Hemingway 2). Through this loss of motivation by Krebs, Hemingway is trying to convey the reality of war and how it is straightforward, you protect your comrades, kill the enemies, and follow your orders. In comparison to war, courting a woman is anything but straightforward. This contrast makes Krebs lose all interest as a result of him becoming used to the simplicity of war. He adds on that it is not worth all the effort he has to put in and wishes that a woman would just fall in his hands.
In addition to this lack of drive to put himself out there to settle down in his normal life, there is another shocking result of the war on Krebs. When his mother is talking to him and trying to help him settle down into a normal life, he is ungrateful and quickly dismisses his mother’s words. She later asks him if he loves her and without hesitation, he says he does not, and goes on to say, “I don’t love anybody” (Hemingway 7). These words are intriguing as it serves as an example of how it is difficult for soldiers to make connections with those who have not gone through the hardships of war. Along with Krebs’ self-realization of being unable to love, Hemingway portrays his forthcoming feelings of doubt and insecurities. At one point, Hemingway even wrote, “you did not need a girl unless you thought about them. I learned that in the army” (Hemingway 3).
A recent study conducted by the World Psychiatry Association shows us findings that support the damage that war has on a soldier’s mental health. The study included 799 adult males and they recorded their symptoms through a survey. The results showed that 67.7% of respondents said they experienced symptoms of depression, 72.2% reported symptoms of anxiety, and 42% reported symptoms of PTSD (Murthy and Lakshminarayan 2006). Through these findings, one can clearly conclude that there is indeed a connection between a soldier’s poor mental health and past experience in a war.
Through the hardships of war that Krebs went through, Hemingway is trying to help readers understand the struggles that a soldier faces when returning to a normal life. As shown in the text, Krebs’ mental health was clearly in a poor state. He suffers from a lack of motivation and drive to do anything in his day to day life and it is clear that he feels as though nothing is “worth it”. Although Hemingway cannot replicate how the war was for the readers, he uses this story to provide them with the truth about the aftermath of a war on a soldier. There are over a million soldiers that serve for the United States of America. That means there are also over a million families that have a soldier in them. As a past war veteran, Hemingway understands what it is like to go through those hardships, but he knows many family members of soldiers do not. He uses this story as an outlet to those families so hopefully they can truly understand what a soldier goes through and maybe, be able to help them.
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