Soldiers Home is a story that portrays a life of a man (Krebs) in conflict with his past and present life. He agonizes to come to balance with his present circumstances at the expense of his past encounters. His getting involved in the war shuttered most of his past beliefs.
Krebs went to the war from a Methodist college in Kansas in 1917 where he was taught never to cheat, lie, steal or kill. It’s from this college that he learnt of God. Before Krebs was sent to fight in the World War 1, he was a marine. During the war, he had to kill or be killed; he didn’t have much of a choice but, to kill exactly what he’d been warned against. He came back in 1919 after being in the Rhine. The greater part of the short story takes place in the home of Krebs, who has recently returned from Germany and France where the World War 1 intensified (Kurz, pg.32-34). His mother is a housewife while his father is a business man in the real estate mainly dealing with farm products. Krebs, the main character spends much of his time in the house but, occasionally visits the library. Krebs also spends some time in the pool room playing the game. The title “Soldiers Home” poses the question of exactly where the soldier’s home is. In the short story, Krebs, the main character having been in Germany and France made him feel like a stranger in his own home town, Kansas. He seemed to like Germany more. He lived in Germany and never wanted to come home. Nevertheless, he came home long after the war was over.
Exceptionally, Krebs leads quite a simple life free of much excitement trying to recover from the violent pictures that are so fresh and persistent in his mind that he encountered during the war and coming to terms with the way of life of the people in his home town, was not easy to understand. This made him feel as if he’s living in his own world that was too lonely. Everything was not the same for Krebs after having been summoned to fight and kill people for his country. The people in his township did not seem to get thrilled by the home coming of Krebs. They were used to atrocity stories to be excited about Krebs victory, it was post war anyway. Krebs no longer believed in God and had no love for anyone. This made him lie to people about his experience during the World War 1 (Goodwin, pg.34-40).
“How to Tell a True War Story”, is a story that draws its content from the Vietnam fight, a fictional depiction of the narrators worst experience in the Vietnam Wars. It’s set in 1965-1974 where the author utilizes the reoccurring events in the mountains, hills, valleys and deserted villages in Vietnam. Being a self-conscious work, the author inserts the reader alongside for the dramatic prestige and the difficulties that comes along with the peril. The author also gives the possibility that one would relate with Vietnam, rugged terrain and mountain ridges to the image associated with the war. One way he does this is by creating savage imagery of death, torture, and the war itself. What people viewed as senseless war, is what the author sort to erase through his writing. The repetition of the phrase…”in the morning we would cross the river and march west into the mountains” creates an inevitable cohesion that despite the tragedy that the soldiers may have encountered, they still moved forward, however, the situation may have appeared to look. As he (author) refers to the story of Rat and Lemon, he makes mention of the tree that gives no sunlight, the smell of moss, an effect that gave the lead to Lemon death calm and soothing effect.
In “How to Tell a True War Story” indicates the horrible experiences of the narrator and his friend, how they copped and survived through it all. This story gave more details of what transpired during the war unlike “Soldiers Home”, where the occurrences during the war are only implied. Here after the narrator and the other fighter came home, they would not tell the truth as no one would possibly believe them.
In comparing the two stories, similarities are evident. First, in both stories, the impression of patriotism comes out clear. This is why the two main characters joined the military. Krebs believed that Americans should fight for their country to protect what was rightfully theirs. In “How to Tell a True War Story” the narrator, the loyalty of the narrator to America is portrayed prior to the Vietnam War because he had a sense of patriotism. Second, the main characters were changed by the horrific and deadly experiences during the wars. For example, Krebs could not even pray for his mother towards the end of the story-he had lost hope in God. Thirdly, the stories involves young stars who were sent to war as a patriotic step and sign of respect for their countries. Another occurring similarity in both stories is that soldiers will do just what they feel is right for the majority (O'Brien, pg. 45-56). They no longer have regards to getting money but, they would engage in pleasurable activities all day.
Despite the difficulties, Krebs tried to adjust to life at home; this aspect is shown in his good relationships with his sister and the guilt and regrets of ever telling a lie. Forming romantic relationships was no easy to come by either. Krebs felt that he would have to tell more lies in his pursuits to establish a romantic relationship. These two incidences portray Krebs as a man of integrity.
