Hemingway’s short story, Soldier’s Home, is a narration of young man who participated in the First World War, known as Harold Krebs. Harold had just graduated from a Methodist college, and before securing a job went to war as an American soldier. Considering that Harold attended a religious college, Methodist campus, it is easy to infer that he grew up in a religious or Christian family and environment. Harold grew up believing in God but after the war comes homes and says he no longer believes in God. This, among other things, clearly indicates that Harold changed in the way he viewed life. This paper will look into the life of Harold before and after the war, as Hemingway did in the story. As portrayed in the story, Harold exhibits two different personalities, before and after the war. The Harold who left, and the Harold who came back from the war, are very different in perception and conduct.
Harold returns home from the war in 1919 after the First World War. Harold comes home among the last soldiers to return and is met with cold reaction (Hemingway 16). Contrary to his expectation, nobody comes to welcome him or to listen from him about the war. This is an unexpected reaction; therefore, Harold feels ignored and unappreciated. People at home have already heard a lot of battle stories from the soldiers who returned earlier; thus they are not ready to hear any more. Similarly, the soldiers who returned earlier, enjoyed hysterical welcome but Harold receives cold welcome. This makes him feel more aimless and valueless than he felt before. As a matter of fact, young soldiers have experienced traumatizing scenarios at the battle fields, which had killed their humanity as well as torturing their minds. In this, Harold was not excluded. With all this crossing his mind and realizing that he cannot be rewarded satisfactorily for the work he did in the war, Harold gets disappointed. As a result of frustration and disappointment, Harold does not find a job as other solders did. He also finds himself lying to try to attract attention of people to either listen to his stories about the way or to accept and love him. He eventually realizes that lying is not yielding any good, and he gets reserved and antisocial. This makes him idle and aimless. He has got nothing to do with his time just but to idle around at home.
As a result of the war experience, Harold has lost interest in most of the practices that the society appreciates and terms as good. As Hemingway writes, he looks at young girls and realizes that some have grown to be women while others still remain young (Hemingway 12). As a young man, Harold looks at young ladies with admiration but with reservations; with reservations because he does not want to complicate his life. Hemingway writes that Harold says, “ladies around the home are very talkative as opposed to German ladies” (Hemingway 15). Harold is seen making efforts to simplify his life as possible and to avoid any discussion that would complicate it. He keeps to himself and ensures he is very simple. This change in behavior worries his parents and his mother ends up asking him. Mrs. Krebs tells her son over the breakfast that he should secure a job and not being idle. She goes ahead and asks him whether he loves her, to which Harold answers genuinely. His genuine answer seems to hurt her thus he decides to cover up and console her. This shows that Harold lies to meet expectations of the society and not to seem wayward. Change in Harold’s lifestyle is also seen when his mother tells him to join her in prayer. Harold joins her, but when his turn comes to pray he does not. This is accrued to the war experience in which he learnt that there is no God to help. Contradictory to his former personality after schooling in a religious college, Harold can no longer pray and no longer believes that there is God. Harold walks out to join his sister who had requested him to come and watch her play. She seems to be the only person of the opposite sex Harold can relate with comfortably. The reason behind his comfort is that his sister is not as complex as other ladies, and she loves him even after he has failed to engage in the complicated talks she tries to initiate. Harold walks thinking how he will secure a job at Kansas City (Hemingway 17).
In conclusion, Hemingway is able to expand the change that Harold has gone through: making impossible for him to live comfortably in the unchanged life of his village. When Harold comes back from the war, he finds his home area unchanged, thus seeming very unrealistic and contradictory to what he was used to. His own mother cannot understand that Harold is no longer a small boy she knew at the Methodist College, but he is now an experienced soldier. All these changes can be articulated to the war experience which was hard for youth to behold. After witnessing many deaths in the battle field and realizing that it was impossible to be rewarded for that work, life had to change drastically to the youth who participated in the war. The experience was depressing for them and resulted to the unexpected change of behavior in the soldiers.