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What point of view is used in "Soldier's Home" by Ernest Hemingway?

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cmorren | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 26, 2009 at 12:22 PM via web

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What point of view is used in "Soldier's Home" by Ernest Hemingway?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 26, 2009 at 12:49 PM (Answer #1)

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This story, "Soldier's Home," is told from the third-person narrator point of view.  As a former journalist, Hemingway was well accustomed to this objective point of view.  Here, in this story he makes great use of the detached journalistic style to demonstrate the detachment of Krebs from his hometown, a detachment effected by the experience of World War I which places him in a different state of mind from his mother who still exists in the Victorian age:

'God has some work for every one to do,' his mother said. 'There can be no idle hands in His Kingdom.' 

'I'm not in His Kingdom," Krebs said.

Hemingway's objective style and clipped sentences suggest the holding in of Krebs's emotions that he knows his mother will not understand.  (The soldier may be home, but he is not in a soldier's home.)  There is a definite genreration gap.  Krebs can only comfort his mother by acting again like a child, calling her "Mummy." But,

It wasn't any good.  He couldn't tell her, he couldn't make her see it.

Hemingway's repetition of "he couldn't, he didn't want," demonstrates Krebs's efforts to remain detached.  He finally decides that he must leave the house.  Yet, interestingly,in the last paragraph of the story, there is some lack of objectivity: 

He had tried so to keep his life from being complicated.  Still, none of it had touched him.  He had felt sorry for his mother and she had made him lie.

To remain detached, then, Kregs decides that he must leave and go to Kansas City.  To return to the detached style, Hemingway writes that Krebs goes to the schoolyard to watch Helen play ball.  A return to the insignificant tells much that is significant.  Ironically, the objective narrator reveals a great deal about the man character, Harold Krebs.

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