The characters in the story “Soldiers Home” are mainly four: Harold Krebs, a young man who is agonized by the post war experience, he can’t fit in his home town any more. Harold’s mother is religious woman who entirely tries to help her son get over with the post-war trauma. She also encourages him to get himself a girl to marry and a good job to earn a living. Helen Krebs, Harold’s younger sister. She spends most of her time playing indoor basket ball. She entirely depends on her mother. The fourth character is Harold’s Father, who remains absent and mute throughout the story. He actually never makes a direct appearance in the story.
The first part of the short story focuses on Krebs character and feeling about his home after his return from Germany. This part of the story portrays Krebs’s indifference. Krebs is indifferent about his own home town and feels miles away as though he doesn’t belong there. He hates the fact that things remain the same way (complicated) after the war. The second half deals upon the dialogue between Krebs and his family which portrays how he relates with his family and by extension his society. The character trait that is so evident here is that he’s so impatient. Krebs engages in a heated argument with his mother on his being reinserted into the society so quickly.
Sooner Krebs succumbs to the fact that he can’t live like a stranger in his own home town. He promises himself to live a day after the other. This portrays Krebs as an adaptive person. He has been able to get customized after a long time of indifference. Krebs is also seen as a deceptive person and so is Hemingway. They had to lie about their experience during the war in order to avoid answering too many questions. His deceptive nature made him sick of disgust. Lying makes Krebs experience nausea. Krebs also became anti social, this comes out when he doesn’t want to get involved in love relationships. Her mother is unhappy about it and encourages him to find himself a woman to marry. Krebs is also portrayed as a religious person since he attended a Methodist church. His conformity to religious and conservatism dictates of his family come out when Krebs joins the other fighters where he does exactly the opposite of what the family would ever have wished. Krebs is also portrayed as in ambitious.
All other soldiers seemed to have moved on and found themselves suitable places, unlike him seemingly needs some more time to find out what he needs to do with his life. Krebs also is alienated from the real world. He looks rather dehumanized after his experience in the war (Castillo, pg.60-65). The main characters in the story “How to Tell a True War Story” are Bob Kiley and Curt Lemon. Lemon is described as a Valor. He expressed great courage when faced difficult assignment. He used to volunteer for danger missions as night patrols rather Krebs volunteered to fight for his country as a patriot; Lemon did this out of the thrill of the challenge. Lemon as is Krebs is described as being courageous. He expressed ‘I can do’ attitude in almost all the task assigned to him. These teens are said to be uninformed about what they ever want with their lives. They never seemed to care about what was happening around them. Krebs as seen earlier portrayed the same when he returned from Germany. Unlike the sacrifice, Krebs makes towards his country, Lemon and his colleagues considered fighting and the killing as a form of game. They didn’t care the honor of war and the reality of the situation. In contrast, Bob Kelley was characterized by the profound love and admiration of his friend Lemon (Hemingway, pg.12-34). This is depicted after the death of Lemon. He sends his sister a letter which she fails to replay within two months. This is an indication of care and friendship.
Point of view
As a veteran of World War I, we can tell that Hemingway’s point of view and opinion of the after war life is expressed through the message presented by his character. According to him, the word home connotes a warm place of refuge. However, in the story it is not necessarily been assured of comfort that the title implies which is unlike the warfront. The story is told in a third person’s pronoun which assists the reader in understanding Krebs thoughts and feelings about the pressure of his family’s desire for him to reinsert to the society. Though he finally understands the need for engaging in the world by getting a job, he exhibits no enthusiasm for his decision as his simple life is ended.
In the story, “how to tell a true war story’, the author examines the actual things that were really carried out. It examines the relationship between the war experiences and storytelling that comes afterwards. Half of the story is told in a view of the soldier, while the other half is told sometime later when the author becomes a story teller. Essentially, the author has the ability to shape the listeners opinions and experiences and make them believe in what they have to say. The most interesting is the ability to narrate a story in a fictionist first person narrator (Pinsker, pg 35-70). The other thing is the ever compelling connection to making the reader assume that they are reading basis from a basis of truth.
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