Soldier's Home Themes

Themes and Meanings (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

One of the story’s central concerns might be described by a term that was once fashionable: “the generation gap.” In “Soldier’s Home,” the gap is more like a chasm that separates the ex-Marine from the townspeople. Krebs returns from the war, changed by his experiences, but the local citizenry are exactly what they were before the war—sure of themselves and their values. To stay in the town, to survive this time warp, Krebs must compromise his integrity; he must lie if he is to live among people who do not want to hear the truth.

Krebs represents the transformation brought about by World War I, and in this sense his metamorphosis reflects America’s changed face. Before the war, the conventional values of Krebs’s hometown had been, for the most part, America’s values. After World War I, however, those values were challenged, and the war’s returnees were among the chief challengers. In “Soldier’s Home,” the conflict is between challenger and challenged—the tension between Americans moving into the modern world and Americans protecting Victorian values.