In this unforgettable short story, Ernest Hemmingway presents us with one soldier returning from the horrors of World War I to his home. However, it is clear that his experiences have changed him utterly and he is unable to fit in to society in the way expected of him. Soldiers who came back from the horrors of this war were often termed "shell shocked," as suffering from profound physical, psychological and mental confusion, exhaustion and despair. Of course, now we know this as post-traumatic stress disorder, yet at the time this condition was not understood by a society who expected the soldiers to enter back in to meaningful roles and old, regular routines.
Thus we can understand the detached way that Krebs is shown to live his life. His desire to "live along without the consequences" shows how, having seen the terrible consequences of war, Krebs wants a quiet and easy life, without the dangers of intimacy and responsibility. The conversation with his mother at the end of the story in particular shows the conflict between Krebs and society at large. She wants her son to settle down and get a job, but Krebs wants to postpone making any significant decisions. He is shown as a character who, thanks to the war, has lost his faith, his ability to love and also his desire to be fully involved in life:
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.
Thus Hemmingway presents us with an "anti-hero," a character who abandons himself to hopelessness, stagnation and disillusionment.